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Prep volleyball: Sandia Prep to meet Socorro for 3A crown

Sandia Prep players celebrate a point during the second set of their Class 3A semifinal volleyball victory over visiting St. Michael’s on Wednesday night. The Sundevils advance to Friday’s final. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Sandia Prep’s volleyball team is back on familiar ground.

The Sundevils on Wednesday night advanced to the Class 3A state championship match, sweeping No. 6 seed St. Michael’s. The scores were 25-18, 25-22, 25-18.

Second-seeded Sandia Prep (13-1) plays No. 1 Socorro (14-0) at 5 p.m. in the Pit on Friday in the 3A final to cap this pandemic-shortened spring season.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Sundevils coach Audra Gentry said. “It was a grueling five weeks, and they just persevered.”

St. Mike’s had beaten Sandia Prep in the semifinals last season, ending the Sundevils’ streak of five straight years appearing in the championship match.

“After losing to St. Mike’s last year, it was a setback. Just sad,” said Sandia Prep senior libero/defensive specialist Kirschtin Kinberger. “And then with COVID going on, it was even more sad. … I’m really proud of my team. It’s so surreal.”

Wednesday was a combination of veterans and youth vaulting Sandia Prep back into the final.

Kinberger, who has registered over 1,200 digs in her career, including 23 in this match, led the defensive charge.

And when junior hitter Ramona Delyser left the match with a rolled ankle early in the second set, two up-and-coming hitters – eighth-grader Amelie Martinez and freshman Lauren Staples – filled the void nicely.

“The youth is amazing,” said Kinberger, a fifth-year senior. “They’re playing at a high level, and they don’t crack under pressure. They’re playing confidently, and that’s all you can ask.”

The second set was the pivotal set. A 10-0 run for Sandia Prep, keyed by the serving of Kinberger, put it in front 19-12, but St. Michael’s scored the next seven.

At 22-all, another promising young gun, freshman Averie Riordan, produced a go-ahead kill. And Sandia Prep finished off the set with consecutive service winners by sophomore Janelle Baca.

Sandia Prep’s Kirschtin Kinberger prepares to launch a serve during the Sundevils’ straight-sets victory over visiting St. Mike’s in the semifinals of the state tournament. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The left-handed Staples supplied the big arm at the end, effectively firing cross court for five kills in the final set.

“It helps a lot to be left-handed,” said Staples, who had seven kills total. “Because I can go around the block.”

No. 1 seed Socorro defeated No. 4 Hot Springs in four sets in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

CLASS 4A: No. 1 Goddard (12-0) and No. 2 Albuquerque Academy (11-1) won semifinals Wednesday and advanced to meet each other at 2 p.m. Friday at the Pit.

The Rockets beat No. 4 Hope Christian (9-5) in Roswell, 25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 25-22. In Socorro, the second-seeded Chargers were dominant as they ousted No. 3 seed Santa Teresa (10-1), 25-13, 25-13, 25-12.

CLASS 2A: The top two seeds advanced Wednesday, with No. 1 Texico sweeping No. 4 Mescalero Apache, and No. 2 Cloudcoft defeating No. 6 Eunice in three sets. The Wolverines (13-1) and Bears (16-0) meet at 11 a.m. Friday in the Pit.

CLASS 1A: The state final, at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Pit, features No. 1 Melrose (13-1) and No. 3 Gateway Christian (12-1).

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