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Volleyball finishes non-district play on high note

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By Phil Scherer

As high school volleyball season heads into district play, it appears the Los Alamos High School Hilltoppers are ready to get on a roll. The team picked up its second straight home win Tuesday night, taking down Capital High School 3-1. 

Earlier this season, at Santa Fe’s Tournament of Champions, Capital defeated the Hilltoppers in straight sets, though the match was close throughout. 

At the beginning of Tuesday’s match, it appeared Capital might take control again, as the Jaguars jumped out to an early 6-2 lead in the first set. Capital was able to maintain a small advantage for most of the set, though the Hilltoppers kept it close. 

Toward the end of the set, LAHS became more aggressive and took the lead. 

After surrendering three points in a row, Capital had a set point, but the Hilltoppers did not fold under the pressure. 

Elise Olivas recorded back-to-back kills on soft shots into the middle of the floor and Natalie Gallegos fired a hard shot into the backcourt to win the first set 26-24 for LAHS. 

Elodie Thelliez was one of the stars of the first set as she stepped into more of an attacking role and picked up nine kills. 

After not playing in the first set, Sophia Salazar came onto the court for the second set and made an immediate impact, picking up two quick kills as the Hilltoppers jumped out to a 9-3 lead. 

However, in this set, it was Capital that remained aggressive to keep the score close. 

After leading throughout, LAHS gave the lead up at 21-20 and were unable to recover, as the girls appeared to be completely out of sync. 

With a combination of strong serving and attacking, Capital took the second set 25-20 to even the match at 1-1. 

Salazar finished the set with four kills and Janessa Gonzales added three of her own. 

LAHS took control of the match in the third set, and completely dominated. The girls seemed to always be in the right spot and knew their assignments, which led to some of the strongest play of the season to this point. 

Salazar continued her strong play, picking up five kills in the set, while Kyla Sandoval did a great job serving and setting up rallies with her play from the back line. 

LAHS took the third set 25-13 to go up 2-1. 

The strong play continued into the fourth set, as the Hilltoppers communicated well and made very few errors. Capital had trouble regrouping and fell into an early hole that continued to grow. By the time the Jaguars got back on track, LAHS had a 17-3 lead and was able to cruise to the end of the match. 

Though Capital put together some strong rallies late in the set, the deficit was too large, as the Hilltoppers won 25-15 to earn the 3-1 match win. 

This was LAHS’ first win over Capital since 2016, as the Hilltoppers lost to the Jaguars four times in 2017 when the teams were both in District 2-5A. 

In the win, Salazar and Gallegos continued their strong attacking seasons, as Salazar picked up 12 kills and Gallegos added 10. Thelliez had her season-high nine kills in the match, and Gonzales had seven. 

As a team, LAHS had only four service errors in 92 attempts, one of the best performances of the season. 

The Hilltoppers are now 5-7, and will begin District 2-4A play Oct. 2 against Moriarty on the road. This season, Moriarty has a 6-4 record. 

At the Moriarty Tournament in early September, the Hilltoppers defeated the Pintos 3-2 in a tightly contested match.