RIO RANCHO — The Elida girls volleyball team made history in two ways on Saturday morning by defeating their District 2-B rivals Grady in straight sets at the Santa Ana Star Center.
In defeating the Lady Bronchos 25-16, 25-15, 25-18, the Lady Tigers won the first volleyball championship for the school since 1990 — and the third overall for Elida (19-4). They also won the first Class B volleyball championship.
“It’s so exciting to be here and come back and be the first team to win for our school in 20 years,” Elida senior hitter Reavis Best said.
Best registered eight kills and fellow senior Amanda Cross-Smith tallied 11 kills to lead the Lady Tigers, who defeated Grady three previous times this season.
“They’re extremely talented,” Grady senior Kaitlin Grau said. “It’s just hard to play a team four times even if you know what to expect.”
Best said the Lady Tigers wanted to come in and play the Grady (18-5) “like we’d never seen them before.”
“We knew which players to key on,” she said. “We had to leave it all on the court because they would.”
The two teams battled through early-match jitters in the first game before the Lady Tigers closed the set on a 9-3 run to pull away.
“They were a little timid at first, but that’s understandable,” said Elida coach Darrell Chenault of both teams. “We ended up hitting the ball well.”
“You gotta ride the horse that got you here,” he said. “We didn’t change anything. We’ve got two outside hitters and two good middle blockers and we try to get them the ball.”
The two teams played evenly early in games two and three before Elida was able to take advantage of mistakes and go on crucial runs.
Grady coach Josh Ward said his team “just never got it going like we’re used to.”
“We just played back on our heels and not enough aggression,” he said. “We came out with some more intensity in the third game and built a small lead. But once we started losing it, that’s when we started playing tight. Like we didn’t want to lose the lead instead of playing to keep the lead.”
Elida won titles in 1986 and 1990 and lost the Class 1A title 3-1 to Animas in 2007 in their most recent title game appearance.
Grady was making its first state championship game appearance in volleyball.
Elida freshman middle blocker Kaylen Jasso said she is confident that she and her teammates can continue the new championship tradition at Elida.
“I hope the next three years I have that we can come and win it again,” she said. “I want to accomplish this again, so we set (the bar) high for ourselves. But we can do it.”