Volleyball: LA tops Taos in District 2-4A opener Wednesday

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By Mike Cote

Occasionally in volleyball, one team throws another team a curveball.

In Wednesday’s District 2AAAA opener, the Taos Tigers may have done that to the Los Alamos Hilltoppers.

Fortunately, there was plenty of time for the Hilltoppers to adjust.

The Tigers, who are in the middle of a rough 2008 season having won just seven games in 12 matches, wouldn’t go away in either of the first two games Wednesday. The Tigers even held a solid lead for a good portion of the second game.

But Los Alamos would eventually bounce back from its rough patch, beating Taos in three games, 25-15, 25-19, 25-9.

Taos (0-13 overall, 0-1 in 2AAAA) didn’t have much to show in the way of defense or offense in the 2AAAA debut for both schools.

But head coach Diana Stokes said, ironically, that Los Alamos struggled to adjust to a non-quality squad.

“The hard part, we’ve been playing tough teams and we’re always on our heels,” Stokes said. “(Wednesday) we had a chance to do some stuff…but it’s like we got back on our heels again.”

Taos, once a solid 2AAAA presence which has fallen on hard times in recent seasons, was only able to get about half its balls over the net once during the first game.

Despite jumping out to an 11-5 lead early, the Hilltoppers struggled to put the game away. Taos trailed just 16-12 at one point and appeared to get Los Alamos’ lead down to three, but a questionable touch call on that point went in Los Alamos’ favor.

But after closing out that game and bouncing back from the early deficit in game two, the Hilltoppers were all business in game three.

With solid passing, something that had been lacking in the first two games, Los Alamos put together an 8-0 scoring run with Molly Willms serving.

Willms was motivated during her service run with the promise that if the Hilltoppers had a comfortable lead at 20 points, she could attempt a jump serve.

Unfortunately, Willms fell a point short in her quest.

That run took the Hilltoppers from an 11-3 edge to a 19-3 edge.

Even without her service run, Willms had one of her best outings of the season Wednesday, finishing with five spike kills, three of them in the final game.

Taylor Ealey and Alex Nichols tied for the match high with seven spike kills apiece. Sabrina Little added five more.

Heading into the contest, Los Alamos (6-7 overall, 1-0 in district) had lost two straight contests at home, getting swept by both Las Vegas Robertson and Moriarty, the third-ranked and top-ranked teams in their respective classifications.

Los Alamos had a sticky nondistrict schedule this season. Prior to the season, Stokes said it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility the team wouldn’t have broken into the win column before 2AAAA play started.

Playing a team that was struggling just to keep its head above water was something the Hilltoppers hadn’t seen in 2008.

“I think it was a good first game to start district,” Stokes said. “If anything, it’s a little bit of a confidence booster. We can only go up from here.”

Los Alamos won’t play another nondistrict opponent until the state playoffs.

Heading into District 2AAAA play, only one team besides Los Alamos, Capital, had more than two wins.

Capital, with its 3-1 victory at Española Valley Wednesday, is the only team in the district with a winning record (7-5).

Bernalillo and Taos are both winless on the season, while Española Valley has won just two matches in 12 outings.