It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t necessarily expected, but Rio Rancho High School’s 3-2 volleyball victory in the RAC not only ended the Rams’ 10-match losing streak to Cibola, but kept them in the hunt for the District 1-5A title.
Coach Toby Manzanares said his former standout libero, Christina Norton, had beaten his Rams all nine times the teams had met since she became the head coach.
Truth be told, those in the RAC Tuesday evening would tell you the Rams (13-6, 3-1) should have won in four sets, if not three. Officially, it goes down as a 24-26, 25-15, 25-27, 25-15 Rams victory.
Cibola (12-6, 3-1) got off to a fast start in the first set, zipping out to an 11-4 lead before the Rams caught fire behind libero Jenny Baker and used a 6-0 run to close within two, and then tied the Cougars at 13-all and stayed close or led until the Rams got to set point, 24-23, after a kill by Kiya Wilson.
Cibola tied it when Ceci Vance netted the ball, used a kill to get themselves to set point and then won it when Wilson netted the ball.
The second set was all Rams, with Wilson keying a 6-0 run, and never looked back. The Cougars looked very ordinary in that set, nothing like their usual powerful selves.
The Rams were poised at set point again in the third set, leading by a bigger margin, 24-20. A 7-1 run gave the Cougars a 2-1 set lead, as junior outside hitter Ella Parker played a big role in the turnaround, with a few kills and then a block to knot the set at 25.
The fourth set was all Rams, tied only at 1, 2 and 5. After that final tie, the rams went on a 14-3 run, turning their late 23-15 lead into 25-15 after a Victoria Echerivel kill and follow-up dink.
In the decisive fifth set, last tied at 6, a kill and a dunk by Wilson took the rams to a 9-6 lead and they never trailed again.
The Coogs came close, as their 4-0 run, keyed by a Parker kill, again thwarted what had been several match points for the Rams and made it a 14-14.
Vance then ended the battle with a kill at 8:25 p.m.
“I thought we served it pretty solid. I thought we defended a little (better),” Manzanares said. “We did everything right to actually win it in three. Set point in the third and we couldn’t finish.
“This game’s fickle, man,” he added. “You can do everything right and lose a point. You can do everything wrong and still win the point. We still have to pass, pass distributing and giving our hitters a chance to take quality swings for kills.”
Wilson led the offense with 21 kills, while Vance had 13 and Echerivel came up with 13. Ella Lopez and Wilson combined for seven aces.
Ceci Gomez had 22 digs and Baker added 18 digs.
Dinks: The Cleveland Storm will try to duplicate the Rams’ Tuesday success, as the Storm visit Cibola Thursday evening for a 6:30 match.
… Next week, after the second Rams-Storm showdown of Oct. 25, the Rams are home Tuesday to face Volcano Vista and at Cibola Thursday; the Storm entertain Volcano Vista Oct. 27 and end the regular season Tuesday at Atrisco Heritage Academy. All those matches start at 6:30 p.m.
… The state tournament is set for Nov. 10-12 at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
… According to MaxPreps, Tess Fuqua of Centennial High is the state’s best volleyball player. She provided 586 kills and 144 digs last season for the Hawks, who fell to La Cueva in the 5A semis.