Lady Steers fall to Mustangs in shocking comeback at quarterfinals

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The Lady Steers went into pool play at the state championships last Thursday in Rio Rancho as the undefeated district champions, with an overall record of 20-2.

Susann Mikkelson/El Defensor Chieftain: Lady Steers Jayden Stephens goes for the kill in set two of the quarterfinals matchup against the Mountainair Mustangs on Nov. 15 in Rio Rancho. Backing her up are Breann Baca and Abigail Bullock.

They were a little sluggish going into their first two sets against Tse’ Yi’ Gai. By the third and final set, they had warmed up. They played Questa later in the morning, winning all four matches of pool play and earning a bye for the first round of finals played Thursday evening. The results of pool play pitted the ladies against the Mountainair Mustangs for quarterfinals on Friday morning. Their record of 4-0 against the Mustangs led most to believe that they would move on to semi-finals that night.

The team that surfaced Friday morning in the chaos of the quarterfinals, with four matches occurring at once at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, was not the team that had faced the Mustangs and beat them four times in regular season play. The ladies ended the first set with a tight win of 25-21, which was not an unusual outcome against the Mustangs. They lost the second set 25-27, and came back to life in the third set with a 25-18 win. Disaster struck for the Lady Steers in the last two sets of the match, with losses of 15-25 and 13-15, respectively. Balls dropped in holes on the court; receives and blocks were missed; the team seemed to lack communication and concentration. The 2-3 loss against the Mountainair Mustangs ended the girls’ hopes of 1A state championship.

“I am still trying to figure out what happened,” coach Bryan Baca said on Tuesday after returning from state. “To be honest, I haven’t yet had the heart to review the tapes.”

Baca is still proud of his team.

“We had a terrific year, and made it to state,” Baca said. “I’m disappointed for our seniors, who had their last chance last weekend and lost it.”

The ladies’ stats don’t look so bad on paper — not terribly different than previous games against tough opponents, which the Mustangs were all season. Attacks hurt them most, with a 25 percent kill rate, lower than their average of 31.5 percent, and 37 attacking errors, which was high. They also had 10 blocking errors, unusually high for the team.

Tristen Dunlap, Danielle Gordon and Jayden Stephens led the team in attacks for the year. Dunlap had 148 kills with a 33.4 percentage and 443 attack attempts; Gordon had 149 kills with a 29.6 percentage and 503 attack attempts; Stephens had 137 kills with a 29.7 percentage and 461 kills. Breann Baca had many fewer kills, but the highest percentage at 37.2.

Blocking was led by Kadie Kiehne with 44 blocks for the season. Baca had 36 blocks and Stephens had 35 blocks.

Abigail Bullock and Ashley Tafoya were the team leaders in digs, Bullock having 248 digs and 107 dig errors, and Tafoya with 210 digs and 47 dig errors. Baca and Kiehne also had high stats with 163 and 153 digs, respectively.

Gordon and Baca were neck and neck in ball handling, with 268 assists each. Gordon had 888 attempts and 36 errors; Baca had 857 attempts and 38 errors.

Finally, Bullock took the lead with serve receives, having 377 total receives for the season, with 46 errors. Kiehne was next in line with 274 receives and 24 errors, and Tafoya followed with 257 receives and 17 errors.

The Lady Steers ended the season on a high note, with three of their seniors being selected to serve on the 1A/1B all-star team. Danielle Gordon, Kadie Kiehne and Ashley Tafoya were selected for the team, which will play July 28, 2014.