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This season, the Los Alamos Hilltoppper volleyball team has been desperately seeking a win that was going to jump-start this season.
That win could well have just happened.
In the final of the Zia Classic Invitational Tournament in Roswell, Los Alamos stunned the Roswell Coyotes to take the tournament title. Los Alamos held off for a big set one victory, then crushed the Coyotes in the second set.
The third set got hairy at the end, but the Hilltoppers held on to earn a 25-23, 25-14, 25-23 victory and grab a big early season win.
"We're exhausted, but we're excited," Los Alamos head coach Garry Maskalysaid. "It was a fun match."
Roswell, which actually topped Los Alamos in straight sets during pool play Friday, is the fifth-ranked team in the state according to the most recent statewide coaches' poll.
However, after falling to Roswell in pool play, Los Alamos made several adjustments, including plugging Alicia Rendon back in as outside hitter, a spot she performed well in earlier last week in a loss to Sue Cleveland.
Maskaly said the adjustments, as well as a big defensive effort from his entire rotation, made a huge difference in the championship.
To get to the final round, Los Alamos topped Deming 3-1 Friday night, then came back Saturday morning to knock off a good smaller school in Tularosa 3-1.
Hilltopper middle Chase Ealey was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, while defensive specialist Danielle Ortiz was named to the All-Tournament squad.
"We worked together a lot," said Ealey, who had nine kills against the Coyotes. "We worked with the changes and we got used to it. We worked well in that rotation."
Los Alamos was up 23-15 in the final set, but Roswell made a late push to stay alive.
But, unlike in other matches this season, most notably in a decisive set against Pojoaque in its opener, Los Alamos stayed calm as Roswell rallied.
"If we settle down with each other and lose our anxiety of getting ahead…we're helping each other more and making sure that doesn't happen," Ealey said.
Los Alamos finished second in its pool Friday, topping both Chaparral and Mesilla Valley Christian but losing the pair of sets to Roswell.
Against Deming, veteran Oksana Tretiak worked from the middle while getting support from Rendon and Sabrina Little, who had a big tournament as well.
Little and Rendon both finished with 12 spike kills apiece and, perhaps even more impressively, only committed a combined five hitting errors. Ealey had 10 kills and just two errors.
The Hilltoppers got off to a slow start in that match, falling in the first set 14-25. But the Hilltoppers picked things back up to win the final three sets in impressive fashion, 25-19. 25-12, 25-18.
Against Tularosa, Los Alamos survived a breakdown in the second set to win 25-21, 13-25, 25-19, 25-22.
Little had 14 spike kills in the contest and Rendon finished with nine. Maskaly said that in the back, the service-receive game was one of the best ones he'd seen his team turn in this season.
Things should be looking up from here on out with this win under the Hilltoppers' belts, Maskaly said.
"We need to work on one rotation," he said. "If we can clean that up, we'll be in good shape."