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Kirtland Central loses one-game playoff to Wingate, will settle for No. 2 seed

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FARMINGTON — The Aztec volleyball team was one set away from packing up and calling it a season on Monday night in Gallup.

Instead, down 2-0, the Lady Tigers won three straight sets to finally beat a district foe this year and keep their season alive.

Aztec (4-17, District 1-5A 1-8) beat Gallup (5-16, 2-7) by a final score of 3-2 Monday, 23-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-14, 15-8 to advance out of the first round of the district tournament.

The Lady Tigers had not scored a single win over a district opponent until Monday’s comeback victory. They’ll try to keep rolling at Miyamura tonight at 7.

“We always had it in us to beat (Gallup). I think the girls just decided to take their sweet time getting into rhythm tonight,” Aztec coach Anna Strauss said.

The match was back and forth from start to finish, especially in the first set, in which neither team held more than a two-point lead throughout.

Strauss said she didn’t say anything in particular to her girls to fire them up when they were down. She said they just realized what they needed to do to come back.

“They made a pact that they were going to play unselfishly from that point on, that’s what it looked like on the court,” Strauss said. “They didn’t care who got the points, they were just going to win by any means.”

Kodie Henderson had a great night serving the ball, according to Strauss. Aztec’s middle hitters also caught fire in the last three sets.

Wingate 3, Kirtland Central 1

In Monday’s one-game playoff to determine the top seed of this week's District 1-4A tournament, Kirtland Central fell 3-1 to Wingate in Thoreau.

Kirtland actually defeated Wingate twice this season but wasn’t crowned district champ outright because, according to the New Mexico Activities Association, there cannot be a tie at the top of the district standings.

So on Monday, the teams battled for a third time, with Wingate (18-3, 9-2) winning 25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 25-20 over the Lady Broncos (13-6, 8-3).

"We knew going in that it would be really hard to beat a good team like that for a third time," KC coach Nadia Watson said. "The girls had homecoming last week, with the parade and dance and all that. But for the most part, no excuses, Wingate outplayed us."

Kirtland will settle for the No. 2 seed in the district tournament and will play an undetermined opponent on Thursday. If the Lady Broncos win that match, they'll take on Wingate for a fourth time on Saturday to determine the district champ. The winner gets an automatic bid into the state tournament.

"No matter who wins out of Shiprock or Bloomfield or whoever, we know we have a really tough two-game stretch ahead of us," Watson said. "So I'll probably give the girls an extra day or two to clear their minds and refocus so we can try and bounce back."

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

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