CARRIZOZO – Three times, Carrizozo’s volleyball team has taken on Animas this season.
Twice, the Lady Grizzlies have won. All three times, it went to five games.
The latest contest came Oct. 27, when Carrizozo survived a furious comeback by the Lady Panthers to prevail in a 25-13, 25-20, 22-25, 24-26, 15-12 District 4-1A victory.
“They had it in the third, they just got a little ahead of themselves again,” said Carrizozo coach Whitney Whittaker. “But I’m very proud of them. They came through and finished.”
Unlike the first two times these teams met – the first was at the Cloudcroft Mountaintop Tournament back in September – Carrizozo (12-9, 6-0 district) came out ahead in the first two games and threatened to sweep.
But like the Lady Grizzlies had when they found themselves two down twice before to Animas, the Lady Panthers (8-7, 2-3) pulled together to win the next two, including a 26-24 victory in game four.
In that frame, Carrizozo had match point serve leading 24-23, but a net violation gave the Lady Panthers the serve and the momentum. Two points later – including a massive kill by Animas’ Jaycee Offutt – they had won and forced game five.
“Animas has a very well-developed all-around team,” Whittaker said of the Lady Panthers. “They’re always tough, and we’re just happy to get that win.”
That momentum carried over into the final frame, as Animas built a 4-1 lead to start.
But the Lady Grizzlies were able to tie it up at 4-all after a huge block by Hannah Ventura, and Carrizozo was able to take a narrow lead that they never relinquished.
Even when the Lady Panthers got back to within one point at 13-12, Ventura was able to block another hit to put her team at match point.
A hitting error by Animas brought things to a close and ensured the Lady Grizzlies have the top seed in next week’s district tournament.
Whittaker said that means they’ll have just one match to play, but Thursday’s match was their only one this week as well.
“We won’t get that game experience through the week with that bye,” Whittaker said. “We’ll just have to work and practice hard to prepare.”
Senior Kristie Gallacher fully expects a rematch in the championship, and expects it to be as hard-fought as the previous three meetings.
“As long as we have the mental capacity to get those tips, and move in the direction we need to play them again, I think we can do it,” Gallacher said.
For Gallacher, the season has been a flashback to when she was in eighth grade and setting for the team in the state tournament.
Now a senior, Gallacher has imparted a lot of wisdom to the eighth graders surrounding her on this year’s squad.
“Seeing these eighth graders, they were like me, just so young and missing a lot of knowledge. But they’re doing very well and I’m very proud of them,” Gallacher said. “I also remember, as an eighth grader, the encouragement instead of the yelling was the best thing for me.”