RIO RANCHO — The Los Lunas High School volleyball team was down two sets Saturday afternoon to a team it hadn’t beaten all season.
The Tigers also trailed by five points in the fifth set.
But third-seeded Los Lunas rallied for an epic five-set victory over No. 1 seed St. Pius in a stirring Class 5A championship match at the Santa Ana Star Center.
The scores were 19-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17, 20-18.
“I can’t say enough about their fight and their heart. They’ve been resilient all year,” said Los Lunas coach Amy Bell after the school’s second blue trophy in the past three seasons. “What an amazing end to a great journey.”
Defending state champion St. Pius (20-4) had been 3-0 this season against its District 5-5A rival.
“I think it was just the energy and positivity that comes with this team,” said Los Lunas senior outside hitter Hayley Torres, who led the Tigers (22-4) with 24 kills. “We get in slumps, but we know what we have to do.”
Los Lunas was riding all the momentum after a strong fourth set, and the Tigers scored five of the first seven points of the final set.
But the serving of Kelsey Piersol and hitting and blocking in the middle by Ari Martinez led to a 9-1 run for the Sartans, who led 11-6 and were near another title.
The Tigers regrouped yet again, and eventually earned match points at 15-14, 17-16 and 18-17 before finally closing out St. Pius on a Sartans hitting error. St. Pius had a match point, too, at 16-15.
“We just had to keep fighting,” Los Lunas senior hitter Mica Jenrette said. “We’re a team that doesn’t let down.”
Jenrette had eight kills for the Tigers. Setter Maya Trujillo registered 43 assists.
CLASS 4A: Fittingly, Sandia Prep’s third straight state title was clinched on a swing of senior outside hitter Catherine Kelly’s right arm. Kelly’s 27 kills paced the top-seeded Sundevils (22-2) to a sweep of No. 2 Robertson (21-3) in the final.
The scores were 25-21, 25-20, 25-16.
“That was so amazing,” said Kelly, who next week will be signing her national letter of intent with New Mexico State. “That was a picture-perfect kind of finish.”
Sandia Prep’s hitting versatility and big-match experience wore down the Cardinals. This was the fourth consecutive state final for Sandia Prep’s group of five seniors.
“This is the most nervous that I was, because I wanted these seniors to end their careers in a special way,” Sundevils coach Audra Gentry said. “As a coach, there’s only so much I can do.”
Camryn Nelson, another of those Sandia Prep seniors, added 10 kills. Setter Mirabelle Kinberger, a senior, had 37 assists.
“It’s probably one of the most amazing feelings in the world,” said Nelson. “Before the match, we all said it wasn’t about skill, it was about who wanted it more.”
CLASS 3A: No. 1 seed Texico (21-4) captured its fourth consecutive championship, turning aside district rival Santa Rosa in straight sets, 25-18, 25-16, 25-19. The second-seeded Lions (18-7) were first-time finalists.
Riley Thompson had 20 kills to lead Texico.
CLASS 2A: Led by the hitting of senior Kaylee Foote, Logan won its first state championship as the top-seeded Longhorns (21-3) outlasted No. 2 Ramah (20-3), 20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 24-26, 15-9.
Logan went 5-0 in five-setters this season.
CLASS 1A: Elida’s magical run finally ended. The Tigers (23-3), who had won state seven years in a row in New Mexico’s smallest division, were beaten in three sets by district rival Melrose.
The scores were 25-23, 26-24, 26-24. The second-seeded Buffaloes (19-7) last won state in 2015, when they were members of Class 2A.