CLOUDCROFT – In the championship semifinals of this year’s Mountaintop volleyball tournament, there were two Lincoln County-area teams – former district rivals, even – facing off.
But only one team could make it to the title match, and that was Capitan following a 25-22, 25-17, 19-25, 25-11 victory.
That also kept the Tigers undefeated on the season, but that ended in the championship match.
Facing off against a strong Eunice squad, Capitan fought valiantly before falling in five, 26-24, 24-26, 25-18, 20-25, 15-13.
It’s easy to see how hard-fought the match was by looking at those individual game scores. The Tigers (5-1) were able to claw back to a tie in the match after losing game one, but in both instances, the game went one point over the minimum needed to win.
“These are both very good volleyball teams, but we were a bit tired,” said Capitan coach Pam Allen. “I thought I had these girls in better condition than this, so we’ll work on that.”
Games three and four were a bit more one-sided, with Eunice (3-4) turning a slim Tiger lead into a 15-12 advantage with libero Kendra Caballero at the serve.
Later, a 7-0 run with Lexxie Dean serving eventually put the game out of reach.
Capitan returned the favor in game four, finally breaking a streak in which neither team was able to put together a scoring drive when Dominique Valadez got the ball.
With her starting with an ace, the Tigers went on a modest 4-0 run that may not have given them the lead, but it at least gave them the momentum they needed to eventually take the lead for good on a tip kill by Mercedes Hazen.
Game five was also a close one, but only at the very end. It took three match point serves before the Cardinals took the championship with a resounding kill by Harria Mendoza.
Allen said the first loss of the season may have been disappointing, but it came against a very good team. They’ll see three more good teams in pool play at their own Capitan Classic this weekend.
“I’m really proud of these kids, they’ve come 1,000 miles since July 5,” Allen said. “We’re in a tough pool with Elida, Tatum and Fort Sumner, but that’s by design. You have to play tough if you want to be tough.”
Chiefs take third
To get to the title match, Capitan needed to push aside Mescalero in a four game, 25-22, 25-17, 19-25, 25-11 victory.
It was only after the Tigers took a two-game lead before the Lady Chiefs were able to rebound to win the third set.
After that, the Chiefs faced District 3-2A rival Cloudcroft for the third place trophy, and for the first three matches, it looked like these two were simply going to trade wins. Mescalero (4-4) won games one and three, Cloudcroft (4-7) won game two.
In all three frames, the score was 25-14.
The Chiefs broke the cycle in game four, winning 25-16 to win the match.
That final score was made possible in party by a 5-0 run with Samantha Kahze at the serve.
Coach Alice Velasquez said the third place trophy was great for her team, but the Chiefs still need to win more evenly.
“I just know that it’s our youth, and being consistent comes from maturity,” Velasquez said. “When you have one senior, one junior and the rest of sophomores or freshmen, you really have to take that into consideration. But we made some good solid plays when we needed to.”
The Chiefs get a chance to improve on their consistency Wednesday, but it will be on the road against a solid Hondo squad.
“We have to learn that when we get the momentum, we have to take it for a ride,” Velasquez said. “They’re starting to show that they realize the things I say matter, and hopefully we’ll grow from there.”