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Volleyball: La Cueva continues to flex its muscles, sweeps Volcano Vista

La Cueva’s Sydney McIntosh hits the ball during the Bears’ win over Volcano Vista Tuesday.

Around the metro area, La Cueva is the diesel engine right now in local prep volleyball.

Sometimes, it seems as though everyone else is puttering around in electric cars.

No. 5-ranked Volcano Vista was the latest to step into the box against the dynamic, second-ranked Bears. But the Hawks squandered a game point in the middle set, and visiting La Cueva finished off Volcano Vista with a three-game sweep.

The scores were 25-17, 26-24, 25-16.

“At the beginning of the season, we looked real rough,” said Bears coach Steve Archibeque, who last week collected his 100th career win at La Cueva. “It was a new group, and we had to work on a lot of things. (Now) we’re starting to click together as a team.”

La Cueva (8-1) has beaten the the four highest-ranked teams from the metro area — behind itself — in the latest Class 5A coaches poll over the last couple of weeks. That includes Volcano Vista, No. 3 Cibola, No. 6 Sandia and No. 8 Cleveland. And also Class 4A’s No. 1, St. Pius.

Not that the Hawks (6-2) didn’t have an opening to extend this match. The first set was comfortable for La Cueva. So was the final set.

But Volcano Vista played its best volleyball in the middle set, leading at one point 16-11 after a 7-0 run. Of note, the Bears’ leading hitter, junior Sidney McIntosh, had rotated out during that run. When she returned, La Cueva began climbing back into the set.

Still, the Hawks had a set point at 24-23.

And it appeared Volcano Vista was about to square the match when La Cueva junior defensive specialist Angelyse Gonzales-Sanchez tracked down a ball from well beyond the end line, got it back in play, and the Bears tied the set when the Hawks hit wide by about an inch or two moments later

“We were teetering,” Archibeque said. “That save gave us the momentum to put them away.”

McIntosh had a kill on the next point for 25-24 La Cueva, and the Hawks hit wide again to clinch the set for the Bears.

“That’s what we just talked about,” Volcano Vista coach Dawn C de Baca said after she met with her squad. “There’s a lot of things that we can fix, but losing that second set … it can be a game changer, to take a set from them. That was hugely disappointing.”

McIntosh and her teammate, Mariana Sharp, both of whom are New Mexico State commits, again led the charge.

But La Cueva also saw nice production from middle Isabella Harrison.

“We’ve been working on that at practice, trying to get our middles more active,” Archibeque said. “Because that will open things up outside.”

Even setter Erin Jones delivered a late kill in this match. Add it up, and Volcano Vista’s hands were full. But the Hawks aren’t yet at full capacity; their best player, senior hitter Olivia Dixson, has been limited to the back row as she recovers from a foot injury that limits her jumping ability.

“When we have the unforced errors we did, the serves, being out of system a lot on serve-receive, that killed us,” C de Baca said. “Every time we served to them, they were in system 90 percent of the time.”

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