Thursday’s dream matchup between two of the best Class 3A volleyball teams in New Mexico was anything but dreamy, as it turned out, particularly for the Robertson Lady Cardinals.
Visiting Ruidoso (9-3 overall) swept Robertson (6-4) in a contest that never quite lived up to the billing.
Both sides seemed to play tight through much of the match, leading to uncharacteristic breakdowns, and neither was able to sustain any momentum.
Lady Warriors senior outside hitter Amber Gardner connected on back-to-back kills to open a 22-19 Ruidoso lead in game one. A service error by Tiffany Winningham, followed by a block by Daniella Montoya and Brooke Knezevich and then an overzealous attack by Gardner enabled the Lady Cards to tie the game at 22. But Gardner came roaring back with a kill. After a Knezevich attack went long, Gardner finished it with a kill for the 25-22 win.
Robertson forged a 5-3 advantage in the second game only to give up six straight points. Ruidoso didn’t relinquish its tenous control the rest of the game. The Warriors led by just three points before a string of bad passes by the home team gave the visitors a 21-15 cushion. The error-fueled Ruidoso run continued, reaching 24-15 before Knezevich broke it with a kill. Winningham’s kill on the next play put the game away.
In game three, three early kills by Knezevich and one by Julie Franken gave Robertson a promising start. But it wouldn’t be enough. Later, a kill by Haley Williams tied the game at 22, and after one of the game’s few extended volleys, Winningham struck to give Ruidoso a 23-22 edge. Angela Gardner’s erratic serve tied the game at 23, but Williams slammed one down for match point, and then Winningham’s block clinched the Ruidoso win 25-23.
If recent history is any indicator, there’s a good chance Robertson and Ruidoso will meet down the road — in the postseason.
The Lady Cardinals and Warriors opened the 2007 state tournament in the same four-team pool. Ruidoso finished with the top record in pool play and received a bye to the quarterfinals. But the defending state champion Pojoaque Valley Elkettes surprised the Warriors with a three-game sweep before being eliminated in the semifinals by Portales. On the other half of the bracket, Robertson went on a remarkable run that ended in the championship match, a four-game win by Portales.
Entering Thursday’s match, Robertson and Ruidoso were ranked among the top four in Class 3A, with Ruidoso listed as high as first in the various polls. But whether affected by nerves or other factors, neither team established a clear offensive rhythm.