The Topper Volleyball team celebrates their 3-2 win over the Pojoaque Elkettes played Tuesday evening in the Pojoaque High School Gym. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
The Los Alamos High School volleyball team started playing their style of volleyball and came back to defeat rival Pojoaque Valley High School 25-17, 15-25, 23-25, 25-13, 15-10 in a District 2-4A showdown Oct. 15 at Pojoaque. Both teams came into the match undefeated in district play. With the victory, Los Alamos takes over sole possession of first place in District 2-4A with a 4-0 record in district competition.
The first set of the match saw the Hilltoppers take an early lead 10-4 and Pojoaque’s passing was not up to the Elkettes’ standards. Los Alamos’ Natalie Gallegos had a trio of kills as Los Alamos took a 19-11 lead. Pojoaque couldn’t overcome that early lead. Two more kills by Gallegos and two kills by Eden Schmierer gave the Hilltoppers a 25-17 win
In the second set, Los Alamos couldn’t seem to find the range from the other side of the net. The Hilltoppers committed costly hitting errors and Pojoaque steadily pulled away. Ashten Martinez was having no trouble finding her range for the Elkettes and she was dominating at the net. Pojoaque’s high-flying hitter Alicia Quintana soared through the air for three kills to help the Elkettes take a 23-13 lead. Back-to-back kills by Martinez gave Pojoaque a 25-15 victory.
The Hilltoppers were within one point of tying the third set at 24-24 after fighting off two set points. It was a classic battle that pitted the hard-swinging Hilltoppers who like to go for the big kills and blocks against the Elkettes, whose signature style is to not let the ball reach the floor on their side of the court. Pojoaque had come up with some near-miraculous digs and saves of balls apparently headed out-of-bounds in the third set.
Los Alamos had countered with the hitting Gallegos and strong blocking at the net. The action in the third set had been back and forth. Pojoaque was getting good play from a front row of Alicia Quintana and Sonya Quintana. A kill by Leah Trujillo helped create a little breathing room for Pojoaque with a 22-17 lead. The Hilltoppers chipped away at that lead. After a kill by Martinez gave Pojoaque set point at 24-21, a tip by Gallegos and a service winner by setter Elise Olivas had the Hilltoppers within a point of tying the score.
All Los Alamos needed was one good pass, a good set and a hard swing by Gallegos or one of their other hitters and the score would be tied. The Hilltoppers never got it. Instead of putting the ball down, they started to just send it back over the net or settle for tips. Pojoaque was more than happy to send the ball back to them. Finally, Los Alamos couldn’t handle a tip by Martinez and the Elkettes took a 25-23 victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.
That frustrated Los Alamos Coach Joe Palmer, who felt his team played Pojoaque’s game rather than their own.
‘We must have had four tips in a row,” Palmer said. “We’ve got hitters. When we have the opportunity, we’ve got to hit the ball. That’s how we want to play.”
The Los Alamos players seemed just as frustrated with themselves as their coach was. The Hilltoppers came out with a vengeance in the fourth set. Los Alamos dominated play at the net. Gallegos was putting down hard kills and the Hilltoppers were blocking Pojoaque like a brick wall. Los Alamos took leads of 4-0, 7-1, 13-6 and 22-11. Pojoaque was never even close to the Hilltoppers in the fourth set. Los Alamos dominated and took a 25-13 victory. That tied the match at 2-2, forcing a fifth set.
The fifth set is played to just 15 points and even a small lead can be critical. The Hilltoppers had momentum and they were the team that was on the attack and swinging away. Pojoaque can never be counted out because they are so adept at keeping points alive, but the Hilltoppers were the aggressor in the fifth set. Los Alamos took that crucial little lead 10-6 after a big block at the net. Pojoaque fought back to within two points of tying the score. This time, another Gallegos stepped up. Nadia Gallegos had a tip to give the serve back to Los Alamos. A set and match point, Nadia Gallegos put down the final kill that gave the Hilltoppers the victory.
“People stepped up,” Natalie Gallegos said. “We wanted it more. That’s why we won.”
Natalie Gallegos led the Hilltoppers with 25 kills, but she had plenty of help. Schmierer had 15 kills, while Ariel Edkin and Michaela Gonzales each had seven kills. Los Alamos had a total of 62 kills. Natalie Gallegos had 13 blocks, while Olivas had 12 and Nadia Gallegos had 11 blocks. One reason the Hilltoppers had so many blocks is that Pojoaque may be the best team at picking the ball up after a block.
Martinez led the Elkettes with 21 kills.
Los Alamos improves to 9-7 overall. Thursday, the Hilltoppers face Moriarty High School at Moriarty. The Lady Pintos beat the Hilltoppers 3-1 Sept. 7 in tournament play. That loss does not count as a district loss. Los Alamos beat the Pintos 3-1 in their District 2-4A opener Oct. 1 at Los Alamos.
Natalie Gallegos spikes the ball over the Elkettes defender Ashten Martinez. Natalie was the team leader for spike-kills with 25 kills. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Eden Schmierer had a big night with 15 spike-kills as she spikes the ball over Ayanna Aguirre in the 3rd set. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Michaela Gonzales and Natalie Gallegos block a spike attempt by Ashten Martinez in the 2nd set. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Eden Schmierer bumps a served ball into play from the back court in the 2nd set. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Michaela Gonzales returns a ball over to the defender Ashten Martinez in the 2nd set. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Ariel Edkin spike-kills a ball in the 3rd set, which helped to bring the spike-kill total for the team to 62 for the match. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com