RIO RANCHO – The District 1-5A race for the volleyball title got a little more interesting Thursday (Oct. 26) evening when the host Cleveland Storm upset previously unbeaten Cibola 3-1 in the Thunderdome.
The Cougars arrived with an overall record of 15-4 and had been uneaten in their first four 1-5A matches, without losing a set. Nor had Cibola lost a set in its 11 other victories.
But the Storm (13-7, 4-1) – twice swept in earlier meetings with Cibola – apparently had other ideas. And maybe well-justified ideas, knowing they’d beaten Cibola when it really counts – at the state tournament – the past two seasons.
The Storm convincingly claimed a 25-17, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22 victory in their noisy gym to pull into a first-place tie with the Cougars, who have the tiebreaker advantage, if needed, by virtue of their earlier district sweep down the hill.
Cleveland trailed early in the opening set, then used a 9-3 run to take a seven-point lead and never let the Cougars get any closer.
The second set was tied nine times before senior libero Haylie Griego was at the service line and ran off seven points, three on aces, to make it 23-17. The Storm led by four or more the test of the way, putting it away on a kill by Azlynn Tittmann.
The Cougars avoided a sweep by winning the third set, again with Griego notching two aces, despite coming out on the short end. The Storm had pulled within 2420 when Cibola coach Christine Norton, a former Rio Rancho High School standout, called a timeout and a kill end the set seconds later.
The finale was also close for much of it, tied seven times, the last one at 16-all, before an ace by Karis Nakasone in the middle of her five-point streak at the line.
Cibola never tied it again but was as close as a 23-22 deficit before an untimely service error put the Storm at match point, which ended with a Kelsey Heffner block.
“Acey” Griego finished the match with eight of them; Tittmann had 13 kills and Heffner had 10; Lauren Snippen had six blocks and Heffner added five; Emma Wild supplied 17 digs and setter-supreme Marian Hatch had 40 assists.
“That was the difference,” Hatch said, her hands still tingling after all the hand slaps exchanged by her team, of Griego’s aces. “She was serving really, really fast; our serve and pass was great and our outside hitters are money.”
Dinks: The Storm have two road games next week, playing at Rio Rancho Tuesday and then at Volcano Vista Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The regular season ends Nov. 7 with a match vs. visiting last-place Atrisco Heritage Academy (5-14, 0-5).
… The Rams (11-9, 2-3) swept Atrisco Heritage Academy on Oct. 26, 25-18, 25-14, 25-12. Their match with Cleveland is their lone action next week. RRHS’s final matches are vs. Volcano Vista on Nov. 7 in the RAC and at Cibola on Nov. 9; both start at 6:30 p.m.
… On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Cibola swept the visiting Rams while the Storm swept visiting Sandia in a non-district encounter.