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Purr-fection

 

Kevin Wilson: Staff photo The Elida Lady Tigers celebrate after winning the Class 1A volleyball championship Saturday night at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. Elida beat Carrizozo 25-9, 25-10, 18-25, 25-10 in the title match for the school’s seventh state crown.

Staff writer

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RIO RANCHO — The Elida Lady Tigers are the B team no longer.

Elida finished off a resounding return to Class 1A Saturday, beating Carrizozo in four games at the Santa Ana Star Center to wrap off a 26-0 campaign and take the seventh volleyball blue trophy in school history.

link Kevin Wilson: Staff photo

The Elida Lady Tigers celebrate after winning the Class 1A volleyball championship Saturday night at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. Elida beat Carrizozo 25-9, 25-10, 18-25, 25-10 in the title match for the school’s seventh state crown.

The 25-9, 25-10, 18-25, 25-10 victory marks the fifth straight championship for Elida, which won the first four as a member of the phased-out Class B.

“This one feels different because we’re the first team in Elida history to go perfect,” said senior Marily Varela, who had two of her match-high six aces on an 8-0 fourth-game run that closed the door on the Lady Grizzlies. “Being a senior on the team makes it even more special.”

In the fourth consecutive title match between the Lady Tigers and the perennial runnerup Lady Grizzlies, both teams felt graduation losses. But Elida had the talent advantage over Carrizozo (18-7), which reached the title match despite losing senior hitter Kaitlyn Pierson during pool play.

“You’ve got to hand it to Carrizozo; they were without their No. 1 hitter,” Elida coach Darrell Chenault said. “It wasn’t fair for them going in. They were a bit shell-shocked and forced into some different rotations.”

The Lady Tigers, on the other hand, ran like a well-oiled machine, as Varela had two aces during a 9-1 run that put away the first set. Elida controlled the second game with runs of 5-1 and 7-0, and never seemed to be out of control in the match.

“The adrenaline slows down when you’ve been here before,” Elida senior Kenzee Criswell said. “Especially with the crowd and a place like this, being here before helped us calm down and helped us calm our teammates down.”

Elida had a hiccup in the third game, which could be tied to many factors. The two most notable were Elida going deeper in its bench, as Chenault said he had plenty of girls who “deserved to play,” and the fact that Carrizozo settled its nerves midway through the match.

“We went out, and we were kind of scared,” said Carrizozo coach Lynn Linnblad, who took over this season after Pam Allen left to coach Ruidoso. “In the third game, we got all of that out of our system, but then we made mistakes in the fourth game.”

Elida, meanwhile, found its touch, as junior Lauren Stone posted four aces during an 8-0 run that gave the Lady Tigers control for good.

“She just steps up every year,” Chenault said of Stone, who led Elida with 16 kills. “It’s like with Kaylyn (Jasso, former Elida captain), it was her place. Now it’s becoming Lauren’s place (at the Star Center). She really did everything we needed.”

Sophomore Hannah Ventura led Carrizozo with eight kills.

Elida will lose four seniors from this year’s squad, but brings back Stone and a talented squad to try to extend a 40-match winning streak dating to the 2013 season.

Oh, and there’s that five-year title streak, no matter the class.

“It always feels good to win a state championship, Class B or Class A,” Criswell said. “Class A feels better because B always had a stigma. Winning as a Class A is really the icing on the cake.”

The Lady Tigers also won Class 1A titles in 1986 and 1990.

 
 

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