Cibola knocks La Cueva off Metro volleyball throne

You’d have to go back seven years, to 2014, to find a winner of the Albuquerque Metro Volleyball Championships that wasn’t named La Cueva.

Cibola (7-0) ended the Bears’ lengthy reign atop this tournament in a fun and often thrilling final Saturday night, outlasting La Cueva over five competitive sets and 2½ entertaining hours at Del Norte High.

The scores were 25-19, 27-25, 21-25, 18-25 and 15-12.

“The fact that we beat La Cueva is something not a lot of teams can say,” said Cibola senior hitter Logan Smith, who had nine kills in the victory. “It proves to us that we can do anything, really.”

La Cueva won metros every fall from 2015-19. There wasn’t a tournament in the 2020-21 school year. Sandia won the huge metro trophy in 2014.

“To experience this and get after a team that we want to compete against, and say we can beat … We have a team we’re excited about,” Cibola coach Christina Norton said.

The Bears (4-1) entered Saturday night’s match having not dropped a set in their first four matches.

Cibola quickly ended that streak with a defensive-minded opening set — which was also the sloppiest set of the night, with the teams combining for 12 service errors — that included the Cougars blocking La Cueva hitters and digging their kill attempts with regularity.

Sophomore libero Makayla Martinez, who was a defensive sparkplug throughout, served Cibola back into the opening set as the Cougars ran off seven straight points for a 22-18 lead. They closed it out on a Bears hitting error.

The Bears had leads of 22-16 and 23-19 in the second set, but Cibola won five of the final six points, the last being a kill from sophomore Janessa Leyba who led the Cougars with 23 kills.

La Cueva’s cleanest, and loudest, set of the night was the third set, which it won with both its hitting (Karyna Werley, Ella Sanders and Tea Kalajdzic leading the way) and blocking. The Bears had all the momentum after also claiming the fourth set.

But Cibola regrouped and led the entire way in the fifth and deciding set.

“We just told our team to take it five points at a time. First to five, first to 10, first to 15,” said senior hitter Abby Carlsen, who had eight kills.

Smith said Norton’s message tetween the fourth and fifth sets was simple.

“It was really important to slow it down on our side, and just play Cibola volleyball,” said Smith. “Keep our mojo flowing, and keep our energy high.”

Said Norton: “We said, ‘Don’t get too high, don’t get too low, just be in the moment.’ ”

The teams meet again Sept. 23, at Cibola. But this win, the Cougars admitted, was important psychologically.

“We just have something special,” Carlsen said. “We have such an amazing bond and a diversity of girls.”

Eldorado won the third-place match over Rio Rancho.

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