Los Alamos High School Lady Hilltoppers Volleyball Team are the District 2-4A champions. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
By GEORGE MORSE
Los Alamos Daily Post
The Los Alamos High School volleyball team defeated Pojoaque Valley High School 25-23, 25-21, 25-13 Saturday in Griffith Gymnasium to win the District 2-4A volleyball tournament title, completing a remarkable turnaround under Coach Joe Palmer. Since Palmer replaced former Coach Diana Stokes, the Lady Hilltoppers have gone 10-1 after a 3-7 start.
That one loss, 3-0 to Pojoaque at Los Alamos, showed the Hilltoppers where their weaknesses were. Los Alamos committed 30 hitting errors and 11 ball-handling errors. In 94 attacks, the Hilltoppers had just 24 kills and ended up with a negative .064 hitting percentage.
By the time the two teams met again at Pojoaque, the Lady Hilltoppers had cleaned up their mistakes and Los Alamos committed just 17 hitting errors in 135 attacks while winning a marathon match 3-2 to clinch the District 2-4A regular season championship. The Hilltoppers had 57 kills.
In the District 2-4A Tournament championship game, Los Alamos was on fire. The Hilltoppers had 45 kills in 89 attacks and committed just 10 hitting errors. Their outstanding hitting percentage of .393 percent meant every other time Los Alamos went on the attack, it resulted in a kill.
Senior outside hitters Elodie Thelliez and Sophia Salazar led the way. Thelliez had 18 kills and Salazar 13 kills. Junior middle blocker Natalie Gallegos also had 13 kills and added 11 blocks for the Hilltoppers.
Thelliez was particularly effective, recording her 18 kills in just 29 attempts. She had zero hitting errors.
“She was a one-woman wrecking crew,” Coach Palmer said. “Most impressive was no errors.”
Pojoaque, whose strengths are their serving and defense, fought gamely the first two sets. The relentless Los Alamos attack began to wear down the Elkettes in the third set. The score was tied 7-7 in the third set when Los Alamos went on a 9-0 run behind the serving of Gracie Swensen and the hitting of Thelliez.
Pojoaque never recovered.
Despite the loss, Pojoaque finished with a fine 18-4 record during the regular season. Because Los Alamos won the District2-4A regular season title, Pojoaque could not be seeded higher than the Hilltoppers. The Elkettes received the sixth seed and advanced to the Class 4A State volleyball tournament. The Elkettes will compete in Pool C against third-seeded Artesia High School and 10 th -seeded Albuquerque Academy.
Los Alamos finished the regular season with a 13-8 record. The Hilltoppers received a fifth-seed and will compete in Pool D with fourth-seeded Roswell Goddard High School and ninth-seeded Los Lunas High School.
Pool play in the Class 4A State volleyball tournament begins today, Nov. 15 at the Santa AnaStar Center in Rio Rancho.