RIO RANCHO – Rio Rancho was battle tested.
Cibola was Battle strong.
In the final match of her magnificent career, Cibola outside hitter Tatyana Battle loaded the Cougars onto her considerably potent right arm, smacking 21 kills as Cibola won its first state volleyball championship in 33 years, sweeping Rio Rancho in the Class 6A final Saturday night at the Santa Ana Star Center.
The scores were 25-22, 25-21, 25-21.
“She was on a mission tonight,” Rams coach Toby Manzanares said of Battle. “She definitely had her eyes on the prize.”
She, and her teammates, dominated third-seeded Rio Rancho in every facet of the match.
Battle, who earlier this week signed her national letter of intent with New Mexico State, helped the fifth-seeded Cougars (15-8) avenge three district losses to Rio Rancho.
“I’m just blessed to be able to be out here swinging,” said Battle, whose supercharged kills went around or through the Rams (16-10) most of the night. “It’s an incredible feeling to bring a championship back to our school.”
Battle admitted she has swung better, though that would be difficult to imagine on a night like this.
“She’s a beast,” sophomore outside hitter Hannah Thompson said. “She’s unstoppable.”
“That’s the best I’ve seen her play in a while,” senior middle Hannah Tobiassen said. “They couldn’t touch her.”
This was obvious almost right from the start, although it took Battle half a set to warm up.
Cibola had runs of 6-0 and 7-1 in the opening set, and led comfortably most of the way. But the Rams ran off six straight later to get within 21-20.
A service error – a recurring theme for Rio Rancho – killed that momentum, and a pair of Battle kills moved Cibola to set point. Erika Barbour of the Rams, who had a team-high 16 kills for Rio Rancho, had a rare misfire on set point.
“We just had so much fire,” Battle said.
A 7-1 run in the second set, a stretch in which Battle had four kills, staked Cibola to a 15-10 lead. Rio Rancho again pushed back, getting to 20-all on Ashley Cooke’s ace.
At 21-21, the Rams had another service mistake. Moments later, another Battle kill gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
“We talk about athletes at her level having the ‘X’ factor,” first-year Cibola coach Cydryce McMillian said. “And she has that.”
And although Rio Rancho overcame an 0-2 hole in Friday’s semifinals against Cleveland, and despite leading 13-8 in the third set, Cibola simply plowed through the Rams. Tobiassen had two kills in the middle, the start of a 7-0 run that put the Cougars ahead 15-13.
Battle had two kills and a block in 6-0 run that put Cibola up 21-14. Despite a late rally keyed by Barbour, the Rams ran out of time and chances.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Tobiassen. “But 11/15 (Saturday’s date) has been our goal since the beginning of the year.”
Cibola hadn’t been in a championship match since 2005. Rio Rancho was in its first state final since 2009.