Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

St. Michael’s stumbles in opening round of 3A State Volleyball Tournament but stays alive; Santa Fe Indian School eliminated | Sports

The Las Vegas Robertson Lady Cardinals are yesterday’s news for St. Michael’s Lady Horsemen.

All that matters is the following:

The Hot Springs Lady Tigers.

At the Rio Rancho Event Center.

A season of speculation about the top two Class 3A volleyball teams and the dance focused on the possible game for the state championship took a back seat on Friday night to survive.

When Albuquerque Sandia Prep, the forgotten 3A defending champion and seventh seeder of the Class 3A State Tournament, defeated the Lady Horsemen in four games in the opening round of the modified double elimination bracket, the plot suddenly changed from a hotly anticipated matchup with top- put Robertson to a sudden death scenario.

Runner-up St. Michael’s passed his first challenge in the 3A consolation class, shaking off a shaky start against the Santa Fe Indian School opponent from District 2-3A and ending the Lady Braves season with a 25-21, 25-18, 25-17 Sweep at Rio Rancho High School in the night session.

The win secured another game for the Lady Horsemen, who will face Hot Springs in the second round of contender bracket matches at 10 a.m. at the Rio Rancho Events Center. Any further speculation about what might happen to them is pointless.

St. Michael is in win-or-go home mode.

“I think we all know this could be our last game,” said Alana Overton, Lady Horsemen’s sophomore middle hitter. “We have to work together and we want to. It really is. “

It was a tough lesson to learn, but the Lady Sundevils helped give them a hefty 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-23 win in the opening round. Sandia Prep slipped into the role of the troubled underdog, as she simply outperformed the Lady Horsemen at crucial points.

Perhaps the breaking point in their psyche came in Game 3. St. Michael’s (18-6) held a 22-20 lead and served, but Sandia Prep scored four points in a row and never lost the lead.

What followed was a 6-0 lead from Sandia Prep to start Game 4 and the Lady Horsemen never recovered. It was a sign that a young team with only two players with post-season experience had not yet fully learned to deal with the national tournament atmosphere.

“We just lost focus a bit,” said Marissa Sandoval-Moya, the St. Michaels Freshman Setter / Outside Hitter. “I do not know what happened. The team just fell apart and I don’t think we worked that much together. I mean, we were in control of the game. “

Lady Horsemen’s head coach Valeria Sandoval said her team’s inexperience – “our youth,” as she put it – was evident against the Lady Sundevils. She pointed out that every single game they won was just as close, which meant St. Michael’s was only a game or two away from fending them off.

“I think they were a bit scared of making a mistake and we played really safe,” said Sandoval. “I had the feeling that that held us back a little.”

While the two-hour break gave the Lady Horsemen a chance to think, refocus, and recharge – Sandoval-Moya said dinner was very helpful in easing hurt feelings – they still appeared in the opener against the Santa Fe Indian School not being shy.

The Lady Braves (15-11), who played aggressively and confidently in the opening game after four defeats against Socorro in the first round, seemed to seize the opportunity and even took a short-lived lead with 20-19 against St. Michael in the opening game. Their inexperience was shown, however, as they were slow to respond to beatings from St. Michael and often had no communication to trace passports.

The Lady Horsemen finally found their feet again with a 25:21 win and played the rest of the way with confidence.

“I think with this win they think, ‘Oh, the state isn’t that scary. We can do it.’ “Said Sandoval-Moya.

Maybe the Lady Cardinals were the only team that seemed to have the game under control at the state tournaments that host a clinic. Robertson (25-0) easily conquered East Mountain (25-13, 25-9, 25-13) and Hot Springs (25-9, 25-12, 25-11), reaching the Saturday semi-finals and the singles elimination portion of the tournament .

Robertson head coach Vanessa Gonzales said it helped that the team was made up of nine seniors, who for the most part experienced the excitement after the season and were well prepared for it.

“We control what we can control,” said Gonzales. “We cannot control the bracket. It’s just one game at a time and that’s all we can do. “

Friday’s action left six teams alive for Saturday’s singles eliminations that could turn fans’ heads. The two remaining survivors of the winner bracket matches – Sandia Prep (14-12) and Robertson – await the winners of the two consolation bracket competitions.

The Lady Sundevils, who beat Socorro in the quarterfinals, await the Hot Springs-St. Michael’s winner for a place in the final.

Meanwhile, Robertson awaits the winner between the Albuquerque Bosque School and Socorro in the other semi-final game, with the championship scheduled for 6pm

However, St. Michael’s bothered neither about a possible rematch match with Sandia Prep nor about the possibility of playing against Robertson in the final. All that matters on Saturday are the Hot Springs Lady Tigers.

The Lady Horsemen learned this lesson the hard way.

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