MV, Window Rock bow out of AZ Division III state volleyball tournament

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz., November 8, 2012

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D own two sets to one and holding a 7-point lead in the fourth set at 20-14, it looked as if the No. 4 Monument Valley Lady Mustangs had found control and momentum in their Final Four match against No. 5 Safford Lady Bulldogs Saturday afternoon here at Tim's Toyota Center.

But four errors, including two consecutive lift calls on junior setter Sherese Black, shifted the momentum back to the Lady Bulldogs, the eventual Division III state runners-up, who at this point reeled off 5 straight points to put the match in reach at 20-19.

Those four errors by the Lady Mustangs were costly. With the Lady Mustangs momentarily holding on to a 22-19 lead in the fourth, Safford went on attack mode. Junior outside hitter Jordan Abalos recorded three of Safford's five kills off double blocks and a bad Monument Valley pass for the four set victory – 25-18, 25-21, 17-25, 25-22.

Monument Valley head coach Pam Chapman called the loss to Safford a "heartbreaker."

"To lose seven points at the end and we were so sure we were going to take that game, and then not do it, it was just really, really hard," she said in a post game interview with the Navajo Times on Nov. 3. "It's a difficult lost right now."

Even so, Chapman said she was proud of how her team was united this season and advanced one round closer to the title game in her third season as head coach.

"I hope the girls keep their heads up because I've never been more proud of a team than this year," she said. "Maybe we'll go all the way next year."

Regarding the game, Chapman said there were a number of questionable calls she wasn't happy with, including the lift calls on Black.

"There's also a lot of questionable calls that were just not happy with," Chapman said, offering her analysis of the game. "Some were obviously not legal. The girls realized that and noticed that."

Monument Valley junior outside hitter Brooke Curleyhair and sophomore outside hitter Taylor Worker didn't have words to describe how their 7-point lead and momentum vanquished.

"I really don't know what happened," an emotional Curleyhair said. "I knew we had it. We had the confidence. We had everything. I just really don't know what happened."

Worker, who played in her first Final Four, said the loss would make her and the Lady Mustangs stronger.

"We still had hope for ourselves and everything," she said, while wiping away tears. "One thing that is special about us is that we didn't give up. We fell short but it's going to make us stronger."

The loss to Safford ended the season for Monument Valley, who finished with an overall record of 21-4, according to MaxPreps.com.

Both Curleyhair and Worker, however, vowed the Lady Mustangs would be back next year. After all, they only lose senior setter Fayette Clisto from their line-up and return most of their line-up, including middle hitters Ohiyah Shirley and Kaitlyn Wayne.

"We play and work hard and I know this loss is only going to make us stronger," Curleyhair said. "We are coming back next year because everyone is coming back and were going to win. It's fuel time fire!"

"We're going to come back stronger next year and we're going to dominate next year," Worker added. "I will tell you that. Everybody needs to look out for us next year."


Window Rock

Losing to the No.1 overall seed of the tournament, Gilbert Campo Verde, in the first round was a learning experience for the underclassmen and a big surprise for the Lady Scouts, who were not even part of the 16-team playoff picture in the beginning.

In a previous interview with the Navajo Times on Oct. 30, Window Rock head coach Amelia Holtsoi said a glitch occurred that prevented her team from initially competing and was eventually corrected by MaxPreps.com and the Arizona Interscholastic Association, which allowed her team to secure the No. 16 seed and match with No. 1 Campo Verde on Nov. 2.

During that interview, Holtsoi said her team would need to exhibit mental strength and a David-and-Goliath attitude to have a chance of upsetting Campo Verde.

Last Friday, when the Lady Scouts went up against Campo Verde, they came out mentally weak, nothing near a David-type attitude. The Lady Scouts lost in three sets (25-17, 25-18, 25-19) mostly from committing unforced errors, particularly service errors.

"We took ourselves out of the game," Holtsoi said in a post game interview on Nov. 2. "We made too many errors. We didn't get our serves when we needed to. Simple errors."

Holtsoi also said her team found themselves watching Campo Verde's outside hitter Haley Christiansen and middle hitter Misha McDowell score points off power side and slide plays for kills.

"They had some plays that threw us off," Holtsoi said about Campo Verde. "We started focusing on where the ball was going instead of watching the hitters. Their hits were only coming from the power side and the slide."

The lost ended Window Rock's season with an overall 12-10 record, according to MaxPreps.com.

Despite the loss, Window Rock senior middle hitter Aspen Shepherd, who has the game and skills to play volleyball at the collegiate level, said the goal was to finish the season strong.

"At first, no one really believed in us," she said of their patchy season and the miracle chance of earning a state playoff berth. "I got a text from my coach saying we were seeded No. 16. It was a big miracle."

She added, "As the season wore on, I was counting the games and just thought we need to finish strong. The game was fun. We had nothing to lose but to go out there and play. We did pretty good."

Unfortunately for No. 1 Campo Verde, they were upset in the Elite Eight by No. 5 Safford in five sets – 19-25, 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 15-12.

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