Steers bring Eagles down to earth

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The Magdalena volleyball team took on a rather familiar foe in the Quemado Eagles on Saturday afternoon, and the outcome was also a familiar one for both teams. The one in which the Steers win.

Magdalena ran through the visiting Eagles in straight sets, 30-28, 25-22, 25-17.

The Steers had previously bested Quemado on Sept. 8 in four sets, but this time they did it without junior Kadie Kiehne, who rolled her ankle in a previous match. Magdalena head coach Bryan Baca had a freshman stepped in for Kiehne, and all still went as planned for the Steers.

Besides the personnel change, Baca said his team made no special adjustments, but just stuck to what it knows.

"We play our game, and we know we can compete," he said.

It was both teams competing during the first set of Saturday's match, however.

After Magdalena jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead, Quemado made small runs to come back and tie the set on two occasions, once at 13 and once at 20. The Steers had a set point at 24-23, but a service error kept the set alive for the Eagles.

In turn, Emily Ferranti had a set point of her own to work with at 25-24, but she likewise committed a service error to tie things at 25.

The teams would tie up twice more at 27 and at 28, but Magdalena's Breann Baca stepped up to serve with a 29-28 lead and put the set away when Quemado ripped their service return into the net.

Quemado opened the second set with a 9-5 lead, but the Steers eventually took the lead at 19-17. With the score sitting at 22-21, Danielle Gordon and Ashley Tafoya both produced unreturnable kills and a 24-21 lead, then a service error by the Eagles' Kate Eberle gave Mag the 25-22 second set victory.

During the set, Magdalena's block stood up against a tall, long and athletic Quemado offense, and several times managed to find holes in the Eagles defense as well.

"Our attack has improved, and the block has improved as well," Bryan Baca said. "Another thing we've improved on is our serving."

The improvement in the service game, at least compared to its first match with Socorro in August, was noticeable in the third and ultimately final set.

The Steers squandered a five-point lead after they opened the third set at 15-10, but then went on a 7-1 run when Tafoya and Abigail Bullock got hot from the back line and the Eagles couldn't handle their serve. And just as in the first set, Breann Baca stepped up to deliver her serve at match point, and Quemado couldn't handle it. The Steers easily handled the third set with a 25-17 win.

The victory sends Mag to 4-3 on the season, while Quemado drops to 2-3.

Compared to their season-opening match with the Lady Warriors, Magdalena has shown improvement in nearly all facets of the game. "We were a little passive there (in Socorro) and didn't really want to attack," Bryan Baca said. "We were pushing the ball over instead of hitting. They exposed us and it gave us something to build on, and we improved on that obviously in the tournament."

Baca said his squad has built up its aggressiveness and worked heavily in practice on attacking, blocking and coverage. And again, the Steers are just trying to focus on their game.

"We have strengths. We have hitters and we have servers. We have a package," Bryan Baca said. "We've just got to make it work. We've got to put it together. We have everything we need. We're not huge in front but we can hit."

The Steers have two more home matches against Desert Academy on Sept. 20 and Mountainair on Sept. 22, which signify the official beginning of district play. They'll hit the road for matches with Alamo Navajo and Menaul before they return home to face To'hajiilee on Oct. 6.