Jaguars sprint past the Lady Warriors

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Going into Tuesday evening’s match with Valencia, the Socorro volleyball team had already proven it has the components to hang with some bigger schools.

On Sept. 11 the Lady Warriors beat 4A Grants in five sets, and at the Zia Invitational last weekend they took down Deming and gave 5A Clovis all it could handle.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro’s Bryahna Baca attempts to block the attack of Valencia’s Aizlinn Guiterrez on Tuesday evening. The Jaguars won in straight sets.

Going toe-to-toe with the 4A Jaguars, however, wouldn’t produce quite the same results.

Valencia used an athletic blend of offensive aggressiveness and court coverage to sweep Socorro in straight sets, 25-19, 25-20, 25-21.

The loss dropped the Lady Warriors to 7-4 on the season, while the Jags improved to 4-2.

Socorro had trouble handling the Valencia serve most of the night, and the normally consistent Socorro block was all but negated by the outside hitting of Dayanna Iturralde, Aizlinn Guiterrez and Gabriella Calderon for the Jaguars.

The visiting team used its length to tap the ball just over the reach of the Lady Warriors’ block, then when the Socorro coverage moved up, Valencia used it heavy hitters to stretch out the court.

“They were tipping all over the place,” Socorro head coach Joni Mauldin said of the Valencia attack. “We couldn’t pick up on the tip. My girls kept kind of backing up, and they burned us on the (back) line I don’t know how many times tonight. That’s hard to pick up.”

In the first set, Valencia used its aforementioned service game to discombobulate the Socorro defense a bit and jump out to an 11-4 lead.

The Lady Warriors managed to regroup and close the gap some when Ashley Pyke looped one over Valencia’s Peyton Linthicum, and Maudie Mauldin pushed a ball down in between two Jag defenders. But it was too little, too late for Socorro in the first.

After it had cut the lead to 24-19, Giovanna Rosas knocked a serve into the net to give Valencia a one-set advantage.

The Lady Warriors came out in the second set looking far more poised and prepared, and shot out to a 6-4 lead.

But Valencia went on a quick spurt of its own though, and took an 11-10 lead when Caroline Lucero rainbowed a high-arching serve over the top of the Socorro defense, a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in the second set.

Maria Alderete tied things at 13 with a scorching serve Valencia couldn’t handle, but a return error by Rosas gave the Jaguars a 22-18 lead and Calderon served the set out at 24-20 to give Valencia a two sets to none lead.

The Lady Warriors raised their level of play in the second set and looked like they were in the process of proving to themselves they could play with a bigger, athletic squad. But mental mistakes and unforced errors once again plagued them.

“There are a few girls that get mentally down and it affects the whole team,” Joni Mauldin said. “They do know that they can hang with these big teams. When it’s happening and everything is going on, they have some mental breakdowns that we need to fix.”

The third set looked similar to the second as Maudie Mauldin got her attack on track. She gave Socorro a 12-10 lead with a leaping left-to-right kill that skirted down the right sideline, and then improved the Lady Warriors’ advantage to 14-11 with a kill down the middle.

Two more successful attacks by the senior Mauldin eventually gave Socorro a 19-16 lead, but that’s when Valencia stepped up its game — again.

The Jags ended the match on a 9-2 run and Iturralde put the finishing touch on with a nifty kill that hugged the Socorro side of the net and fell to the hardwood.

The Lady Warriors showed confident flashes of their quick and aggressive style of play, but couldn’t quite put it all together against a seemingly unshakable Valencia team.

“My girls can hang with any team, it’s just whether or not they can continue hanging,” Joni Mauldin said. “I don’t think they ever get overly confident, and that’s the problem. I think they’re under-confident sometimes.”

Socorro still has 26 days before it dives into District 3 play though, and Mauldin thinks that time will be nothing but good for her team.

“It’s a good thing, all these games. I honestly think it’s getting us ready,” she said. “They’re getting us more touches on the ball, more experience, more time for me to work on my rotation.”

As for the Jaguars, who are now riding a two-match win-streak, they’ll have a little less time to prepare for District 6-4A competition. Valencia will travel to Gallup to open league play an Oct. 2. The Jags will play host to Highland this afternoon at 3 p.m., and Socorro will travel to Los Lunas for a rematch with the Lady Warriors on Sept. 25 at 6 p.m.