CNJ Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle
Texico coach Mike Littlejohn and the Texico Wolverines celebrate after capturing the Class 2A volleyball championship Saturday in Albuquerque.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
ALBUQUERQUE — The Texico Wolverines didn’t let a little thing like losing the first game affect them. After all, they’ve been here before.
Texico, which reached last year’s Class 2A finals, turned the tables on Estancia on Saturday in rallying from a first-game loss to beat the Lady Bears 23-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-22 at Tingley Coliseum for its state championship since 2001.
It was the teams’ fourth meeting this season. In the two won by Estancia, veteran Texico coach Mike Littlejohn noted the Lady Bears rallied after losing the first game.
“These kids have more composure than their years show,” said Littlejohn, who won his fifth state title in nearly three decades as the school’s coach. “We make silly mistakes sometimes, but they don’t let it bother them.”
Sophomore outside hitter Jaryse Harris had 10 kills, nine digs and a team-best four aces for the Wolverines. Freshman middle blocker Katlin Luscombe added nine kills.
“They’re our biggest rivals,” said senior outside hitter Leslie Vannatta, who added seven kills. “It’s really nice to beat them.
“It was nerve-racking (losing the first game). We just had to get focused and just play our game.”
Littlejohn said his team didn’t play its best in the first game.
“We made too many service errors and serve-receive errors,” he said. “We probably gave them half their points (in that game) on serve-receive errors or missed serves.”
The Wolverines were in trouble in the second game, reaching game point with a 6-0 run capped by junior Brooke Bailey’s block on an Estancia tip try. After a sideout, Bailey squared the match with a kill on game point.
Harris’ two aces helped the Wolverines open a 6-1 lead in the third game. Estancia scored the next three points, but never got any closer.
In the fourth game, the Lady Bears scored four consecutive points to erase a 22-18 deficit. An Estancia misplay gave Texico the lead and the serve, and Luscombe ended perhaps the longest rally of the game by converting a Bryn Mayfield quick-set into a kill.
Luscombe followed by pounding down an overpass on the next point to end it.
“Estancia’s a heck of a team,” Littlejohn said. “We had to fight for every point. The two best teams (in 2A) were here, and today we were just a little bit better.”
Sophomore outside hitter Kaiya Coburn had 14 kills for the Lady Bears, while senior middle blocker Ashlee Noyes converted eight kills and added four aces.
It was Estancia’s first trip to a state championship match since 1984, coach Glenda Noblitt noted.
“They had us out of sync a lot, and it had an effect on our hitting game,” Noblitt said. “But we had a great season; we don’t have any regrets. They (Lady Bears) came out and played their hearts out.”
Mayfield, who had 31 assists, said the Lady Wolverines tried to refocus after the first game.
“We just tried to be very disciplined and do what we have been,” she said. “We knew we had to pick it up.”
Several of her assists came on quick-sets to the 5-foot-9 Luscombe.
“We finally got that down,” said Mayfield, who added five kills. “We’ve been working on that the past couple of weeks. It’s a lot of fun.”
Several players said it helped to face a familiar foe in the finals.
“They didn’t do anything surprising,” said junior libero Faith Martin, who had a team-high 12 digs in the match. “We had a good idea of what they were going to do.
“I never really expected to get this far. I’m pretty happy right now.”
Littlejohn wasn’t sure, either.
“I knew we were going to be good at the start of the year, but I didn’t know we’d be this good,” he said. “We just jelled together and worked well together. It was awesome.”