For at least this one rainy night, the fifth-set demons that have haunted the Volcano Vista High School volleyball team were exorcised.
Led by the final-set hitting and serving of sophomore Olivia Dixson, the Hawks won their District 1-6A opener on Wednesday night, outlasting visiting Rio Rancho.
The Hawks (6-4 overall) won the final two sets. The final match score was 25-16, 12-25, 23-25, 25-20 and 15-9.
Three of Volcano Vista’s four losses have been in five sets, and the Hawks were 0-3 in five-setters prior to Wednesday.
“It was huge,” said junior libero Kamryn Lopez of the victory. “This game brought a lot of positives to our group.”
Eldorado, La Cueva and Cleveland all had solved Volcano Vista in the fifth set earlier this season. The Hawks steeled themselves so it wouldn’t happen again.
“Honestly,” said Dixson, “I felt like we fought a lot more and played a lot more as a team.”
And the Hawks’ prospects for ending that streak didn’t appear all that good, not after the Rams won the first four points of that fifth set on a block by Brooke Barbour, tips by Ashley Chelius and Cerion Mosely, and a four-hit possession by Volcano Vista.
It was Dixson who provided the spark — and then the much-needed separation — with consecutive kills to even the set at six points apiece, and later another kill and an ace for a 10-7 lead.
“I think we just increased our energy level,” said Lopez. “And we played more efficient on our feet.”
Dixson led Volcano Vista with 13 kills. Mikayla Miller added 11 kills and Lopez dug 22 balls.
“We’ve had a lot of five setters,” Volcano Vista coach Dawn C de Baca said, “and we’re glad it finally swung our way.”
The Rams (4-6, 0-2) could be forgiven if they were a little fatigued. Rio Rancho had its 1-6A opener on Tuesday night, and it was a long five-setter that the Rams lost to rival Cleveland, 18-16 in the final set.
“I think heavy legs and maybe emotionally spent,” Rio Rancho coach Toby Manzanares said of his team in the final two sets on Wednesday night.
Rio Rancho has been streaky this season. The Rams lost their first three matches, won their next four and are now on another three-match losing streak. The Rams, long one of the state’s most respected programs, haven’t been to the state tournament the past two years.
And the schedule isn’t helping, since the Rams turn around and fly out today for Phoenix and the Nike Tournament of Champions, which begins on Friday. Rio Rancho will get four matches combined on Friday and Saturday.