Class 3A volleyball:

SFIS falls to No. 3 seed Portales in five sets

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

RIO RANCHO, N.M., November 21, 2012

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

A West Las Vegas Lady Dons player keeps the ball alive as Santa Fe Indian School's Reyes Crespin (7) and Chasity Sam jump up to attempt a block on Nov. 15 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M.

T he season was pretty much a roller coaster ride, but that didn't stop the Santa Fe Indian School from becoming a threat at this year's Class 3A state volleyball tournament.

Many wondered if they were going to make the state playoffs after they starting the year at 4-8 due to a rash of injuries.

"In the beginning it was real tough," Santa Fe Indian middle hitter Danielle Nelson said. "We lost a lot of games in a row and everybody was getting hurt."

Still they managed to close out the regular season with by winning seven of its last ten games and entered the tournament as the fifth seed.

They lived up to that billing and pushed No. 3 Portales to the limits in Friday's quarterfinals.

But in the end, the Lady Rams ended Indian School's season by escaping with a 25-23, 18-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-6 win.

"We played Portales three times this season and we played them tough every single time," SFIS coach Brian Gurule said. "We just didn't finish it and with a team like Portales you have to go out and finish it."

With tears welling up in his eyes, Gurule said it was hard to accept Friday's loss, but he was thrilled that his team was able to battle through adversity.

"We started the season with a lot of injuries," Gurule said. "At one point we had eight varsity players out so we played a lot of JV players playing.

"You know we got healthy, slowly and surely and we finished out the season strong," he added. "We started playing better and gained a lot of confidence."

They showed a lot of that in their rematch with Portales as they opened the first set with a 15-12 lead on a kill by senior middle hitter Danielle Nelson.

The Braves maintained that three-point margin and were within three points of taking set one with a 22-19 lead.

But two hitting errors by Indian School and three kills from Portales outside hitter Kristen Wagner earned the Rams a 24-23 lead.

And on the next point the Braves committed its ninth error to give Portales the win.

"We had in ourselves to win, but we messed up in that game," Santa Fe Indian outside hitter Danella Hall said.

After that missed opportunity, the Braves went to work and built a 12-6 lead as Nelson and senior Ashley Terry combined for eight kills between them with Nelson hammering down five winners.

Nelson added more three kills and two blocks for a 23-15 lead before Terry tied the match with two straight kills as Indian School won 25-18.

In the third set, Portales raced out to an 8-3 lead before the Braves responded with a 12-7 rally and tied the game at 15-all with Terry doing the most damage with four winners

And when she rotated to the back row, Nelson took over with five kills for a 22-19 cushion.

"We were playing really smart and our back row players got everything up," Terry said. "We had everything together."

"We knew that No. 2 (Kristen Wagner) was their best hitter so we had to stop her," Hall added.

In game four, the Braves kept it close and trialed 20-19 before Wagner and Savannah Vincent force a fifth set with a 25-19 win.

The momentum seemed to favor the Portales as they scored nine of the last 11 points to complete the comeback.

"We stopped being aggressive in games four and five," Gurule said. "I don't know why it happened there at the end, but I think the key was game one when we were up 22-19 and they came back to beat us."

Afterward, Terry reflected on the season and said despite all of the ups and downs, they persevered.

"The season has been a learning process," she said. "Everyone knows that we lost a lot of our games, but we came back and learned from our mistakes. As we got healthier we knew our strengths and weaknesses."

And even though they came up on the short end, Terry said this was a great opportunity to show the rest of the state that Santa Fe Indian School's volleyball program is alive and well.

"I think this was a great opportunity for us to come to state," Terry said. "There was no doubt at all that we would make state, and when we got all of our players back together injury free I knew we would make a run."

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