´Toppers upend Spartans

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What was shaping up to be a classic district battle between Nos. 1 and 2 heading in fizzled out quickly Saturday night at Griffith Gymnasium.
In a critical District 2-4A volleyball contest for both teams, the Los Alamos Hilltoppers and the Bernalillo Spartans met for the second time this season.
The Spartans and the Hilltoppers played a nip-and-tuck first match Sept. 28 at Bernalillo, in which Los Alamos prevailed 3-1 but the sets were close throughout. And with the Spartans trying to cling to the hope of wrenching the 2-4A title from the Hilltoppers, it seemed Saturday’s match was going to be more of the same.
Instead, however, the Hilltoppers put together a dominant second set and never looked back, winning 25-22, 25-12, 25-17.
Los Alamos, coming off one of its best matches of the season a week earlier against Capital, barely missed a beat against Bernalillo, setting up most anything it wanted to offensively.
The win moves the Hilltoppers to a spotless 5-0 in district play. The Hilltoppers can clinch a 2-4A title with a victory in any of three remaining contests.
“We’ve been really excited about how we’ve been playing in district,” Los Alamos setter Savanah Romero said. “Bernalillo’s definitely been our biggest competition, but if we keep pushing, we’ll come out on top.”
Romero, who has been rock solid throughout the 2011 season, had another big performance Saturday. She finished with 32 assists on the contests, the big beneficiary being middle blocker Chase Ealey.
Ealey, the most dominant player in 2-4A, showed why against Bernalillo, blasting 20 spike kills in the three sets. Ealey set the tone early, grabbing seven spike kills in the opening set.
The first set was the only one in which Bernalillo (11-3 overall, 3-2 in district) managed to keep pace with Los Alamos (14-3, 5-0). Bernalillo got some timely hitting in the first match, while Los Alamos’ offense took awhile to warm up.
But Bernalillo, which had an effective dink-and-dunk game going in the teams’ first meeting, had that taken away early as Los Alamos pinched up its back line to defend against the Spartans’ small-ball.
Additionally, the Hilltoppers played more under control than in the initial meeting.
“One of the things we had in sets two and three, we controlled our errors a lot better,” Los Alamos head coach Garry Maskaly said. “We weren’t making hitting errors. We were playing smart and we were getting a lot of kills off off-speed kills.”
Also Saturday, Alicia Rendon finished with eight spike kills and Claire Stewart had a pair of spike kills, a tip kill and a block kill.
On the other side of the net, the Spartans’ hitting tandem of Chelsea Darnell and Sara McPhee, who combined for 24 spike kills at Bernalillo, were both relatively quiet, except for a brief run by Darnell early in the third set.