ALBUQUERQUE – North-South All-Star matches are really a test of how fast athletes that have never played together can gel.
In the case of the South All-Star volleyball teams at the start of New Mexico High School Coaches Association weekend, they gelled very well.
Well enough for the 2A/1A and 4A/3A teams to earn victories, June 8, at La Cueva High School.
Things went so well for the 2A/1A team, in fact, that they earned a 25-11, 25-11, 25-18 sweep of their northern counterparts.
“We had tons of cohesiveness from the very beginning,” said Corona’s Aubrey Brandenberger. “I honestly think we had more than any team here. It worked really good from the start.”
While they didn’t start the match, Brandenberger and Carrizozo’s Kristie Gallacher contributed mightily to the South’s cause.
Things started a bit slow for the South in game one, as things were tied at 4-all before a kill by Elida’s Taylor Epps started a 4-0 run.
The South kept pulling away steadily – thanks in part by a huge Brandenerger kill and block – to win game one. It was an identical score in game two, kicked off by two straight service points from Gallacher.
“It was a little bittersweet, our last varsity game,” Gallacher said. “But we got so close with these girls we had never played before. And regardless of class size, we played with them and beat them.”
While it looked as though the South was going to cruise easily to the sweep, the North had different plans in the third frame.
It was knotted up at 9-all following a South error before Mountainair’s Alicia Kayser got the serve for four straight points.
After that, it was just a matter of holding off the North. That included a sequence in which Elida’s Madison Haley came up with three straight saves to put her team at match point serve.
After a South error gave the serve to the North, Kara Foreman of Mesilla Valley brought things to a close with a kill.
“We played more as a team while other teams were playing more as individuals,” Brandenberger said. “Our coach (Dawn Kuchta of Floyd) kept it fun and it made everyone want to work harder.”
Gallacher will attend New Mexico State University to major in animal science, while Brandenberger is heading to Clarendon College in Texas to pursue a kinesiology degree.
A more difficult road
While the 2A/1A South team earned a sweep in relatively easy fashion, their 4A/3A counterparts seemed to struggle just a bit more before getting the 25-19, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19 win.
As Ruidoso’s only representative on the squad, Lia Mosher carried her school’s name well in the match with some stalwart defense.
Kills weren’t her forte, blocks were.
She said playing with a number of athletes she’d become used to seeing on the other side of the net was a rewarding experience.
“It’s so much fun and so awesome to play with these other girls rom around the state,” Mosher said. “These are the best personalities, the best players.”
Among those the 6-foot-2 RHS grad could now count as teammates was Hope Christian’s Miranda Cañez, a fellow tower that got the kills Mosher wasn’t.
Cañez and Mosher – along with Texico graduate Jasmine Gannon – served as effective counterpoints to the North’s Ellie Breeden and Makaela Largo.
That pair – from St. Michael’s and Dulce, respectively – seemed to come up with blocks or kills just when they were needed.
The South was able to win the first two games, but in the third, the North went from a 10-6 deficit to a 12-10 lead on six straight service points by Rehoboth’s Mya Begay.
After the South retook the lead, the North went on another scoring run near the very end to earn the narrow victory and force things into a fourth game.
The final frame was also a bit dicey, but the South hung on – thanks in part to a duo of particularly strong kills by Mosher and Cañez – to earn the win in four.
“We all got along and there was just positive energy on this team,” Mosher said. “It was great from the very beginning.”
This weekend is a busy one for Mosher, who is also on the South All-Star softball team, and was named as an alternate to the 4A/3A basketball squad.
The softball team plays the first of three games today at 2 p.m. at Cleveland High School, while the 4A/3A basketball game is Saturday at Cibola High School at 8 p.m.
That schedule includes a noon softball game at Cleveland on Saturday.
Mosher will attend New Mexico State to start the Fall 2017 semester, having secured a spot on the Aggie volleyball team. She’ll also attempt to walk on as a softball player.