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Volleyball wins important match in Española

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By Phil Scherer

 With a 3-0 on the road at Española Valley High School Thursday night, the Los Alamos High School volleyball team proved exactly why it is deserving of a spot in next month’s state championship tournament. 

Since falling to 3-7 at the end of the Tournament of Champions Sept. 15, the team has been on a roll. LAHS has gone 7-1 since then, and has only gone to the full five sets one time, in a road win over Moriarty. 

As the season moves toward its conclusion, the team has improved in all phases of the game, a trend that continued against the Sundevils. Early in the season, LAHS relied on its ability to out-spike the other team to win matches. 

But Thursday, the Hilltoppers displayed a greater ability to defend than in any other match this year, and it paid off in a big way. 

All three sets were close, but LAHS managed to come out on top in every one of them. In the first set, the Hilltoppers stormed out to a 5-0 lead with great serving, and everything appeared to be working. 

The Sundevils fought back, though, and kept the set close. Then, with their star senior Chloe Fell at the service line, Española Valley began to pull away and took a 23-20 lead. The Hilltoppers remained resilient when faced with adversity, though, and earned five points in a row to take the set 25-23. When the ball hit the floor for the 25th point, all the girls on the team celebrated and it was clear momentum had shifted to the LAHS bench. 

Thanks to a balanced attack, the Hilltoppers jumped out to a quick advantage in the second set, 13-8. Five different girls earned a kill for LAHS to get to that point, and it was difficult for the Sundevils to defend attacks from all different directions. But, when Fell went back to serve again, everything changed and the Sundevils became hard to stop. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, EVHS led 15-14 and the Hilltoppers needed to regroup. 

That’s exactly what the team did, jumping back on top 18-15 to retake control. Though Española Valley kept it close the rest of the set, LAHS held on for the 25-22 victory to go up 2-0 in the match. 

With momentum clearly on LAHS’ side, the team jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the third set as the team looked to close out the match. Elodie Thelliez starred for the Hilltoppers in the third set, picking up a pair of aces early and three kills later in the set. 

Española Valley narrowed the gap as the set moved along, but was never able to take the lead from LAHS. Leading 24-21 at the end of the match, Elise Olivas and Janessa Gonzales combined on an impressive block at the right side of the net. 

The ball fell at the feet of the Sundevil attacker and ended the match. The Hilltoppers took the third set 25-21 and the match 3-0. 

While the attacking of Thelliez, Natalie Gallegos and Sophia Salazar was impressive, it was the team’s blocking that stood out the most in the win. The Hilltoppers had 16 total blocks in the match, including several at crucial points. Gallegos had nine blocks to lead the team, and Olivas added eight of her own. 

Kyla Sandoval’s defensive efforts also stood out, as she saved many rallies with her 10 digs in the match. 

With the win, LAHS moves to 10-8 overall, and 5-1 in District 2-4A. On Tuesday, the team will take on Taos in the final home match of the regular season. Then, Thursday, LAHS will travel to Pojoaque Valley for a match that could decide which team earns the No. 1 seed in the upcoming district tournament. At the moment, both teams are 5-1 in district play.