MAGDALENA — Don’t tell Magdalena volleyball coach Sara Ann Conley you can’t win with eighth graders on the court because her Steers will prove you wrong.
Magdalena looked sharp despite dropping the third set of their match against Mesilla, and with their 3-1 win, the Steers evened their district record at 1-1 on Sept. 7 in front of their home fans.
After a 3-0 setback on the road against Animas, Conley was looking for her team to “show up” before the match against Mesilla.
“We had a long trip and a hard game against Animas, and I’m just looking to show up and play as hard as we can today. To see if we can recover,” Conley said.
The Steers opened strong with a 25-16 win in the first second and were even more impressive with a 25-14 setback.
Just like any other young team, there are times when the Steers struggle with their focus which sometimes is highlighted when coming out of a time out.
“I think we come out of time outs, and it’s just like we’re not dialed in mentally right away when that first play starts,” Conley said. “That’s where we fell off. But I think a lot of that today has to do with just all the dynamics of just everything — like back-to-back matches.”
Leading 7-2 in the second set, the Steers allowed Mesilla to climb back into the match at 8-6 before Magdalena took control.
The lack of focus hurt the Steers in the third set, and Mesilla capitalized for a 25-12 win, but Magdalena wasn’t going to allow a comeback and allowed just 10 points in the deciding set.
“We did some good things after a long, long trip. I wasn’t sure how we were going to show up and play today just because we got home so late,” Conley said. “That’s an excuse, but we’ve never had a back-to-back game situation like that.”
Now in district play, Conley has had the opportunity to see her team grow and jell together while still dealing with a lack of experience.
“Our movement and our communication are coming together at the right time. It’s not nearly where we need it to be. But it’s picking at just the right time. So here we go,” Conley said.
It might be a bit of a roller-coaster ride for Conley because the Steers have risen and fallen with the level of their competition this season.
“It was just a complete night-and day-thing (difference in play between Animas and Mesilla), and we dialed in, focusing diving, transitioning, blocking and moving,” Conley said.
Ever the coach, Conley added, “We just need to maintain our communication at all times.”
Junior setter Kambree Montoya had an intense night and mixed in a combination of sets and attacks. Montoya has made strides in keeping defenses off balance and unsure of what she will do next.
Sophomore outside hitter and middle blocker Jorianne Mirabal had a big night at the net and has a surprisingly powerful serve that will only get better.
Senior outside hitter and middle blocker Irene Martinez has been leading by example and garnered praise from Conley.
“They all had a great night and played very well. They are leaders and make great contributions, but my entire team is doing that, too,” Conley said.