Volleyball: Toppers head into pool play round

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By Mike Cote

Before the Class AAAA state volleyball pools were announced, Hilltopper head coach Diana Stokes had a feeling she might end up in the same pool as the top-seeded Moriarty Pintos.

Her feeling was spot-on.

Los Alamos, the seventh overall seed in the AAAA playoffs, will take on the No. 1 seed, defending state champion and odds-on title favorite Moriarty in Pool A play Wednesday.

Pool play will be held at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. The two-game, 15-point matches will start at 1 p.m.

Along with the Pintos (19-2), Los Alamos will square off against the sixth-seeded Del Norte Knights (15-7) and 12th-seeded Albuquerque Academy Chargers (8-14).

In the pool, the Hilltoppers (13-8) will be the odd-man out, as they’re the only team not coming out of District 5. Moriarty won the district, Del Norte finished as the runner-up and Academy was third in the four-team district.

“It’s not anything big to me,” Stokes said. “The other teams will have to play each other for the third or fourth time, though.”

Heading into pool play, Los Alamos will be hoping to come out either second or third. Ultimately, it would like to get placed into the elimination-play bracket on the opposite side as the Pintos so they won’t have to face them again until the final.

The Hilltoppers faced the Pintos and the Chargers during the regular season, topping the Chargers 3-0 Sept. 4 in Albuquerque and falling 3-0 to the Pintos twice, once on the road Sept. 6 and once at home Sept. 25.

Los Alamos didn’t see Del Norte during the regular season, but its scouting report suggests it has good blockers, especially up the middle. The best blocking combination Los Alamos has seen recently was Española Valley’s in the only district match it lost this season, a 3-2 decision at home Oct. 29.

Heading into pool play, Los Alamos has won eight of its last nine contests. Saturday, Los Alamos won a decisive 25-20, 25-19, 25-19 district tournament championship match against Capital’s Jaguars.

The Jaguars (12-8) also got into the field as a No. 11 seed.

Heading into the district tournament championship match, middle hitter Taylor Ealey was bothered by an injured knee. While Stokes said Ealey felt fine during the match, she was going to take it easy with her and, if she could get away with it, use Ealey sparingly during pool play.

“We’re going to keep an eye on Taylor’s knee,” Stokes said. “We’re going to keep her quiet (Monday and Tuesday). She doesn’t need to keep jumping and jumping on it.”

In Pool B, Goddard is the top seed, while 2007 state runner-up Roswell is the top seed in Pool C.

Last season, Los Alamos had a horrendous showing in pool play, going 1-5, but bounced back to knock off Española Valley in the first round and upset heavily-favored Goddard in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, the Hilltoppers had a chance to pull off another upset, this one of Roswell’s Coyotes, but the Coyotes came back from an 18-10 deficit in the third game, eventually taking both the game and the match.

Here are Wednesday’s pool play match-ups and schedule:

Pool A

(1) Moriarty vs. (12) Academy

(6) Del Norte vs. (7) Los Alamos

Moriarty vs. Los Alamos

Del Norte vs. Academy

Moriarty vs. Del Norte

Los Alamos vs. Academy

Pool B

(2) Goddard vs. (11) Capital

(5) St. Pius X vs. (8) Deming

Goddard vs. Deming

St. Pius vs. Capital

Goddard vs. St. Pius

Deming vs. Capital

Pool C

(3) Roswell vs. (10) Shiprock

(4) Piedra Vista vs. (9) Silver

Roswell vs. Silver

Piedra Vista vs. Shiprock

Roswell vs. Piedra Vista

Silver vs. Shiprock