By G. Demarest
As the host school in Moriarty’s annual volleyball tournament, the Lady Pintos have finished respectably the past few years but last weekend they claimed their first-ever crown in the Silver Bracket.
“I’ve got a great group of kids and they worked real hard,” Moriarty’s head coach Kim Bell said.
Sixteen schools from around the state ranging in size from Class 3A to Class 6A competed in the two-day tournament.
The top eight schools from Friday morning’s pool-play rounds advanced to the Gold Bracket, the remaining schools comprised the Silver Bracket.
Facing three separate schools from Santa Fe—one Friday and two Saturday—the Lady Pintos won all three of their matches, the last two in five sets.
In a repeat of the final match at last year’s tournament, the Lady Pintos battled their way to a 3-2 victory over St. Michael’s.
After Moriarty won the first set, St. Mike’s took the next two and looked poised to win the match, but the Lady Pintos fought back taking sets four and five; a game-winning kill by Alyssa Adams sealed it. She had 16 kills in the match.
“They found a second wind and played the way they’re capable of playing, and Alyssa kept swinging—she finished it,” said Bell.
Defense also played a key role during that final game.
Averee Ortiz and Mariah Peterson, anchoring the middle of the net, both jumped at the same time, creating a wall of four hands and blocking a shot, ending a St. Mike’s rally. Peterson had 13 blocks in the match.
Prior to the St. Mike’s match, the Pintos beat the Class 6A Santa Fe Demonettes, 3-2 (19-25, 27-25, 21-25, 30-28, 15-12).
The fourth game was the key, with the score tied at 20, 24, 25, and was still knotted 28-28, until consecutive kills by Samantha Gauna and Emily Gonzales won it 30-28.
“That shows their character, that shows what’s in them, and I love that, because they can battle, so I’m very pleased with that,” Bell said.
Moriarty opened with a 3-0 sweep over Santa Fe Indian School in Friday’s first round.
With the three match victories the Lady Pintos improved their record to 5-0.
Estancia was one of just two Class 3A schools at Moriarty’s tournament and put up a valiant effort in losing two of its three matches to take sixth place in the Silver Bracket.
The Lady Bears lost 3-0 (25-27, 14-25, 21-25 ) to Class 5A Capital in Friday’s first round, and 3-1 (25-21, 16-25, 17-25, 23-25) to Class 5A Bernalillo in Saturday’s finale.
Estancia’s first-year head coach Alicia Pope said the effort she saw from her squad on Saturday was “ten times better” than it was Friday. “I think we were the better team [vs. Bernalillo] but they played hard, they were a worthy opponent,” she said.
In Saturday morning’s second-round match, Estancia had little trouble sweeping the Bosque Lady Bobcats in three games (25-12, 25-13, 25-21).
“I think the girls were upset about losing [Friday] and they came out today playing real hard,” Pope said.
The Lady Bears dominated the first two sets but the Lady Bobcats kept the third game close.
Trailing 19-11, Bosque outscored Estancia 9-2 to trim the score to 21-20.
After Estancia increased its lead to 24-21, Callie Larson’s well-placed serve was bobbled by a pair of Lady Bobcats and went unreturned giving the Lady Bears the set, and the match.
“My coach likes to use my serves as a weapon,” Larson said. “I saw there was a hole [in Bosque’s formation] so I tried to shoot it in that hole and it worked out.”
Pope noted that the Lady Bears “have the skills and are constantly improving,” which she said will make a difference as the season progresses.
Sandia Prep swept Texico to claim the crown in the tournament’s Gold Bracket.
The Lady Pintos faced Sandia Prep Tuesday after The Independent went to print.
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.