Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent
TEXICO — There was quite a bit at stake, besides the District 6-2A volleyball championship, when Texico hosted Clayton Saturday afternoon: Quite a bit of miles, that is.
The Ladyt Wolverines, with a 25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 25-14 victory, made sure it would be the visiting Lady Yellowjackets who would have to splurge for fuel.
While Texico (18-3) will host either Mesilla Valley or Lordsburg in a regional game next weekend, Clayton (13-8) will now have to travel from one corner of the state to the other — to play the Mesilla Valley-Lordsburg winner — in hopes of advancing to the state tournament.
The previous two matches between the squads were both won by Texico in three-game sweeps. This time, Clayton played the Lady Wolverines tight in the first two games — winning the second — before Texico won the last two to take the 6-2A tournament championship match.
“I think they (Lady Yellowjackets) stepped up their game a little bit, but they’ve been good each time we’ve played them,” Texico setter Bryn Mayfield said.
Mayfield, who set five different teammates to the tune of at least three kills for each, noted that her squad — which has four freshmen and only one senior — was primed for a good state tourney run.
“Our freshmen have really stepped up and so have the other hitters. They’ve played really well,” Mayfield said.
Clayton, led by Lindsey Fluhman’s 14 kills, shot out to a 19-15 lead in the first game after an 8-0 run. But Texico retaliated with an eight-point streak of its own and eventually sealed the game on a block by Brooke Bailey.
In game two, the Lady Yellowjackets seized control with an early 7-0 run to go up 9-2. Although the Lady Wolverines cut the lead to two early (12-10) and late (24-22), Clayton finally put away the game on a kill by Fluhman.
“They came out serving better than I’ve seen all year and they were very scrappy defensively,” Texico coach Mike Littlejohn said. “We weren’t doing things we were supposed to. But, even when we did do those things, they picked the ball up.”
The Lady Yellowjackets became shorthanded, however, when outside hitter Morgan Kear went down with an ankle injury in the second game. Texico, led by sophomore Jaryse Harris’ 12 kills, pulled away from a 10-9 advantage in the third with five straight points off the serve of Jerrica Reid in the middle of the game.
In the fifth, it was the serving of frosh Victoria Richards — who had 11 kills — that gave the Lady Wolverines an advantage. Seven straight points off Richards’ serve gave Texico a 14-11 lead and the home team never looked back.
“We knew, coming in, we could play with them. But they have this aura or mystique or whatever you want to call it — and our kids just can’t get over the hump right now,” Clayton coach Joey Montoya said.