Cuba captures Bloomfield volleyball tournament

By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Navajo Times

BLOOMFIELD, N.M., Sept. 26, 2013

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(Times photos - Sunnie Clahchischiligi)

TOP: Cuba's Danielle Montoya (mid air) attempts a spike during the championship game of the Bloomfield Invitational held Sept. 20-21. Cuba defeated Dulce, 3-0.

BOTTOM: Dulce's Toni Vigil (7) hits the ball over the net during the championship match between the Lady Hawks and Cuba. Dulce lost in straight sets




The Cuba volleyball team had two goals this past weekend – meet Dulce and beat Kirtland.

After three straight wins in the Bloomfield Invitational held Sept. 20-21 they fulfilled their stated goals.

Cuba defeated district rival Dulce 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 25-13), in the championship match of the tournament. But that wasn’t what everyone was talking about.

The chit-chat that garnered the most attention was their semifinal win over Class 4A powerhouse Kirtland.

“That was probably the best game we had all season long against Kirtland,” said Cuba head coach Johnny Atencio.

The Lady Rams went five games with the Broncos before defeating them 3-2 (19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 18-25, 15-13).

It was more of a surprise for the Cuba squad, who entered the tournament with an undefeated record of 5-0.

Atencio said his team played tough and didn’t back down when things got messy. He said his club has developed that mentality to overcome things.

“This group here they never fold up, they never fold,” he said. “We were down 20-18 and we came back to win 25-23, we did that twice with Kirkland, (it’s just) coming back from bad plays and shaking them off."

After Friday's pool play, the Lady Rams defeated Bloomfield 3-1 (22-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-22) in the first round of the tournament. That win earned them the right to face the Lady Broncos on Saturday morning.

Kirtland head coach Brian Joe said his team played well against the Lady Rams, but they were off with their mental game.

“We just dug ourselves in a hole and couldn’t get out of it,” Joe said. “They were good matches, unfortunately we didn’t bring it out so we’re not playing in the championship game right now."

After defeating Kirtland, the Rams faced Dulce, an all-too-familiar opponent.

Atencio said he was looking forward to another challenging match but didn’t quite get it. He added that he knew how his team would win but didn’t think it would be so easy.

“I thought they would be better. I thought they’d give us a better game,” Atencio said. “We’ve said, my assistant Bobby and I, that our serving was going to beat Dulce because we think that their back line is weak."

They may have been right.

With Cuba up 13-12 in the last game, Cuba’s Yonvea Nez served 12 straight aces to win the third and final game of the championship match.

Dulce head coach Kathy Salazar-Valdez said she thinks her team deliberately changed their game strategy, as a way to not give away too much to their district nemesis.

“They (her team) were talking about it, (saying) let’s try this with them now,” Valdez said. “ What we have later for district, we’ll save that."

Teams who participated in the tournament were host team Bloomfield, Crownpoint, Kirtland Central, Whitehorse (Utah), Cuba, Bloomfield JV and Dulce.




Dulce

The Lady Hawks finished in second place. It was a finish they were happy with considering their late start to the season.

“I kind of expected some rough spots for us because we barely started," Valdez said. "I’m OK, I’m happy Cuba won."

After pool play, Dulce met Whitehorse (Utah) in the first round and won, 3-0.

In the next round, they played Crownpoint and swept the Lady Eagles.

Valdez said a different side of her team showed up for the first two games.

“What we’ve been struggling so far is with our passing. When we get our passing we could get our offense running,” Valdez said. “When we took Whitehorse and Crownpoint our passes were on."

But in the championship game, the Dulce coach said they couldn't not get a decent pass, as Cuba beat them in straight sets.

Dulce is now 3-2 overall.

Kirtland Central

The Lady Broncos entered the tournament knowing they were on the right track. But at the conclusion of the tournament, they also learned that if they're not prepared any team can take them out.

Kirtland Central defeated Shiprock Northwest in three easy games in the opening round of the tournament before they were sent to the third place game after losing to Cuba in a game Joe was not expecting.

“If you’re not ready for a match and the other team is up, anybody can win, and Cuba they had some tall girls that could jump, their hearts were in it,” Joe said. “ They got us down emotionally."

The Lady Broncos picked themselves back up and defeated Crownpoint 3-0 for third-place.

Kirtland Central is now 6-3.

Crownpoint

The Crownpoint Lady Eagles suffered more than the two matches they lost during the tournament.

They lost a vital part of their lineup when senior captain Tenee Craig suffered an injury during the first round of the tournament against the Bloomfield junior varsity squad.

Crownpoint head coach Tasha Morgan said losing Craig made it a little difficult for her team to compete at the tournament. But it will have a greater impact for the rest of their season.

“We ‘re just trying to get our adjustments going, we didn’t have time to practice our rotations or anything because we had to make up for (No.) 18 (Craig) being out,” Morgan said. “She was one of our best defensive players, we have to find somebody to fill those shoes. Those are big shoes to fill right now."

Crownpoint managed to pull a 3-0 win over Bloomfield JV but fell to Dulce Saturday morning and then to Kirtland in three games for third place.

Morgan said her team entered the tournament with a 4-1 record and were looking to improve, with the district season around the corner.

She added that it will be hard for her team to bounce back as they make adjustments.

“Today was a tough day because we had to put some people in that they (key players) had to get used to,” she said. “It just made us look at other options, now we have to look at who can fill in that position."

Crownpoint is now 5-3 and 2-0 in district.

Contact Sunnie Clahchischiligi at sports@navajotimes.com.

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