Fri Oct 30th, 2015
Special to the Drum
As if anyone really needed a reminder:
You watch Ignacio Volleyball, you get your money’s worth.
For an incredible seventh time in 18 matches so far – the Oct. 27 regular-season finale versus 3A Pagosa Springs (14-7 overall) still remained, but was completed after the Drum’s deadline – in 2015 the Volleycats were either forced into or fought for a tiebreaking fifth game against an opponent.
The latter was the case inside IHS Gymnasium on Saturday, Oct. 24, and shocked relatively few with ninth-ranked [CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll, 10/19] Norwood testing 2A’s No. 8, with Ignacio not 48 hours removed from a 25-21, 25-21, 25-23 sweep of surprisingly difficult Dolores, minus departed star Courtney Blackmer.
NHS junior Macie Magallon, however, was unquestionably present and as powerful a middle as expected, and often singlehandedly willed the Lady Mavericks to do their worst towards spoiling Senior Day for IHS regulars Miel Diaz, Chrystianne Valdez, Ellie Seibel, Cortney Wilson-Baker and Spanish foreign-exchange JV/C player Miriam Fernandez (suddenly serenaded later by fans and teammates with ‘Happy Birthday to You,’ to boot).
“For me it was really emotional, because this is the only sport in high school I play. So knowing that this is my last year really … hit my heart,” Diaz said of the pre-match salute. “But then I figured out how to control that.”
“It was really emotional in the beginning,” junior middle Kelly Campbell agreed. “And then we finally started to get it together, thinking past our emotions, and it went really well.”
Well enough to overcome two disappointing endings after outlasting – via a Seibel kill bringing up game point, then an overpass-kill by junior Sheigh Pollock – Norwood 25-23 in a see-saw game one, with Campbell smashing three straight slides set by sophomore Shoshone Thompson and forcing NHS’ Karla Gonzales-Garcia to call a badly-needed timeout with the guests trailing 17-8 in game four.
The last of the three was the most incredible attack – other than a Magallon missile, which Thompson somehow dug, but which still had enough fuel to carry it all the way up into the ceiling – of the afternoon, being that Campbell sliced the shot back inside the antenna, missing it by an inch, from out of bounds and downing it almost completely parallel to the net on the enemy’s side.
“I was actually surprised on that one … because we’ve been working so hard on down-the-line slides,” head coach Thad Cano said. “And for her to make that adjustment when we hadn’t practiced that was pretty amazing.”
“You know … I don’t know,” Campbell said, searching for an explanation. “I just started focusing on what I needed to do: Batter the ball and get a point!”
Norwood managed to re-gain some momentum for the inevitable game five, but Campbell’s stoic solo stuff of Magallon sealing up the fourth for all practical purposes showed which squad would ultimately secure victory.
“Tips that had been falling in the past, they were picking up. They were doing great reading, Shoshone digging hard hits – loving it, and the team rallying behind … it was one hundred percent a team effort,” Cano said.
“Everybody’s wanting to win, wanting this victory,” Diaz concurred. “And it just took confidence as well … knowing that you can make a good pass, make a good hit, knowing that you can place the ball well.”
“It was all just a mental thing. We figured out we can beat them, decided to play the game that we know how to play … and to play it well, to the best of our ability!”
Lady Maverick senior Shayla Carver started game five on serve, and NHS (12-5) took an early 4-3 lead on a Magallon mash set by junior Nataly Gonzalez. But when IHS’ serving picked up steam, leading to a Thompson ace and 14-11 advantage, the outcome was all but chiseled in stone.
Valdez, the team’s libero, became a one-woman cleanup crew with multiple digs during a frenetic last-point exchange, and junior Alex Forsythe eventually downed a left-to-right cross-court spike to lock in a 25-23, 22-25, 23-25, 25-15, 15-11 triumph – boosting the Volleycats up to 14-4 overall, and an impressive 5-2 in full-pulls.
“It took focusing on their arm(s) and how they were swinging, because they were tipping a lot,” Campbell said. “We have a big block, so there are teams who’ve discovered if they tip right we can’t really cover that.”
“It’s really stressful, but it’s just really important to keep an even head.”
“I think it did take quite a bit of effort, but we’ve gone through adversity and we’ve figured out how to control those emotions pretty well,” said Diaz. “I think we all did really good.”
Diaz notched a team-high seven kills versus DHS (now 9-9) but numbers from the NHS match had not yet been totaled by press time Monday. Still the stats were likely just as strong, if not stronger all around; Seibel contributed six kills versus the Lady Bears, Forsythe four and Campbell three as Thompson totaled 18 assists.
Campbell had eight total blocks (five solo) against DHS and neared that neighborhood against Norwood, while Valdez’s eight digs were tops versus DHS with Diaz and Forsythe close at seven apiece and Seibel at six.
“The girls played with tons of heart,” concluded Cano. “I can’t be more proud than I am right now.”
“I can say that boldly,” he continued. “As long as we stay healthy, no adversity … we’ll see you at State.”
The postseason push begins Saturday, Oct. 31, with the 2A-District 3 Tournament in Dolores.
IN A HOLDING PATTERN
Ignacio remained #8 when the 10/26 CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll was released, but was leapfrogged by SJBL power Ridgway which rose from ninth to seventh. State heavyweight Loveland Resurrection Christian remained entrenched at #1 followed by leading challenger Yuma, and the two matched RHS’ 18-1 record for best overall within the top ten.