Earning its first-ever berth in the volleyball state championships was a milestone for East Mountain High School—and securing the first state tournament victory in school history was an unforgettable experience for the players.
But after their 3-1 win over ninth-seeded Santa Fe Prep in the play-in round of the Class 3A state championships, the No. 8 Lady Timberwolves’ season came to an end in the double-elimination rounds that got underway Nov. 12 at Rio Rancho High School.
East Mountain got swept 3-0 (13-25, 9-25, 13-25) by the No. 1 Robertson Lady Cardinals in the first round. Then in the contender bracket, the Lady T’Wolves bowed out in a 3-0 sweep (16-25, 28-30, 14-25) at the hands of district rival Bosque.
“Going into the year, we never expected to make state—because nothing’s ever guaranteed—and these girls fought all season,” East Mountain head coach Kasi Giovenco said. “They played some amazing volleyball.”
In Rio Rancho High School’s large, noisy gym, East Mountain kept each set close in the early goings of its matchup with Robertson, but by the middle of each game, the undefeated Lady Cardinals showed why they’re the top-ranked team in 3A.
The first set started off tight, as Amy Tetreault’s consecutive serving aces helped East Mountain stay within one point at 6-5. Moments later, Shandi Gonzalez’ ace pulled the Lady T’Wolves within two points at 12-10. But Robertson outscored East Mountain 13-3 the rest of the way for the 25-13 win, and a 1-0 advantage.
In the second game, Robertson used a 17-2 surge to turn an early 8-7 lead into a resounding 25-9 win to take a 2-0 advantage.
“They’re a high-caliber team,” Giovenco said. “We would get on our little runs and then Robertson would just capitalize on every mistake that we made.”
With Ella Cook serving at the start of the third set, East Mountain scored the initial two points to take its first lead of the match. After Robertson tied it at 2-2, the Lady T’Wolves scored a side-out point to go up 3-2, their final lead of the match. Robertson forged ahead on a 6-0 run and never looked back. In the middle of the set, Gonzalez’ attack kill capped a 4-0 run for East Mountain, trimming Robertson’s lead to 12-9. But Robertson took control with a 7-0 run on the way to a 25-13 win to seal the 3-0 sweep.
“I think, you know, hey, it’s our first time here, it’s loud, and I think our girls are not used to the atmosphere of what this is, so, first appearance in this round of state and playing the No. 1 seed who’s an undefeated team, I think our girls played well,” Giovenco said.
The loss dropped East Mountain to the contender bracket where the Lady T’Wolves squared off against the fourth-seeded Bosque Lady Bobcats.
The matchup with Bosque didn’t start until 8 p.m., and the nearly five-hour wait took its toll on the Lady T’Wolves as they dropped the first set 25-16.
“That long wait was a little bit of a factor,” Giovenco said.
East Mountain scratched and clawed its way through the second set—a back-and-forth battle that saw the Lady T’Wolves take a couple of leads late in the game. But with the score tied at 28-28, the Lady Bobcats scored the final two points for the win.
“That second set, we fought hard,” Giovenco said. “If we had won that second game, the momentum would have flipped.”
Bosque captured the third set 25-14, ending East Mountain’s season.
“I’m proud of the girls, I’m proud of how they played, they were fighting,” Giovenco said. “Every road’s gonna have its bumps and these girls rode with it—it’s about the ride and the memories. None of us were disappointed with how the season ended.”
East Mountain senior Naomi Eberling echoed her coach.
“It’s just amazing that we got here in the first place, as East Mountain, like, you know, we’re kinda underdogs, we’re always the underdogs,” Eberling said. “But it’s just been amazing, the journey getting here, Tuesday’s game [the play-in win over Santa Fe Prep], that was like the night of my life—I feel so blessed, I love my team, I love playing with them.”
East Mountain finished with a 12-12 overall record.