Hilltoppers sweep Pintos in 4A contest

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By Mike Cote

Heading into Wednesday’s match, the Los Alamos Hilltopper volleyball team looked to have a pretty tall order on its hands.
It was facing a tough Class 4A school, Moriarty, which was looking for a win against a solid 4A club to establish itself. It was also going into the match off a week-and-a-half layoff.
But neither of those things seemed to be a problem for the Hilltoppers at Griffith Gymnasium.
The Hilltoppers put together an impressive showing, leading all the way except for the first point of the match and a short stint in set three to pick up a 25-16, 25-14, 25-15 victory.
Los Alamos came up big in virtually every facet of the game, not the least of which was its service performance.
Danielle Ortiz and Morgan Schake, two of the smallest players on the floor Wednesday, had big service runs in the opening set to set the tone. Ortiz served the Hilltoppers from a 3-2 lead to a 7-3 lead and Schake won six straight points from the service line to up her team’s advantage to 19-7.
“I was kind of concentrating on one area of the floor,” Schake said. “It seemed to work well. I kind of concentrated on the toss. That helps me every time.”
Hilltopper head coach Garry Maskaly said his team learned the hard way at the Piedra Vista Invitational Sept. 13-14 that it must stay aggressive with its serves, especially against a team with a prominent hitter.
The Pintos (6-5) definitely had that in 6-foot-1 outside Arianna Jacquez. Jacquez came into the game with 159 spike kills, nearly half the team’s kills on the season.
But against Los Alamos, Jacquez never got on track. Los Alamos put up a consistent double block on her and, instead of going for big smashes, was forced to try to place her shots, something she was clearly uncomfortable attempting.
She had four spike kills and two tip kills in the first set, but was a non-factor for the balance of the contest.
On the Hilltoppers’ offensive end, Erin Kirk got hot late in the first set and gave the Pinto defense problems all night. She and Los Alamos’ up-and-coming freshman, Brianna Montaño found success hitting from the left side, with Kirk picking up a match-high 14 spike kills and Montaño earning 10 spike kills, four in the second set.
With Kirk and Montaño garnering lots of attention, but not an effective Moriarty blocking scheme, that opened things up in the middle for Sam Fenner and Claire Stewart. Fenner earned seven spike kills, as well as being part of the double block that stymied Jacquez early.
Fenner said she was thrilled to see Los Alamos (5-4) get so many people involved in the offense from so many different angles.
“That was one of the goals, but I owe a lot of those hits to the back row and the setter,” Fenner said. “If we didn’t have those passes and if we didn’t have a great setter like Savanah (Romero), it’s a lot harder. With that, we were ready to go.”
Wednesday’s match was the final one for Los Alamos before it starts District 2-4A play. Los Alamos will face the Bernalillo Spartans, who didn’t have a lot of success in the win column in last year’s district race but gave Los Alamos some trouble in the teams’ two contests.
That district-opening match is scheduled for next Wednesday.