Coach Danielle Gordon and her team embrace following their loss against Melrose.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Bounced into the consola­tion bracket after their first match, Alamo Navajo pulled off a fan­tastic run at the Class A state vol­leyball tournament at Rio Rancho High School over the weekend as the Lady Cougars came away with a 3-2 mark and a final-four finish.

It was a seemingly impossible situation for the No. 12 Lady Cougars, who pushed No. 6 Logan to the brink in a 3-2 loss (25-23, 24-26, 25-16, 22-25, 15-11). It also meant for Alamo to make it to the final four, they would need to win three matches, and one would be against No. 3 Animas, a 3-1 win­ner over Logan.

Before Alamo’s match against Logan, second-year head coach Danielle Gordon shared her thoughts on the Lady Cougars and the importance of reaching the state tournament.

“It means so much. It really gives the younger girls something to look forward to, and we have a lot of our younger girls sitting in the stands right now wait­ing for the game.” Gordon said. “They (younger girls) are excited to come up in the program. The girls in the program are super excited to be here.”

In two seasons, Gordon has led the Lady Cougars to a 30-16 overall record and 16-2 in district play. This year’s 19-7 overall record is the best mark in recent memory, and the undefeated district record is believed to be a first. Alamo also ran off a 14-match winning streak.

Sapphira Sandoval goes for a kill against Logan in the tournament’s opener.

Adding to the anxiety of the opening round was a late start due to previous matches going into extended time. The Lady Cougars staged themselves for a start, only to wait a little longer.

It did allow Gordon a little time to talk about her state tournament goals.

“Obviously, to win this match, and then our second one is first,” Gordon said, “We want to play as many games as we can. We want to play hard and play our game. Maybe the most important is to realize a lot of teams don’t ever get to go to the States. It’s something that will stay with you — so enjoy it.”

Gordon got her wish about having her team play many games, starting with the 3-2 loss to Logan. Alamo lost the first set and bounced back to tie it up before even­tually slipping into the right side of the state tournament bracket.

It was a long day for the Lady Cougars, who swept Ramah 3-0, but Alamo ran into trouble before mounting the tournament’s best comeback against No. 9 Santa Fe Waldorf.

Down 2-0 (25-21, 26-24), Alamo ral­lied to win the third set 25-23 and then delivered a soul-crushing 25-12 win in the fourth that gave the Lady Cougar’s the momentum they needed to lap Waldorf 15-7 in the fifth set.

Up next was the daunting task of taking out heavily favored No. 3 Animas (20-4), and it was only 9:15 p.m. or roughly 13 hours since the Lady Cougars’ arrival at Rio Rancho.

“Oh my gosh, yesterday was a mara­thon of volleyball — three tough games with two of them going five. I definitely feel like we were underestimated going in,” Gordon said.

While the Lady Cougars may have stumbled against Logan, there was a sud­den realization that Alamo could play and be competitive against anybody. Gordon wasn’t about to miss out on the chance to ensure her team knew it.

“I think it was kind of an eye-opener for us too. Because, you know, we were ahead in that fifth set against Logan,” Gordon said. “And we let them get back in it and take over. That match gave us the knowledge of what it’s like playing in the state tournament that pushed us further into making good decisions and staying ahead of a team and not letting them come back on us.”

Almost two hours later, the doubters were quieted, and the win was equally dra­matic as Alamo dropped the first set 25-23 and returned the favor with a matching scoring (25-23) to even it up. Animas went on top with a 25-15 win before the Lady Cougars tied it with a 25-16 victory.

The 18-16 win in the deciding set was the thing dreams are made of, but the win also took a physical toll.

“I think we were tired (against No. 1 Melrose). The girls wanted it. I know they did. But sometimes you don’t have enough gas,” Gordon said.

The Lady Buffaloes hadn’t been taxed in winning two matches 3-0, and despite every effort, Alamo bowed out, too. Melrose was knocked off in the state final by No. 2 Gateway Christian.

Gordon got the most out of a 10-player roster that includes Elliana Guerro, Tiana Apachito, Hailey Apachito, Sapphire Sandoval, Claire Apachito, Katelyn Stockham, Koolonna Apachito, Jada Guerro, Alvina Apachito and Kay-Liyah Vicente. Barbara Gordon serves as the team’s assistant.