FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista volleyball team will get a second crack at a state title in as many seasons.
The No. 1 Lady Panthers advanced to the 4A state championship match after defeating No. 5 Española Valley in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Centennial in the semifinals on Friday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
PV lost to St. Pius X in last season's finale in five sets, but the Lady Panthers will get a chance at redemption when they face No. 2 Goddard today at 3 p.m. for the championship.
"It feels great to be back," said senior Samantha Sofka. "We're extremely motivated. We've worked so hard, and we couldn't be more prepared for this match."
The Lady Panthers (21-2) got off to a strong start, defeating the Sundevils (15-9) in straight sets 25-15, 25-23, 25-23.
"We jumped on them really quickly," PV head coach Ron Becker said of the match with Española Valley. "They were a really good defensive team, though, and the last two sets were a fight."
PV had a more difficult time with the Hawks (18-5) in the semis.
The Lady Panthers opened up a two-set lead before Centennial fought back to win the third set. PV was able to close out the match in the fourth set 25-16, 25-19, 21-25, 25-17.
"I think we're really motivated, and we're playing to win," Becker said. "They played amazing. I just see them getting better and better."
Sofka led PV with 30 total kills in the two matches. Brittney Hutchison (17), Nianna Alcon (14) and Autumn Begay (13) all recorded double-digit kill totals for the Lady Panthers in the victories.
Vanessa Harris spread out the PV attack among the hitters with 70 assists.
The Lady Panthers will set their sights on the Lady Rockets (18-5) and Becker said his team has never played better heading into the match.
"I think they're really motivated," Becker said. "That loss stings from last year, and it will be a big motivator for the girls heading into the match versus Goddard. I don't really care what Goddard does. If we play exactly like we played tonight, then I'll be happy no matter the result."
PV is looking for its first volleyball championship in school history. Goddard last won the title in 2009.
"I think our intensity has been carrying us," Sofka said. "I think that we play with so much heart, and whoever comes out and plays with most passion will be who wins."
Becker's team hasn't played the Lady Rockets this season, but the coach said he is familiar with their style of play.
"I watched them in their district championship against Artesia," Becker said. "I think they play a lot like Centennial. We've got to stop their outside hitters, which is something we had a lot of success with tonight."
In 2A, No. 10 Navajo Prep's season came to a conclusion at the hands of No. 11 Ramah in straight sets 25-21, 26-24, 25-22 in the 2A quarterfinals.
"I felt we were ready mentally for this game, but Ramah came in with one thing on their mind and played very together," said Prep head coach Rainy Crisp. "The girls played well throughout the season. They beat some quality teams. We just have to be mentally stronger and keep our emotions in check. At state, it's a different environment, and it was an emotional roller coaster."
The Lady Eagles will lose five seniors off the teams, but Crisp said the underclassmen will learn from the postseason experience and the team will continue to grow in the years to come.
"The whole game is mental, and we have to learn to be tougher and channel our emotions in a positive way," Crisp said.