RIO RANCHO — After surviving a 2-1 deficit in Friday night’s semifinals against Animas, nobody had to tell the Tatum Lady Coyotes about the value of a comeback.
Turned out, Tatum had enough in its tank for one more comeback, and barely enough to hold off a Fort Sumner rally in the process for a 15-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-15, 15-13 victory to claim the Class 1A championship Saturday afternoon at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
The Vixens (21-4), a young squad attempting to defend its Class 1A state title win from last season, faced just a little too much offense from long-armed 5-foot-9 freshman Devanne Sours, who had 16 kills despite a Vixens defense keying on her most of the afternoon.
It was those inches that made the difference against Fort Sumner, Tatum coach Mike Majors said.
Majors said he believes Fort Sumner’s Sarah Stinnett (23 kills) is the best player in Class 1A, but the Lady Coyotes’ height was just enough of a difference for the win.
“Any team, when they double block, gives up a little bit behind the double block,” said Majors, who also led Tatum to titles in 1995 and 2005. “It's a tall girl's game. When you're tall and talented, you definitely have an advantage.”
The Vixens started slowly in all but the first set, but usually made the rally when necessary.
Fort Sumner erased most of a 22-12 lead against a Tatum team out of timeouts in the second set, but the Lady Coyotes (19-4) got a slide kill from middle blocker Monica Rameriz and Fort Sumner helped out Tatum with a pair of hitting errors as the match evened up.
We made some crucial momentum errors,” Fort Sumner coach Lisa McMath said. “You can’t give them free points. They’re good enough to earn them on their own.
Fort Sumner eked out a win in the third. But the rest of the night featured the Coyotes holding onto early leads.
Tatum held off the Vixens in the fourth game after taking a 6-1 lead, and Sours had three kills during a take the momentum in a fifth game that featured eight ties and five lead changes.
“Fort Sumner did such a good job of making it a tight match,” Majors said. “I didn’t think we had a big enough lead in the fourth game, and we definitely didn’t have a big enough lead in the fifth game.”
McMath, who has led the Vixens to all five of the school’s state titles and three runner-up finishes, felt the experience of state will help a Fort Sumner squad that loses three seniors, including setter Justyne McMath and libero Anna Chavez.
“They played good today,” McMath said, “but I thought they played tight those first two matches (on Friday).”