Shiprock bests KC, will head to district final

Bloomfield loses 3-1 to Wingate

Jake Newby

KIRTLAND – The Shiprock volleyball team just seemed to want the district title more than Kirtland Central on Thursday night, and now, it is one step closer to meeting that goal.

In the semifinals of the District 1-4A championship tournament, Shiprock downed KC 3-1 by winning 25-22, 17-25, 25-17, 25-21 at Bronco Arena.

Shiprock (15-6, 8-3) now has a 2-1 record over Kirtland this year. The next assignment for the Lady Chieftains will be to take down Wingate in the district final on Saturday, something they have failed to do in two attempts this year.

Kirtland Central's Dominque McGilbert goes up to block a shot during Thursday's match against Shiprock at Bronco Arena.

“The girls were mentally there, and they worked as a team,” Shiprock coach Teri Atcitty said. “If they can be as mentally tough against Wingate as they were tonight, they’ll be fine.”

After Shiprock cruised through the opening set without much resistance, the Lady Broncos (13-7, 8-3) bounced back in the second set. Their rotations were smooth, and the result was a 25-17 win for the hosts.

“The one thing we did differently in that second set was we were distributing the ball, and we ran a lot of quicks and slides. It was a nice rhythm,” KC coach Nadia Watson said. “They were just in the moment. Shiprock had a really hard time trying to stop them.”

Unfortunately for KC, that rhythm wouldn’t last long.

The Lady Broncos failed to pass the ball the way they did in the second set for the rest of the night, and they wound up losing two straight sets to drop the match.

In the fourth set, KC took a 6-2 lead, but Shiprock willed its way to victory, coming up with dig after dig to keep volleys alive and eventually outlasting KC 25-21.

“That’s the thing with Shiprock, is they never give up,” Watson said. “I always tell the girls, ‘When you think you've got them, you don’t. It doesn’t matter what the score is, it’s never over.'”

Shiprock's Kiana Poncho bumps the ball after a serve on Thursday during a game against Kirtland Central at Bronco Arena.

Atcitty said she thought good communication was the No. 1 reason her team came out on top in the rivalry match.

“The girls really fought through their misses, and they talked,” Atcitty said. “Communication was huge, especially when we were down.”

Shiprock will be the road team on Saturday when it attempts to top Wingate, which will be aiming for a second straight district title. The match starts at 6 p.m.

The Lady Broncos will have to see how the weekend matches play out across the state to learn if they make it into the state tournament.

Wingate 3, Bloomfield 1

The Lady Bobcats may have played their final match of the season on Thursday in Wingate as Bloomfield fell 3-1 to the top-seeded Lady Bears by scores of 25-20, 16-25, 25-11 and 25-22.

Now at 10-10 overall and 5-5 in the district, Bloomfield's odds of earning a spot in the state tournament aren’t great. But if it was their last match of the year, the Lady Bobcats went down fighting on Thursday night, as coach Rae Collins said her team played well.

“The girls just came out on fire that second game after being a little timid in the first set,” Collins said. “Overall, the girls came together as a team. Wingate had their little things that they did that we were sleeping on. They caught us off guard at times, and that’s what a good team will do.”

At one point in the final set, Bloomfield was down by 10 points, but the team fought back and only lost by three.

Collins said she’s proud of her team, which doubled its 2013 and 2014 combined win total by earning 10 victories this season.

“They’ve come a long way since last season, and they should be very proud of themselves,” she said. “They were willing to learn every day in practice, and that’s what they did.”

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