´Toppers sweep Spartans at home

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Volleyball: LA earns 2-4A tourney title, will open state pool play Thursday

By Mike Cote

The dominance by the Los Alamos Hilltoppers in District 2-4A volleyball continued with a big win Saturday night.
Los Alamos hosted the district tournament championship match Saturday at Griffith Gymnasium, taking on the Bernalillo Spartans. The Spartans had been the Hilltoppers’ toughest opponents during the district season, but the Hilltoppers dispatched them in straight sets.
Los Alamos held on in the first set with Bernalillo serving at set point, then held on to win late in the third set, grabbing a 26-24, 25-16, 25-21 victory. The win gave Los Alamos its third consecutive 2-4A tournament title.
The three set victories upped the consecutive set win streak by Los Alamos to 27. The win, however, didn’t come without a few hiccups.
“Looking at where we were losing points, we had five or six service errors in the first set,” Hilltopper head coach Garry Maskaly said. “It came down to error control. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net if you’re making a lot of errors.”
The Hilltoppers, who are very likely looking at a top three seeding for the upcoming Class 4A playoffs, hadn’t played a match in a week and a half since closing out the regular season Oct. 26.
But with the win, the Hilltoppers may have regained any momentum they might have lost during the layover.
Chase Ealey, Los Alamos’ dominant middle blocker, was named Most Valuable Player of the 2011 district season Saturday night. Ealey, the most dominant offensive player in 2-4A, showed why, finishing with 13 spike kills. She also finished with a match-high six block kills.
“It’s really exciting,” said Ealey. “I’ve worked hard to get it. When they were announcing the names, I was standing out there praying.”
Bernalillo, steered by head coach Joe Moreno, had perhaps its best season in the history of the program. For his efforts in 2011, Moreno was named the district’s Coach of the Year.
The Spartans, who finished the season ranked eighth in the statewide coaches’ poll, are in line to pick up an at-large bid into the 4A tournament. The state tournament’s pool play round gets going Thursday morning.
But the Spartans, the only team in district to take a set off the Hilltoppers, were only successful in spots offensively, particularly in the first two sets. Erin Kirk and Carli Downs of Los Alamos again turned in another successful night posting a double-block against the big Spartan hitters Katie Darnell and Sara McPhee.
Kirk was named to the All-District first team following Saturday’s contest. Downs earned a nod for honorable mention.
Also getting first team åhonors for Los Alamos were libero Danielle Ortiz, setter Savanah Romero and outside hitter Alicia Rendon.
Rendon led all hitters Saturday with 15 spike kills, including four in the third set, including one of her best hits of the night, giving the Hilltoppers a 23-20 edge and staving off a potential Bernalillo comeback.
“Now that we changed our rotation a while ago, what we have is working really good,” Rendon said. “Everybody in the back row for us is playing well. We trust each other. It’s not just offense that’s winning games.”
The results for volleyball’s seeding and selection are due out today.
Los Alamos (18-3) has won 16 straight contests heading into the playoffs. It lost to just two teams during the regular season, Class 5A Sandia and Class 3A Pojoaque, which could be the best team in the state regardless of classification.