RIO RANCHO — Each of the first three Class 5A state volleyball quarterfinals had a strikingly similar pattern Thursday night at the Santa Ana Star Center.
Clovis, earlier in the day a 25-17, 25-23, 25-17 victor over Cibola in an opening-round match, hardly bucked the trend.
And, at 15 minutes before midnight, Clovis pulled off the biggest upset of the day by knocking off second-seeded Gadsden 25-23, 24-26, 21-25, 25-22, 20-18.
After forcing a deciding fifth game against the Lady Panthers, Clovis (17-6) started it by dropping the first four points. But the Lady Wildcats fought back and finally tied it at 8-8 with a kill by Meagan Baglien.
That was the first of 10 deadlocks in the finale. Gadsden had three match points, but the Lady Cats thwarted each of them with a kill from Lainey Flatow, a block by Antiesha Brown and a kill from Baglien to make the score 16-16.
With the game at 18-18, freshman Alek Mendoza scored a kill to give Clovis its third match point. The match ended on the next point when Baglien tallied her fifth kill in the fifth game alone.
“That was so intense,” Baglien said. “Never have I been in a match that was that intense before. They are a good defensive team — scrappy. When it got to 8-7 (in Gadsden’s favor), that was a little nervewracking. But, hey, we pulled it out.”
Clovis will face Mayfield, a five-game victor over Alamogordo, in a 4 p.m. 5A today at UNM’s Johnson Center.
It will mark the first time since 1998 that Clovis has advanced this far in the state tournament. In each of the last three seasons, the Lady Cats have bowed up in the quarterfinal round.
After the match, Lady Cats coach Darrel Ray said that the years of falling short in the quarterfinals had induced him to make an offer to administrators at Clovis High School.
“I told (athletic director Brian Stacy) at the end of last year that, if we didn’t make the final four this year, they could find someone else to do the job, because obviously I wasn’t the one,” said a relieved Ray after the win.