Clovis senior Jessica Hohn records one of her 16 digs. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
Things got a bit more dicey than anticipated for the Clovis High volleyball team Thursday night.
But after letting the third game slip away, the Lady Wildcats got back on track to beat Manzano 25-13, 25-18, 24-26, 25-16 in the semifinal round of the District 4-5A tournament at Rock Staubus Gym.
The win earned Clovis (18-3) another shot at top-seeded nemesis Eldorado in the tourney finals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Albuquerque.
“There’s some incentive to be able to claim that we’re the (district) champions and finally get past them,” Clovis coach Darrel Ray said. “It’s time for this team to step up and prove that they can beat that club.”
Eldorado (16-3) has won the district title the last two years and hasn’t lost to the Lady Cats since the 2000 season. But Clovis has pushed the Lady Eagles hard this season, losing in five at Clovis after leading 2-1 and dropping a four-game decision in Albuquerque in a match which turned on a close third game.
“We want to get the first two (games) this time and see what their best shot will bring,” Ray said.
Clovis appeared to be cruising in Thursday’s match until the Lady Monarchs (12-9) pulled out a tight third game by scoring eight of the final 12 points.
Senior Monique Walker tied the match 24-24 with an ace for the Lady Cats, but a service error gave the lead back to Manzano. Lady Monarchs senior Melissa Duran then converted a Clovis overpass on game point.
“The third game started off bad; we didn’t pass or defend well,” Ray said. “We just can’t play that way any more. From this point, no one is going to roll over for us.
“We can’t ever stop playing the ball. When we hesitate, bad things happen to us. One point we’ve been making to these kids is they have to get a killer instinct.”
Manzano took a 6-5 lead in the fourth game on an ace by junior Allison Mueller, but Walker’s kill tied it and the Lady Cats took control with the next five points off senior Sara Salguero’s serve, capped by an ace.
Walker finished with 21 kills, 19 digs and three aces for Clovis, while senior outside hitter Jessica Hohn added 16 kills and 19 digs. Senior setter Tara Ray had 39 assists.
“I knew we could get back on track,” Hohn said. “All I know is we had to come back and win (the fourth game); we couldn’t let it go five.
“We realize we can’t overlook anyone we play, or we’ll get beat. But we’re excited and ready to play Eldorado again.”
Veteran Manzano coach Carol Barnitz was happy to see her team get a game off the Lady Cats for the first time this year, although she’d hoped for more.
“It took us a while to just get going,” Barnitz said. “But I thought the girls played hard and I was really proud of them.
“Clovis is an awfully good team. There’s some great athletes on that team, and they do a good job.”
Mueller led the way for the Lady Monarchs, converting seven kills and picking up five blocks from her middle hitter position to go with a couple of aces.