Guess who got the point? Rio Rancho High School volleyball players celebrate a point during their 3-1 victory in Volcano Vista’s Ring of Fire gym Thursday evening. (Herron photo)


ALBUQUERQUE – Happily, the Rio Rancho High School volleyball team escaped Volcano Vista’s “Ring of Fire” Thursday evening to keep their District 1-5A title hopes alive.

The Rams (12-6 overall, now 2-1 in 1-5A) conclude the first half of their district battles Tuesday when first-place Cibola (12-5, 3-0) visits the RAC for a 6:30 p.m. match. This Thursday, the second half of 1-5A begins, with Atrisco Heritage Academy visiting the RAC, also at 6:30.

In the Ring of Fire, the teams were tied nine times in the first set, with the Rams using an 11-2 run to end it, 25-19.

The rams never trailed nor were tied with the Hawks in the second set, although the hosts closed to 23-22 before a kill by Ceci Vance took the Rams to set point and a Hawks double-hit sealed the deal.

The third set seemed as if the teams had traded weapons, with the Rams’ last lead at 7-5, and VVHS senior Seraiah Morgan delivering laser-like kills throughout the Hawks’ 25-17 victory.

Not wanting to need a fifth-set tiebreaker, the seventh-ranked Rams were back to their old set one form and were never tied or trailed in the finale, which got a 6-1 start.

The Hawks (10-7, 0-3) made a late run – again – pulling within 24-22 after a Vance would-be kill went into the net and a kill put the outcome in jeopardy.

Coach Toby Manzanares called a timeout, the Rams returned to the court and a Vance kill ended the match at 8:55 p.m.

Vance finished the match with 17 kills and Kiya Wilson, solid throughout the match, added 12 kills.

Ashleigh Meyer and Vance had 11 digs apiece; Jenny Baker came up with 10.

One alarming stat: Although the Rams, who won a 3-1 make-up match at Albuquerque High the previous night, had seven aces, they also had nine service errors, four of them in the set they lost.

As for the way his team played, and when asked about some defensive lapses – namely, balls initially dug but falling harmlessly to the floor – Manzanares said, “That’s what happens when you don’t have communication.

“Sometimes they depend on their teammates just to do things, and it’s on (the coaches’) end to tell them to communicate early, two steps to the ball – wherever you are. Set the ball nice and high and let’s take a swing.

“We’re a work in progress, to be sure,” he said. “We’ve got to be playing our best volleyball in November. It’s a good thing it’s not November yet.”

Storm also face Cibola this week

Through the Cougars’ first 17 matches, they haven’t lost more than one set since a 3-2 victory over Cleveland in a non-district meeting on Sept. 10 in the APS Metro Championships.

And the Cougars beat the Storm (13-5, 3-1) in their first district meeting, Oct. 4 in the Thunderdome, 3-1.

Adding to that trend, the Cougars beat the Storm 3-0 at Volleybash, also in September – and three of the Storm’s five losses have been to the Cougars. Their other losses have been to No. 1 La Cueva and No. 2 Las Cruces.

Strangely, despite their dominance of the Storm, Cibola was ranked fourth in the latest (Oct. 13) MaxPreps poll, where Cleveland is No. 3.

The Storm won twice last week, sweeping Volcano Vista (25-14, 25-8, 26-224) in the Ring of Fire on Tuesday and Atrisco Heritage Academy (25-12, 25-8, 25-17) on Thursday at home, when sophomore Kelsey Heffner had a team-high 10 kills.

This week, the Storm travel to the Northeast Heights to face No. 8 Sandia Tuesday and then head down the hill to meet the Cougars Thursday. Both matches start at 6:30 p.m.