Lady Chieftains dominate after dropping first set

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SHIPROCK — The Shiprock volleyball team turned it up a few notches after dropping the opening set to Kirtland Central on Thursday, winning three straight sets to take the match 3-1 at the Chieftain Pit.

After losing 25-22 to start, the Lady Chieftains won the next three by scores of 25-15, 25-17 and 25-21.

With the loss, the Lady Broncos' streak of five straight wins came to an end.

In front of a charged-up crowd, split between Shiprock and Kirtland fans, the 1-4A rivals initially looked as evenly matched as their 8-3 records they carried coming into the night. The schools traded leads four times in the first set until the score was knotted at 11. Kirtland then got hot, scoring seven points in a row and pulling away to win 25-22.

Despite drawing first blood in the match, KC coach Nadia Watson said her team looked uninspired out of the gate.

“The girls were just in neutral. They just coasted by,” Watson said. “There was no fire in my girls’ eyes. There was no drive. You could see it in their eyes, even in the win.”

KC went up 2-1 in the second set, but that would be the last time the Lady Broncos held a lead over Shiprock all night.

Ahead 5-4 in the second set, the Lady Chieftains found their groove and never fell out of it, scoring seven straight points and going on to dominate the final three games of the match.

Tanisha Begay was all over the court for the Lady Chieftains. She played her primary position of middle hitter for a lot of the night, using her height to control play at the net, but she also served and played on the back line for stretches.

Shiprock coach Teri Atcitty said Begay’s effort was a major reason the Lady Chieftains were able to come away with the win.

“She gave pretty much her all,” Atcitty said. “She was mentally here, she wanted every ball, and she got a lot of them.”

Atcitty said she didn’t make any coaching adjustments after her team fell in the opening set, but instead told her girls to pick up their focus and intensity level.

“The girls knew what they had to do after losing focus in the middle of the first (set),” she said. “It was just a mental thing. They came out and got it done from the second set on.”

KC libero Jasmine Shania John dug well and set her teammates up with opportunities for most of the evening. But KC’s top hitters had a hard time finishing, according to Watson.

“Shania-John was great for us tonight, and she dug well, but that does nothing if we can’t finish the ball,” Watson said. “So our finishing game is something we definitely have to clean up this week.”

Now 8-4, the Lady Broncos pay Bloomfield a visit on Tuesday.

Shiprock (9-3) will face another stiff test when it hosts Wingate. That match also takes place on Tuesday.

Atcitty said the big win against a longtime rival will only instill more confidence in her team going forward.

“This basically lets us know where our range of playing is right now and where we kind of stand at this point in the season,” she said. “It lets us know what kind of potential we have when we can work together as a team.”

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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