Despite a depleted lineup for their first match of the season, the Rio Rancho High School volleyball team had a good showing in the Rams Athletic Center Thursday evening.
The eighth-ranked (in Class 5A) Rams fell to Class 4A’s No. 1 team, St. Pius X, 23-25, 25-12, 25-19, 25-22.
The Rams stayed close to the Sartans, who swept No. 9 Cleveland in both teams’ opener on Tuesday, in the first set, trailing 23-20 before racking up the final five points for the win — despite four service errors in that set.
The second set was all St. Pius, as the Rams made numerous unforced errors and were doomed by a 12-0 run by the Sartans to tie the match.
The third set was similar to the first, except for the outcome: The Sartans let the Rams creep within two, 20-18, before closing it out on a 5-1 run. A Rams service error at 23-19 gave the Sartans the ball for set point.
The Rams had the lead midway through the fourth set (14-12, 16-14 and 18-17), only to see an 8-4 Sartans run end the nearly two-hour match.
“The second set was just a total collapse,” RRHS coach Toby Manzanares, a St. Pius alum and former volleyball coach, said. “We chalk it up to the youth that we have on the floor and we move forward.
“The third set was fairly close and we were there till the end,” he added, noting the last service error of the match, sending the Sartans to match point, was “a total miss-hit.”
Manzanares is working with what may be the youngest roster in his 23 years at the Rams helm: Eighth-grader Marian Hatch is the first middle-school player on the varsity since Erika Barbour in 2010, and he has two freshmen, Ashleigh Meyer and Kiya Wilson.
There are players expected to add depth before the season is over: senior middle-blocker Molly Garretson, returning from thyroid cancer, and junior Julianna Benedetto, who has a foot injury and was on crutches Thursday.
“We’ve got some good, solid youth on our side,” Manzanares said. “We’ve got to be patient, let them find who they are and grow. We’ve got the pieces; we’re trying to figure out where those pieces go. This will be a fun team to watch.
“I told them I would take this effort any day, every day,” he said after the loss. “They battled to side out, they battled to push to a tie, and they battled to take a lead. I was fine with it.”
Dylan Brewer had a team-high 10 kills and 25 digs in the match; Ashley Gresham added nine kills.
Dinks: The Rams have two matches in the RAC this coming week: No. 2 La Cueva visits Thursday at 6:30 and No. 6 Santa Fe drops in Friday at 6.