AZTEC — The Aztec volleyball team put together long runs late in the first, third and fourth sets to pull away from Shiprock and win 25-18, 10-25, 25-17 and 28-18 tonight at Lillywhite Gym.
Anchoring Aztec’s play was its front line, which came up with block after block to keep the momentum on the Lady Tigers’ side and limit what Shiprock’s offense could produce.
“Our blocking is our big best defense. In the third set, we kind of got our timing down and jelled, and it started to frustrate (Shiprock’s) hitters. That was a big thing for us," Aztec coach Anna Strauss said. "And that’s a very good Shiprock team. They were 6-0 coming in, so we knew we had our work cut out for us.”
The two sides traded blows in the first part of the first set before the Lady Chieftains (6-1) took a 15-12 lead and forced Strauss to call a timeout. During the break, Strauss told the Lady Tigers (4-3) to relax, tune out the crowd and focus on the next point. The message was well received, and the Lady Tigers closed the set on a 13-3 run to get the win.
Shiprock came out strong in the second set and jumped out to a 9-3 lead. Playing with more confidence and more aggressively during the set, the Lady Chieftains never allowed Aztec to find a rhythm.
“We needed to keep the momentum and keep moving forward. They were where they needed to be with their coverage,” Shiprock coach Teri Atcitty said of the Lady Chieftains’ play during the second set.
In the third set, the two teams returned to the back-and-forth play of the first set. During the set, Aztec would build a four- or five-point lead, only to see the Lady Chieftains charge back. But again, the Lady Tigers closed out the set on a big run, outscoring Shiprock 9-3 down the stretch to win.
The fourth set followed a similar pattern to the first and third sets. After Aztec took an early lead, Shiprock rallied and gained its first lead of the set at 14-13, only to see the Lady Tigers compile one more run, closing out the set on a 12-4 run to win the set and the match.
Offensively, Aztec setter Myra McCaskill spread the ball around and finished with 28 assists. Reigan Weaver finished the night with 10 kills, and Vanessa Chavez and Savannah McCarthy added eight and six kills, respectively.
Aztec will host West Las Vegas (1-5) on Saturday.
Shiprock will host rival Kirtland Central (0-4) on Tuesday. The Lady Chieftains swept KC 3-0 on Sept. 1 at the Bronco Arena in Kirtland.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.