Steers take District 2-1A undefeated

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The Magdalena Steers volleyball team officially won District 2-1A on Saturday night when it defeated Mountainair in four sets, 25-22, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22.

The win pushed the Steers overall record to 18-4 and they ran through district play undefeated, winning all 14 of their league matches.

All that was left for head coach Bryan Baca over the weekend was to savor the victory and check on his team's ranking for the upcoming state tournament.

Elation may have turned to deflation for Baca when he saw his team was awarded a relatively low eight seed. Deflation quickly turned to disdain after he saw his squad was lumped into pool play with undefeated Tatum, the top-ranked team in Class 1A.

"I didn't how to really respond," Baca said. "But I sat down, looked at the entire schedule and it may actually be a plus for us."

That style of thinking might come off as unorthodox at the least, but what the head coach is referring to is that right off, his team will get a good gauge of what it will take to beat a team such as Tatum. The Coyotes have only dropped three sets all season long.

"It could be a blessing in disguise," he said. "If we pull off an upset, it puts Tatum on the other side of the bracket.

"I told my girls regardless of what happens, we get to see them," he said. "We get to play against them. We get a first-hand look at a 21-0 team, and why they're 21-0. We're going to get a direct education."

Baca knows his team will have to perform at the very top of its game to pull off an early upset of that caliber, but since the tournament is formatted in pool play, a loss won't mean the end of their season.

They'll still have a chance to take on ninth-seeded Questa. The 15-7 Wildcats have victories this season against Escalante and Springer, both tournament teams, so Magdalena is staring down a rough path regardless.

But you can bet the Steers will be playing with a rather large chip on its shoulder.

"I feel we're underestimated," Baca said. "It is fuel. They're fired up. I said to my girls 'Show them out there on the court. Show them what we have to prove.'"

While Mag may not be going into state with a preferable seeding, what it will have is the wind at its back. The Steers are riding an eight-match win-streak, and sprinting into the state tourney with serious momentum at 18-4 is probably better than limping into it at 20-2.

During the district final with Mountainair on Saturday evening, the Steers recorded 36 team kills, nine aces, eight blocks, 82 digs and only seven ball-handling errors.

Danielle Gordon, Kadie Kiehne and Breann Baca all had 10 kills, while Gordon recorded three aces and Baca, four. Jaydin Stephens notched four solo blocks and Kiehne had three, while Abigail Bullock recorded a staggering 21 successful digs. Ashley Tafoya had 17 digs, Baca 13 digs and Gordon 11.

While at the time of the match it didn't necessarily seem Magdalena would need a district championship to make the post-season, it's probably a good thing it took care of business over the weekend. Baca isn't sure what would have transpired if they had lost.

"Good thing we did win," he said. "What if we had lost to Mountainair? But, we stepped up and the girls came through."

The Steers will begin their state journey on Thursday, Nov. 15, at Rio Rancho High School. Pool A play begins at 8 a.m.