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Cibola downs Gila Ridge in four
The Gila Ridge volleyball team was a point away from taking the opening game at Cibola on Thursday.
Instead, the Raiders stormed back from the five-point deficit and took the first game en route to winning the match 27-25, 25-20, 28-30, 25-16.
“I feel like we're the comeback kids right now,” Raiders coach Juliann Umphress said. “I told them we can't do that with everyone. We have to come out strong and we have to play strong. But the thing about my girls is they don't give up.”
Junior middle blocker Baylee Lakey led the Raiders (2-0) with nine kills, while senior libero Grecia Villa had eight digs and three aces. Senior middle blocker Nikki Kelland had 10 kills and four blocks to lead the Hawks (1-2) while senior libero Anahi Torres had eight digs.
The Hawks had a comfortable 24-19 lead in the first game after a kill by Gila Ridge sophomore outside hitter Allison Weller. But the Hawks self-destructed with four straight errors and Lakey came up with a kill to tie the game 24-24.
“She's a hard player. She listens and takes in what we say and goes hard. Goes hard or go home kind of deal,” Umphress said of Lakey.
Cibola took a 26-25 lead after a kill by sophomore middle blocker Niki Lokareddy, then an attack attempt by Kelland went long and the Raiders escaped with a 27-25 win.
“It's always important to come out strong, so that if you come out like we did a little slow, at least you're one ahead. We're not having to dig back,” Umphress said about taking the first game.
Gila Ridge bounced back and had a 17-12 advantage in the middle of the second set, but Cibola answered with an 11-1 run — including a pair of aces by senior Alexis Evans. The Hawks got as close as 23-20 after a kill by Weller, but a Gila Ridge service error and missed attack by Hawk senior middle blocker Kristen Cofske put the Raiders up two games.
“I thought we played well but we got to this hump and when it gets to an intense situation, we need to learn how to get over that hump,” Gila Ridge coach Colleen Ford said. “We tend to play not to lose instead of playing to win and that's what the girls really need to get past.”
After an ace by Villa put Cibola up 24-22 in the third game, it was Gila Ridge this time that battled with their back against the wall. A Kelland kill tied it at 24 and the teams went back and forth until Gila Ridge senior setter Jordan Northrup dropped one in to knot the score at 28. Junior outside hitter Riley Millner put the Hawks up by one with a kill and an attack error by Cibola's Karen Lizarraga helped Gila Ridge avoid a sweep.
“I told them that's the kind of focus you need if you want to win games,” Ford said about the third game.
The fourth game went back and forth, with an ace by Northrup cutting a Cibola lead to 16-15. However, the Raiders squashed any momentum Gila Ridge had to force a deciding fifth game and pulled away with it — another ace by Evans securing the match for Cibola.
“We played five games on Tuesday and we didn't want to do that again,” Umphress said about the Raiders' 25-19, 25-14, 16-25, 22-25, 15-5 win over Yuma High.
While Cibola was able to escape the first two games — and the match — Ford said that her Hawks must learn how to finish things off.
“What we need to learn is how to maintain that focus and not play scared.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson