By Kevin Wilson
RIO RANCHO — As far as small-school volleyball districts go, District 6-2A claims to be one of the toughest.
On Friday, they proved it, putting three teams in the Class 2A semifinals and both teams in today’s 9 a.m. title match at Santa Ana Star Center.
“We knew all year we were going to go 1-2-3,” Melrose coach Casey Jackson said following the Lady Buffs’ 25-15, 25-23, 25-14 win over Mora in the semiinals. “It’s a tough district. You have to play your top game every night. Even (fourth-place) Dora gives you a tough game.”
Logan can certainly relate, after losing a tough 23-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-22 battle to Fort Sumner. It’s the sixth time the teams have played, and the first time the Vixens came away winners.
Elida and Texico swept both of their Friday matches on their way to the finals.
Melrose (19-4) and Fort Sumner (13-11) have never met in a state championship match, but the schools separated by just 35 miles have a combined 10 state titles and 20 appearances. Though Fort Sumner has fared better in volleyball historically — six state titles, most recently 2013 — it is Melrose that is the favorite as it goes for its fifth crown and first since 1999.
But hey, Fort Sumner’s been the underdog before in a district won by Melrose in the regular season and Logan in the tournament.
“The girls said, ‘It’s OK, one game isn’t going to hurt us,’” McMath said. “We have a game plan.”
For the Lady Longhorns, it’s a bittersweet end. Logan saw its season end in last year’s 2A semis as well, but to undefeated and eventual state champ Ramah.
“They played pretty tough,” fourth-year Logan coach Robert Young said of the Vixens. “They played with much more consistency than us.”
Melrose, meanwhile, looks to improve on its runnerup finish last season.
“They just exploded in the gym from day one,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t tough to motivate them.”
Right after Melrose let the floor of the Star Center’s Court 2, Texico stepped onto it. There was a little fight from former district rival Santa Rosa, but the Lady Wolverines pulled away with a 25-13, 25-20, 25-17 victory.
“We were out of our rhythm a little bit,” Texico coach Kristen Scanlan said. “One of our setters struggled, so we ran a 5-1 offense for a while.”
Texico (22-1) takes a 19-match winning streak, all by sweeps, into its 11 a.m. matchup with district foe Eunice. The Lady Cardinals swept Navajo Prep.
Across the arena, Elida had little trouble with Carrizozo, cruising to a 25-1, 25-16, 25-14 win. The Lady Tigers, 83-0 against their classification since 2010, will face Springer in the 5 p.m. title match.
The Red Devils cruised by Corona 25-20, 25-18, 25-7.
“Springer’s really playing with confidence,” Elida coach Darrell Chenault said. “They’re going to give us a good game. They bring a big crowd; it will be fun.”
The Lady Tigers have won five consecutive titles, tied with West Mesa (1988-1992) for second in state history. They would match Texico (2006-2011) with a victory.
Portales’ season, meanwhile, came to a crashing end in the quarters, though the Lady Rams did fight off a 2-1 deficit to Hope Christian. Bailey Rowley served Portales to an 8-0 lead in Game 4, and the Lady Rams never looked back in that set.
The Huskies jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the deciding set, and Portales couldn’t rally back in a tightly-called match.
Portales coach Ruth Chavez felt her team often played against the officiating as well.
“We got a lot of calls on sets that we never see,” Chavez said. “Our setters are good, they’re clean.”
Chavez is retiring after this season. She reached eight state title games in her 15 seasons, with four victories.
She wanted the team to go out with a win this year, but she’s sure the girls will do it in basketball instead.
“I don’t feel like a failure,” Chavez said. “The girls aren’t failures. I know who they are as human beings, and that’s more important.”