Lady Broncos make NMMI history with Region V victory
November 3, 2013New Mexico Military Institute
Saturday afternoon, the Lady Bronco volleyball team did something they’d never done before in the school’s history: win the Region V tournament to advance to the national championship in Wyoming.
Playing on their home court in Cahoon Armory, NMMI had a little glitch in Game 3 against No. 1 seed Odessa, but came out on top in four, 25-14, 25-18, 20-25, 25 20.
“It’s awesome,” said Bronco coach Shelby Forchtner. “I am such an extremely competitive person, that I have wanted this since basically the first day I got the head coaching job. And I’m so extremely proud of these kids. Like, we put together a really tough schedule, knowing that we were going to need that in the end, and I think that really came through for us today.”
“It’s an incredible thing to experience with these girls,” said sophomore libero Cara Salazar. “They’re like my sisters, so to go through the hard times and lose and to come out on top, it’s just the best feeling right now.”
Even better might be the way they did it. The Wranglers kept pace early in Game 1, but after trailing 8-6, the Broncos got the ball back on a hit that just fell in, then Ashlei Swaim served 10 straight, with solid blocks by Mere Serea and Mariah Cox drawing cheers from the packed house as the margin got wider and wider.
Game 2 was a lot closer, with numerous ties and the lead going back and forth. Tips by Lea Boras helped Salazar serve five straight, turning a 12-11 deficit into a 16-12 lead. Odessa sophomore Jackie Bautista put the Wranglers back on top briefly at 17-16, but then hits, tips, kills and an ace helped Cox get a six-point run that came near to closing the game out.
After playing to five games in both their previous matches, Odessa coach Anna Rowland was confident this match would go the full way as well. So, especially after coming back from a two-game deficit vs. Western Texas in the semi-final match, she wasn’t too concerned.
“This team has been that way a little bit off and on. We’ll play flat then come out and just kick butt,” Rowland said. “So, at the end of the day I really wasn’t too concerned, because I was confident we’d come back. We usually do. And especially with NMMI, it’s been a catfight. When we played here, we won in five. When they played us there, they won in five. So I just figured it was going to come out to a five set match and we would hopefully pull it off.”
And, Game 3 was a turnaround for the Wranglers, with more back and forth early before Odessa went up 14-13 and never looked back. Carisia Gutierrez served five straight, including a game-winning ace, to send the match to Game 4.
“We just really didn’t pass the ball,” Forchtner said. “We struggled passing in that game and they really started to catch up, so that just made a really big difference.”
“We just kind of lost communication in the game, and once we regained it we were a team again and we were able to finish things off really strong,” Salazar said.
And that’s exactly what happened in Game 4. Bronco blocking and tipping put them up 7-3 and they never looked back, despite a long mid-game slump for both teams in which neither side could hold serve. But a NMMI block broke the non-offense string, and despite a lack of any more big runs, the Broncos slowly stretched the lead, getting the final point on a tip by Cristal Quinonez.
“It feels amazing,” a teary-eyed Swaim said. “We’ve worked all year to be here and do this. (Coach Forchtner) told us time and time again that she’s put us in a tough schedule for this season to come through. And now we’re on our way to nationals to play with teams we’ve already played once. We’ve seen the big dogs before. If we’ve done it once we can do it again.”
And even after Game 3, the coach wasn’t too concerned.
“You’re always worried in a championship game,” she said. “Basically, you want your team to perform at a high level, and the fact they were able to come out here and do that, that’s exactly what we wanted. And what we talked about.”
Rowland was obviously disappointed, but still saw some bright spots.
“I thought the girls played hard, but we, in all honesty, had a couple of girls who just didn’t play their best game today. Plain and simple,” she said. “Some girls who we really rely on, just really good go-to girls were just off today. And sometimes girls are on. Sometime’s they’re off. Luckily we had a couple of other players step up their game and make it a little bit better. It could have been really ugly for us, but I had a couple of players really step up their game and take advantage of the opportunity, I guess, if you want to look at it in a positive light.”
Next up for NMMI is the 2013 national championship Nov. 21-23 in Caspar, Wyo., and the Broncos sound ready.
“If we can play as a team there we can only hope for the best there, too,” Salazar said.
“I’m ready for it. Let’s go,” Swaim echoed.