Lady Broncos hope to avoid last season's disappointing finish

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KIRTLAND — Kirtland Central is far from content as it enters the final stretch of the volleyball season.

“That’s just the biggest thing I feel like I have,” coach Nadia Begay-Watson said, “is to keep the girls motivated, even though they know they’re district champs. These (opposing) teams really want to get into state.” 

Even after clinching the district regular-season title, KC doesn’t want to let up. Even after each key point and set won, the Lady Broncos don't want to relax.

“It’s not an option,” middle hitter Kambree Pierro said.

KC learned the importance of having that mindset the hard way during last year’s state tournament quarterfinals against Artesia. After taking the first set, the Lady Broncos let their guard down and dropped the next three sets.

Earlier this season, the team's five-set district home loss to Aztec brought unpleasant flashbacks of how its 2017 state tournament run ended. After winning a key point or series of points during that match, a costly error typically followed. KC also allowed easy, preventable points, such as when Aztec's Reigan Weaver bumped the ball over the net, and it landed in front of Kirtland’s front row.

“That’s our problem. We settle,” setter Peanut Dryden said. “I was so embarrassed (after the Aztec loss).”

Dryden said she was mad about the outcome because Kirtland dealt with the same issues that led to its early state tournament exit.

“The bigger picture is, the loss made us realize we’re not the greatest (team right now). We need to just keep pushing,” Dryden said. “We can’t settle.”

Begay-Watson said the miscues the Lady Broncos experienced against Aztec could kill any team at state. So Kirtland (14-6), which will host Aztec in Thursday’s District 1-4A tournament semifinals, looks to keep its foot on the gas pedal.

With some of its key group from 2017 still intact, the Lady Broncos eye an even deeper playoff run.

“This is the time they really need to shine,” Begay-Watson said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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