Balanced attack leads LAHS past Cleveland

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By Phil Scherer

After competing in tournaments two weeks in a row, the Los Alamos High School volleyball team returned to Griffith Gymnasium Wednesday night and picked up a convincing 3-1 win over Cleveland High School. 

It has been a rocky start to the season for the Hilltoppers, as they entered the game with a 3-7 record. At the Tournament of Champions in Santa Fe, the team advanced to the quarterfinals, but was defeated in straight sets by Farmington, Piedra Vista and Capital. 

Cleveland has struggled throughout the season, picking up only one win so far after advancing to the second round of the state tournament last year. 

Early on in the match, it appeared the Hilltoppers would struggle. Many unforced errors in the first set put LAHS behind and they fought the entire set to come back. 

The Hilltoppers rallied to tie the score late in the set, but Cleveland fought back and took the first set 25-22. 

After that, the Hilltoppers began playing much better. LAHS jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the second set thanks to a pair of Sophia Salazar ace serves, and never looked back. 

Natalie Galleogs came alive late in the set to solidify their advantage, picking up three kills in a row at one point. 

LAHS took the second set 25-13, and evened the match at 1-1. 

The third set was much of the same for the Hilltoppers, as they established their advantage early, and never let go. 

It was a balanced attack in the set, as five different players recorded a kill. 

The team’s serving was also strong, picking up two more aces, one from Kyla Sandoval and the other from Elodie Thelliez. The Hilltoppers cruised to a 25-10 set win to take a 2-1 lead in the match. 

The fourth set was far more competitive, as Cleveland made fewer unforced errors and the blockers were well prepared for the attacks of Gallegos and Salazar. 

The Storm led for much of the set, including a three-point lead at 13-10. 

However, the Hilltoppers remained strong and kept the set tight. 

The team fought back to take the lead at 18-17 and again at 20-19. 

Though Cleveland had a chance at a set point at 24-22, an unforced error kept the Hilltoppers alive. 

Trailing 25-24, the Hilltoppers picked up three kills in a row, two from Salazar and one from Eden Schmierer to earn the dramatic 27-25 set win and the 3-1 match win. 

The Hilltoppers, now 4-7, return to the court at 6 p.m. Sept. 25 against Capital at Griffith Gymnasium. Capital has been a tough team for the Hilltoppers to overcome in recent years. For the past several years, the two teams have played in the same district, but now meet as non-district foes. 

LAHS will hope to redeem itself after struggling against Capital at the Tournament of Champions. 

In that match, the Hilltoppers were close in every set, but struggled to close out the Jaguars. 

Alyssa Delgado and Ethena Silver proved to be a challenge for LAHS to guard, collecting 12 and 11 kills, respectively. The Jaguars also had only five service errors in 73 attempts in the match. 

Last season, Capital defeated the Hilltoppers four times, including in the semifinals of the district tournament. This year, Capital is 3-4 and has several new faces, with only four seniors on the roster.