Vixens topple Tatum

CNJ Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle
Fort Sumner’s Bree’Anna Lucero jumps to spike the ball Saturday’s Class 1A state volleyball championship match at Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque. The Vixens defeated defending champ Tatum in four games.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

ALBUQUERQUE — With the championship in sight, there was no messing around by Fort Sumner’s Alex Owens.

The 5-foot-6 senior outside hitter collected six kills on the match’s final seven points, and the Vixens nailed down their second Class 1A state volleyball championship in three years on Saturday with a 25-15, 19-25, 25-20, 25-14 victory over defending champion Tatum at Tingley Coliseum.

The Vixens, who lost to Tatum in an early-season tournament in Clovis and dropped both games to the Lady Coyotes in state pool play on Wednesday, got dominating performances from their three main hitters in pulling away to the victory.

Owens finished with 21 kills, while sophomore middle blocker Bree’Anna Lucero had 13 kills, five blocks and four aces and sophomore outside hitter Racheal Chavez added 12 kills and five aces.

“It feels great,” Lucero said. “I have so much adrenaline still pumping. We just did our best and got the job done.”

Fort Sumner (18-6) scored the final 10 points after Ashley Lopez pulled the Lady Coyotes (19-5) to within a point with a kill.

“Alex really stepped up and did a great job of getting the team excited,” Vixens coach Lisa McMath said. “And Bree’Anna did a great job. We told her we needed her to be a strong part of our game in order for us to win, and she had some big hits and big blocks.”

The young Lady Coyotes — with six freshmen on their roster — faded down the stretch after pulling even in the second game.

“Our inexperience showed,” said Tatum coach Mike Majors, who has led the Lady Coyotes to four consecutive state finals and five in the last six years. “They outplayed us in every area. They had a great game plan, and they made some awesome adjustments from pool play.

“They’ve got three hitters that I think can play for just about anybody in 1A or 2A.”
Senior outside hitter Amanda Lopez had 15 kills for the Lady Coyotes.

Owens had five kills and Chavez collected three aces as Fort Sumner dominated the first game, but it looked like the battle was on when Tatum returned the favor in Game 2.

“We talked about momentum,” said McMath, who also led the Vixens to state titles in 1996 and 2000. “They’re a great team and they’re going to get some points, but we just had to stay focused on our game.”

The teams then went back and forth in Game 3 until Owens’ kill pulled the Vixens even 19-19. Fort Sumner went on to score six of the next seven points to close it out, getting two kills by Chavez and a block each from senior Carrie Cortese and, on match point, Lucero.

“It’s all about emotion,” Chavez said. “Tatum has a good team, but we just have so many power hitters. (The championship) was all teamwork.”

Rita Herrera’s ace gave the Vixens the lead for good at 13-12 in the fourth game, setting the stage for the finishing run.

“We were a little bit rocky when we played them in Clovis,” senior libero Kaylynn Johnson said. “We’ve definitely stepped up our play since then.”

Johnson said Owens and Lucero carried the day with their strong front-row play.
“When those two are in the front row, we can pretty much rely on them,” she said. “We just have to give them a good pass and a good set, and they usually put it down.”