Volleyball: ´Toppers knock off Demons in three

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — Coming off a less-than-stellar performance Wednesday against Bernalillo, the Los Alamos Hilltopper volleyball team got its ship righted in a hurry Saturday.
The Hilltoppers earned a convincing shutout victory over a much-improved Santa Fe Demon program Saturday at Toby Roybal Gymnasium. Even after getting off to a rocky start in the second set, the Hilltoppers recovered quickly and turned a 6-1 deficit into an 8-7 lead in the space of just two side-outs.
Los Alamos won Saturday’s District 2AAAA contest over Santa Fe 25-11, 25-19, 25-16 to improve its district mark to 2-0 and win its eighth-straight match.
Saturday, Los Alamos made things easier for itself from the get-go, displaying an improved service game, something that it struggled with Wednesday.
Hilltopper head coach Garry Maskaly said that instead of serving it straight to a waiting defensive specialist, the team was forcing the Demons’ back line to move to catch up to serves.
That little adjustment made a difference.
“We’ve been practicing that a lot,” Hilltopper setter Savanah Romero said. “I think we did that. Our serving has struggled for awhile now, but I think it’s getting back.”
Romero was about Los Alamos’ only effective server against Bernalillo. She continued with her hot serving hand Saturday, but was helped out by several other servers on her team to score the side-out points that were largely missing earlier in the week.
But Sabrina Little, coming off the best hitting night of her career, and Alicia Rendon both helped the Hilltoppers with big service runs in the first game to set the tone.
Meanwhile, Los Alamos’ offense remained steady, with Chase Ealey scoring six spike kills in the first two sets and Oksana Tretiak picking up three spike kills, along with two block kills, in the third set.
“It’s a good feeling,” Maskaly said. “It’s nice to pick that up in three. We weren’t sure what to expect. We scouted Santa Fe at Moriarty (earlier this season)…but we’ve changed a lot as a team. We’re doing more complex stuff.”
During the tenure of previous head coach Diana Stokes, Los Alamos actually dropped Santa Fe off its regular season schedule as the Demon program was struggling mightily in Class 5A.
However, under now head coach Sam Estrada, Santa Fe has posted a solid season-to-date. It would not be the first program Estrada has turned around, as he guided Española Valley out of its struggles to a state Class AAAA runner-up in 2006.
Los Alamos will face Española Valley, the ninth-ranked team in Class AAAA, according to the most recent coaches’ poll, Wednesday. A win in that contest would put Los Alamos in the catbird’s seat with five regular season district matches to play.
Romero said she thinks the team is primed to make a run.
“This gives us a lot more confidence to know what we can do,” she said. “This is anyone’s game. There’s not one team that stands out the most…we have to push ourselves. We can’t get cocky.”