Aztec captures first district title in 23 years
AZTEC — The Aztec volleyball team closed out the District 1-5A championship just like it did the entire district schedule — with a dominant victory.
The Lady Tigers, who went 10-0 in district play, overcame a sluggish start in the first set to sweep Farmington 25-20, 25-19 and 25-17 tonight at Lillywhite Gym.
The district title marks a massive turnaround for the Lady Tigers, who finished last season 0-8 in district play, and gives Aztec its first district title since winning back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993.
“I’m so proud of them. They did a complete 180 from last season. It’s a complete turnaround will all the same kids,” Aztec coach Anna Strauss said. “It’s a long time coming. They put the work in during the off season, all the little things we asked of them, they did them.”
Where Aztec struggled early in the first set, Farmington was near perfect, building a 14-5 lead.
“I was really excited at the beginning of the first set against Kirtland Central on Thursday night. And then we just could never catch back up,” Farmington coach Alana Rowland said. “I don’t think we played totally awful, we just couldn’t get into a groove.”
But a sharp shift in momentum saw Aztec go on an 11-2 run to tie the set at 16 before closing out the set for a win.
Aztec kept the momentum throughout the second set, holding a five-point lead nearly the entire set.
During the second set, and most of the third, the Lady Scorps lacked the aggressive hitting that helped them to a second-place finish in district play and into the championship match.
Rowland said she thought her team might have been intimidated by the size of Aztec’s front line and began to over think how to put the ball past the Lady Tigers.
“They were really concerned with how big Aztec’s blockers are, and we worked on that yesterday in practice,” Rowland said. “There are ways to find holes on the floor, but I think they really over worked and over worried about where to try to place the ball.”
Aztec took control of the third set early on, but the Lady Scorps refused to hand over the victory.
Farmington fought back to tie the set at 16, but couldn’t take the lead.
Aztec regained control after the Farmington burst and outscored the Lady Scorps 9-1 to win the set and the match.
“Now, we have to continue on and focus on our next match and whatever comes to us,” Strauss said. “We have to keep working hard, and we can’t take anything for granted. We have to stay humble.”
Aztec will receive an automatic bid into the 5A state tournament, and Strauss said she’s hoping the team will receive a top-four seed when the bracket is revealed Sunday.
Farmington’s postseason fate lies in the hands of the selection committee as a bubble team.
“I’m going to hold my head high and be confident that we’re one of the 12 (teams), but some of the girls mentioned that in years past they thought they’d get in, and it didn’t happen,” Rowland said. “We walked out of the locker room expecting to be one of the 12 teams.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.