Prep volleyball: No. 1 Hope Christian beats defending state champs in 4 - Albuquerque Journal

Prep volleyball: No. 1 Hope Christian beats defending state champs in 4


Hope Christian’s Emma Villalpando, center, registers a kill past Albuquerque Academy’s Iona Nelson (cq) (left) and Elizabeth Pederson Thursday night. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

As the state tournament draws ever nearer, it’s becoming more likely that the team everyone will be targeting is Hope Christian.

Class 4A’s top-ranked side essentially locked up the District 6-4A championship Thursday night, taking down defending state champion Albuquerque Academy in four sets.

The scores were 25-20, 22-25, 25-14, 25-16.

The Huskies (18-2 overall) remained perfect against 4A competition this season, and stretched their lead to two games in the district over the Chargers (9-10, 3-2). And Hope swept Academy in both district matches. Each school has just three regular-season matches remaining.

After Academy squared the match by taking the second set, the Huskies – whose only losses came to 3A Robertson and 5A Los Lunas – played two excellent and largely clean sets to close out the Chargers.

“You know, I think the big thing was our blocking,” Hope coach Amilya Sandoval said. “We cleaned that up, (and) our setters were staying calm and making sure everyone was doing what they needed to.”

Both of the first two sets were tight.

It was a 5-0 run by the Huskies in the opening set, keyed by Ethnee Gibson’s ace and two kills from senior Jolene Sanchez, that gave Hope Christian a 14-10 lead that it did not give up. Sanchez later closed the set with another kill.

Another 5-0 run got things going for the Huskies in the second set, but it was a 5-0 run by Academy that tied it 17-all. At 21-21, Elizabeth Pederson had a winner to put the Chargers ahead, and they evened the match on freshman Kristin Newell’s cross-court kill.

“Our momentum was definitely down,” said Hope Christian junior outside hitter Logan McPherson. “We needed to get that back. I think we cleaned up our passes, that was huge, and we didn’t stop swinging.”

Hope pulled away to win the third set, scoring 12 of the final 15 points. Kiersten Cobos had two aces, Gibson and Sanchez one ace apiece during that stretch, and the set closed with a kill from McPherson.

The Huskies played a superb fourth set, getting out to a 9-3 lead and getting contributions from just about everyone on the floor. Sanchez ended the match with a kill.

“We knew they wanted to beat us, so we had to want it more,” said the 5-foot-9 Sanchez. “We knew we had to swing, because Academy is a really scrappy team.”

Sandoval said her squad is hitting all the right notes.

“I am more proud of who they are as a team than how they’re playing,” she said. “Because emotionally, that was something we struggled with (in the spring season). They’ve come together, they really play for each other and the chemistry just can’t be beat.”

Hope Christian, which lost in the state semifinals in the spring to Goddard, could be the No. 1 seed at state. Goddard and Portales are ranked second and third.

• In District 5-4A Thursday night, St. Pius all but clinched that league title, as it swept second-place Grants, 25-19, 25-16, 25-12. The Sartans lead Grants and Valencia by two games with three to go.


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