Snowflake volleyball tournament: Monument Valley wins back-to-back crowns

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

SNOWFLAKE, Ariz., Sept. 26, 2013

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(Times photo – Quentin Jodie)

Emma Tenney of Snowflake tips the ball over the outstretched hands of Ohiyah Shirley and Brooke Curleyhair of Monument Valley during the championship game of the Snowflake Invite. The Mustangs repeated as tournament champions.

With the caliber of teams present at the Snowflake Invitational, it’s not easy to go undefeated.

So when the Monument Valley volleyball team lost three straight games to the host team, Lady Mustang coach Rennelle Gilmore thought her team still had a chance to win its second consecutive crown.

That is exactly what happened as the Mustangs won the “if necessary” game 23-25, 27-25, 16-14.

“Hat’s off to them, they pulled it off,” Gilmore said of her club. “I told them if they want it they had to show me that they wanted it."

MV took the decisive set by scoring the last two points after Snowflake rallied from a 13-10 deficit. The Mustangs got the game-winning point from Ohiyah Shirley as the junior middle hitter took advantage of a free ball with kill.

“Having a free ball is like giving us a point,” Shirley said of the clincher. “Our coaches always tell us that we have to put them down all the time."

Shirley said it was nice to win back-to-back crowns, but more importantly she feels that her team is starting to get its rhythm back, something they were missing during the Piedra Vista tournament two weeks ago.

“To be honest we didn’t bring our game and we weren’t really focused,” she said of the PV tournament. “I think (at this tournament) we played more together as a team."

She finished the game with 12 kills and six blocks in the “if game” while teammate Taylor Worker led the team with 16 winners in this up-and-down matchup with Snowflake.

“One of the hardest thing about Monument Valley is they have No. 8,” Snowflake coach Alan Ramage said of Shirley. “She is amazing; she’s a D-I type of material. We tried to keep her a little bit on her heels, just enough to open up our hitters."

For the most part, Ramage said they were successful at mixing up their offense as Emma Tenney and Tandis Yellowhair combined for 27 kills, 15 by Tenney.

“Their defense is hard to beat so we were trying to mix it up at times,” Ramage said. “Emma and Tandis did a pretty good job at hitting in the back.

“We even got some kills from our setters,” he added. “That never happens so we had the volleyball gods on our side."

Indeed they were as the Lobos battled back from an eight-point deficit in their second match of the day with MV and won 25-22. Snowflake then forced an “if game” as they swept the Mustangs with a 25-20 win.

“They made a couple of hitting errors,” Ramage said of the Mustangs. “That was the first time Monument Valley got a little low and when they did my girls got up. At that time our crowd became our seventh man."

Gilmore attributed Snowflake’s rally to inconsistent play.

“We have some trouble with our serve-receive and our passes,” she said. “When we can’t get a good pass going it’s hard to get a good set for our hitters. That is what we’re working on and the girls know that is something we have to focus on to get through the season."

The Mustangs will be hosting its own tournament this weekend with Coconino, Ganado, Shiprock, Snowflake, Tuba City participating. Pool play begins on Friday before the teams will be placed in bracket play.

“We are exciting about hosting our tournament,” Gilmore said. “People know about our program and they know about how nice our facilities are so they are exciting about coming.”

Window Rock

After getting knock out of the tournament in the first round last year, the Window Rock Lady Scouts played its way into the final four before bowing out to Blue Ridge.

The Scouts accomplished this despite leaving three seniors, two starters at home for testing.

“I think we were tired,” Window Rock coach Amelia Holtsoi said after playing Blue Ridge. “My main six players played every game so for the last game I subbed in and out players."

Holtsoi said her three freshmen – B. Shirley, D. Wagner and S. Curley – got to experience the intensity and pace of a varsity match.

“They were a little slow but the did all right considering the caliber,” she said. “They saw a new level and the speed is a whole lot faster than what they are used to.

“They made some mistakes but they came off the bench and stepped it up,” she added.

In pool play, the Scouts finished second to Snowflake and lost to the host team by scores of 25-21, 25-19. Holtsoi said she saw some big improvements from the last time they played the Lobos.

“We played them early in the season and it was our first game and we weren’t ready,” Holtsoi said. “I think the second time around we played a whole lot better and we hung with them but we fell short."

In tournament play, beat Mountain View 25-14, 24-26, 15-4 in the opening round before they had the tall task of facing Monument Valley.

In that match, Window Rock pushed the Mustangs before losing 25-15, 25-23.

“I think we did pretty good against them,” Window Rock middle hitter Kezia Owens said of MV. “We kept up with them."

“We wanted to make the final four so we kept striving,” Naomi Clah added.


Besides Window Rock, the Chinle Wildcats gained a lot of experience playing in the Snowflake tournament.

“I thought we did better than last year,” Chinle coach Ella Sanford said. “I have a young group and they really impressed me."

Sanford said they finished third in pool play, which put them in a tough bracket as they faced Monument Valley in the second round after beating Winslow.

On top of that, she had two players get hurt, which put them in a bind.

“We finished the tournament with girls who don’t have a lot of experience,” she said. “But they showed a lot of heart. I was real proud of them.”

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