KIRTLAND – The Kirtland Central and Shiprock rivalry runs deep, and the two schools always seem to bring the best out of each other.
That was the case Tuesday night at Bronco Arena, when the KC volleyball team outdueled the Lady Chieftains for a 20-25, 25-14, 22-25, 25-18, 15-8 victory.
“The nice thing is, nobody really stood out to me, which was really good to see because it was real team effort, and I think that’s how we come out with wins,” KC head coach Nadia Watson said. “Everyone is just doing their job, and that’s good. They came ready to play today.”
The first set went back and forth. The largest lead up until the final point was KC's 11-7 advantage.
“I think the first game I got them a little too riled up, and they were trying too hard instead of letting it come to them,” Watson said.
The Lady Broncos fared better in the second set, jumping to a 12-2 lead before cruising to the win to tie the match.
Helping lead the way for KC (12-5, 7-2 District 1-5A) in the second set was sophomore Nia Nelson in the middle. Nelson, who is one of the team’s captains, came up with multiple blocks at the net to help keep Shiprock (13-6, 7-2) from gathering any momentum.
“She’s my captain, too, and I get on her a lot, so I’m really proud of her today,” Watson said of Nelson. “She made them start to tip, and she did it in the Wingate game (last Thursday). She’s been buckling down on that, and it comes down to her job. Her job is not necessarily kill the ball, but to get every touch that she can and make people start tipping. She took care of her job very well tonight.”
With Nelson stifling Shiprock’s offense, the Lady Chieftains began to wear down and at times lacked the intensity to battle back.
“What went against us was our mental being,” Shiprock head coach Teri Atcitty said. “We go from (high) to low to high.”
The Lady Chieftains were back on the right side of things in the third set, battling back from a 17-12 deficit to outscore KC 13-5 to get the win.
But again, their mental focus fell off in the fourth set.
Also going against the Lady Chieftains was the absence of standout hitter Tanisha Begay, was not available to play after suffering an arm injury. Atcitty said that the change in lineup also affected the team’s mental makeup.
“Making that adjustment, once I put in a new player, it’s just adjusting to another player and being there mentally,” Atcitty said. “They know their positions. It’s just a matter of getting together.”
In the decisive fifth set, the Lady Broncos jumped to a 4-1 lead behind a heavy dose of senior hitter Krystal Sheka. But Shiprock rallied and cut KC’s lead to 6-5.
With the momentum slipping, the Lady Broncos made a final push and locked up the win with a kill from Sheka.
With the KC win, the two sides split the season series, and both sit at the top of the district standings with Wingate (15-3, 6-2).
Shiprock will play at Wingate on Thursday, while the Lady Broncos host Bloomfield (9-8, 5-4), which beat them earlier in the year.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.