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A couple of positives happened for the Los Alamos Hilltopper volleyball team this weekend at the Zia Classic.
Los Alamos finished third in the tournament, played in Roswell, by topping Lubbock (Texas) Christian in its final match Saturday afternoon 3-1 and Los Alamos got another good look at the top-ranked Goddard Rockets Saturday morning.
The Rockets, the No. 2 team in the state according to the most recent coaches’ poll, took the Hilltoppers in three games in the tournament semifinals, winning the match 25-18, 25-23, 25-23.
Despite the loss, Los Alamos head coach Garry Maskaly was pretty pleased with how the weekend went.
“The positive side of the loss to Goddard is that the girls see how close we are,” he said. “We’re only a couple of points away from them. With a win, the girls would think ‘oh, we can beat them’ and they might not work as hard.”
Following the loss Saturday morning, Los Alamos came out a little sluggish against Lubbock Christian in the third-place contest, dropping the first game 25-19. The Hilltoppers turned things around quickly, however, reeling off three straight wins, 25-13, 25-15, 25-22.
Los Alamos won its pool early Friday, going 5-1 in its pool play contests. Its lone loss came at the hands of Roswell’s junior varsity. After Los Alamos had sealed the No. 1 pool position, Maskaly pulled many of his starters in favor of the freshmen he’d brought along with him.
The Hilltoppers knocked off Belen 21-14, 21-16 and Ruidoso 21-16, 21-13 in its first two pool play contests, then dropped Roswell’s JV 21-10 before Roswell bounced back to take game two 21-18.
With the win in pool, the Hilltoppers advanced to play co-host Roswell Friday night.
Sabrina Little had 10 spike kills and led the team in both hitting and kill percentage in the match.
Maskaly said his team has made great strides in a short amount of time to start the season, as evidenced by Friday’s play.
“We made some adjustments to our defense,” he said. “We’re gradually figuring out what’s working best. Against Ruidoso, we played very confidently. We had an excellent match and that carried over into the Roswell match.”
Los Alamos took the contest against Roswell, the eighth-ranked team in the state, 25-23, 25-13, 26-24.
In the third game against Roswell, Los Alamos trailed 24-22 late, but earned a side-out and closed off the game and the match from there.
“Even at game point, the girls didn’t back down,” he said. “They kept being aggressive instead of worrying about making mistakes.”
Los Alamos has lost to Goddard (10-0) twice this season, both times by 3-0 counts. Los Alamos was hoping to take at least one game off the Rockets Saturday and led the Rockets at several points in the third game.
Molly Willms had 11 spike kills against Goddard and Alex Nichols collected 6 spike kills. Against Lubbock, Nichols racked up 10 spike kills, Oksana Tretiak finished with 9 spike kills, Willms added 8 and Little finished with 6.
Maskaly also said Nichols had one of the best service-receive matches against Lubbock that she’d had in her career.
The Hilltoppers (5-3) have apparently made an impression around the state. With wins over Albuquerque Academy and Moriarty, the Hilltoppers made a big leap in the state coaches’ poll, going from seventh in the initial poll to third last Wednesday when the most recent poll was released.
Los Alamos got some more good news this week. Middle blocker Taylor Ealey, who has been sidelined with knee trouble, is scheduled to return to practice starting next week.