Guess which team won this second-set point Wednesday evening at La Cueva? Right, the Rio Rancho Rams. (Herron photo)


When you lose one of the state’s best volleyball players, your chances for success naturally drop.

Such is the case at Rio Rancho High School, where junior Ceci Vance not only decided to take a season away from her best sport, but also to transfer to Cleveland High School.

There, she’s with the Storm spikers, but Vance’s father, Jason Vance, told the Observer, “She has been working out on the court as a fill-in player and made it abundantly clear that she would not be competing this high school volleyball season. They have been great with her and I believe it is serving both parties well. We have not talked much about her senior year but haven’t ruled it out either. We’ll evaluate it closer after the upcoming 17s club season and go from there. We’re just letting it breathe for now.”

Vance has verbally committed to playing at Arizona State; she was an All-State first team outside hitter as a freshman in 2021; she was a second-teamer at the same position in 2023.

Of course, the Storm have a future Division I player of their own, senior setter Marian Hatch, who’s enjoyed having Vance in the Thunderdome on occasion. Hatch has committed to play for the University of New Mexico. (See feature story, this issue.)

Headed to Las Cruces for the annual Sweet Sixteen tournament this weekend, the Storm and Rams had matches in the Metro area earlier this week (Sept. 5-6).

Storm 3, Albuquerque Academy 0: The host Storm put their height advantage at the net to good use on Sept. 5, beating the visiting Chargers 25-14, 25-13, 25-17.

Playing well defensively, too, the Storm didn’t allow a run of more than three points in the hourlong match. Cleveland’s best run was eight points, which the Storm accomplished in the second set, taking a 16-11 lead to set point, only to see Baylee Savage commit a service error and give the Chargers new life.

By the numbers, Kelsey Heffner led the way with nine kills, Emma Wild had eight, and Lauren Snippen and Azlynn Tittmann had seven apiece.

Hatch had 33 assists, thus having a hand in 44 percent of her team’s points. Heffner and Snipped had three blocks apiece, while Savage in the libero role had 17 digs and seven aces.

In light of 10 service errors, compared to only four for the Chargers, CHS coach Charity Gomez pointed to 15 aces and said she wasn’t worried about giving away free points via bad serves.

“We’re really trying to go further in our serving, so we’re going to err a little bit more, probably, than people would like,” she said. “If we can have more aces than the errors, then we’re in the positive side. We’re trying to knock the opponent out of their offense, make them feel uneasy in their offense.

“We need to get a little more efficient on the left side,” she said of her font line. “We need more consistency out there – it’s like hit or miss, hit or miss. We need a little bit more rhythm, you could say.”

La Cueva 3, Rams 2: Those “big, bad Bears” were on the run the evening of Sept. 6, when the visiting Rams took them into a fifth set.

Looking like the defending champs and named the No. 1 team in Class 5A to start the season, the Bears used a 13-3 run in the first set and won it, 25-11, in just 17 minutes.

The Rams scored the first three points of the second set, in which the Bears’ only lead was 5-4. RRHS’s Ella Lopez served up four straight points before a service error, and the Bears didn’t threaten until they made it 24-20, after the Rams failed to capitalize at set point.

An unforced error by La Cueva gave the Rams the tying set, 25-20.

In the third set, the Bears again showed their strengths defensively and at the net, whipping the Rams 25-9, which included seven service aces.

The Bears led throughout much of the fourth set, only to see RRHS’s Ashlyn Ellwood serve up four straight points, including an ace to tie it at 20, and then got a pair of kills from Jacey Mader for a 23-20 lead.

La Cueva soon made it 23-22, but a Mader dink and an ace from Reece Cave gave the Rams that set, 25-22, despite five service errors.

The Rams (1-2) never led in the final set, played to 15, but were tied with the Bears at 1, 5 and 9.

A Mader kill led to a Bears’ timeout, and whatever coach Steve Archibeque said then paid dividends, as the Bears went on a 6-1 run to close it out.

Lopez paced the Rams’ offense with 12 kills; Baker worked hard to get 19 digs, with Cave adding 14, and Elwood and Lopez chipping in with a dozen each.

“(Service errors have) kinda been our Achilles’ heel the first two matches, with service errors at inopportune times and kids I didn’t think would error at that time,” coach Toby Manzanares said. “Our philosophy always has been, if we’re going to err, we’re going to err long and force them to make some defensive decisions.

“At the end of the day, I just thought we continued to grind for defensive opportunities to allow us to score some points. Kudos to that group of kids to hang in there. It was fun to watch, especially from the defensive (aspect).

“I think our kids started to believe a little bit, and that’s huge in this sport,” Manzanares said. “I think this group is really starting to kinda trust each other and putting themselves in a position where, regardless of what happens, they’ll grab each other and bring them back to the moment, and say, ‘Hey, we have an opportunity to make this right or we have an opportunity to push for another point, or maybe two or three. And that’s the goal, to make some runs.”

Dinks: Rams senior libero Jenny Baker broke her previous school record of 26 digs with 27 in the Rams’ 25-17, 15-25, 25-17, 25-16   victory over visiting Santa Fe on Sept. 5.

… The Rams have lost their last eight meetings with the Bears, which includes a season-ending state quarterfinal loss in 2017. The Rams last defeated La Cueva on Sept. 16, 2014, in a sweep at the RAC. The Storm visit La Cueva on Sept. 26.

… In the latest coaches poll, compiled on the New Mexico Overtime Facebook page, La Cueva-Las Cruces-Cibola-Cleveland were 1-4, with Rio Rancho sixth, right behind Los Lunas.