Cleveland’s Maddie Del Greco comes up with a kill against Rio Rancho’s Cecilia Gomez (8) and Kiya Wilson (5) during District 1-5A volleyball action on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at RRHS.
(Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

The Cleveland Storm are taking any and all points they can get — from service aces and key stops up front to attacking the back edges and tipping the ball over the net to an open gap — to maintain its lead atop the District 1-5A volleyball standings.

They again capitalized on such moments in their four-set win (25-20, 25-23, 18-25, 25-20) Tuesday at crosstown rival Rio Rancho, well aware that every key point, every set and every victory matters with the state playoffs looming.

Cleveland remains in the driver’s seat in district play at 5-1 (17-4 overall). Rio Rancho dropped to 14-7, 3-3 in district.

However, Cleveland, Rio Rancho, Cibola and Volcano Vista are all within one or two games of each other in the standings.

“Every match matters, regardless of when we’re playing it,” Cleveland coach Charity Gomez said, adding her team practices as though every point matters. “This is a such a tough district. We know that we have to battle night in and night out.”

Even when Rio Rancho garnered some momentum early in each set coming off key strikes attacking the corners, Cleveland responded with key points. CHS kept getting critical stops at the net and kept attacking the corners.

“They’re able to do it in the big moment,” Gomez said. “We practice those situations, and we practice how we’re going to pass and side-out.”

At the same time, Rio Rancho kept accumulating ill-timed attack errors and service errors, whether a serve attempt flew out of bounds or the ball clipped the net and went out of play.

The Rams had 21 attack errors and 16 service errors.

“The first thing we start off with every single day is serving. Serving short, mid-range, long. They ought to be able to do this in their sleep. At this point in time, that’s kind of our Achilles’ heel,” Rio Rancho coach Toby Manzanares said. “It’s a very competitive district, so you can’t take any nights off… You can’t have those lapses that allow a mini run because a couple of those just put you in a big hole.”

Cleveland’s Sophia Maurer had 13 kills, while Maddie Del Greco tallied eight kills. Aubrey Ortiz had 21 digs, while Sophia Bacahui had four service aces.

Rio Rancho’s Kiya Wilson had 13 kills, while Victoria Echerivel had 12 kills. Cecilia Vance and Jenny Baker had 18 digs and 15 digs, respectively, while Ashleigh Meyer had four service aces.

For the Storm, the district title is well within reach. For the Rams, regardless of how the final district standings end up, Manzanares said snagging any additional wins at this point can at least ensure a possible home playoff opener.