St. Michael’s takes top seed
The surprises weren’t strictly about who got into the state volleyball tournaments Sunday.
It was more about what teams received for seeds and the pools they are in for Thursday morning’s pool-play session.
Six Santa Fe schools earned spots in their respective classes’ 12-team brackets, which the New Mexico Activities Association announced Sunday afternoon. The big winner for the afternoon were the St. Michael’s Lady Horsemen, who snared the top seed in Class 3A after a 20-2 record and the District 2-3A regular-season and tournament championships.
They were one of four district teams to reach the state tournament, along with Las Vegas Robertson, Santa Fe Indian School and Santa Fe Prep. However, the Lady Cardinals, who were consistently ranked first or second in the MaxPreps.com Freeman rankings that the NMAA uses to help select and seed teams, ended up seeded fifth. That led the Lady Braves to fall to No. 6 despite a Freeman ranking of No. 3.
SFIS head coach Brian Gurule did what he could to be diplomatic about the bracket.
“I was shocked with the seeds,” Gurule said. “But it is what it is.”
The one district team satisfied with its seed was Prep, which landed at No. 11. Kiran Bhakta, the Blue Griffins head coach, felt a wave of relief, recalling his team’s omission from the 3A bracket in 2016 despite a resume that suggested otherwise.
“Getting in was definitely a relief, and I am extremely happy for the girls,” Bhakta said. “The girls get a chance to show what they have at state.”
Santa Fe High will also get a chance to do the same in the state’s highest classification, a feat the program hasn’t accomplished since 2005. The Demonettes, the District 5-5A runners-up to second-seeded Albuquerque Sandia Prep, earned the ninth seed and will be in a pool that includes Albuquerque schools Cibola and Volcano Vista, which is coached by Las Vegas Robertson grad Dawn C de Baca.
Santa Fe High consistently found itself ranked 10th for the latter half of the season, but head coach Josie Adams was pleased to see her squad get a bump in seeding.
“I liked where we landed and we’re ready to play ball,” Adams said. “I think the girls worked really hard all season and continued to get better.”
District 2-4A managed to get three teams into the Class 4A tournament, with Los Alamos earning the fifth seed, Pojoaque Valley coming in at a six and Española Valley sliding down to an 11 after some late-season struggles.
Lady Sundevils head coach Damon Salazar said he expected the drop after Albuquerque Academy upset Albuquerque Hope Christian in the tournament championship.
“I thought that knocked is out of a 10,” Salazar said. “So I figured we might go in as an 11. Once Academy beat Hope. I knew they were going to leapfrog us.”
However, Salazar expressed surprise that Moriarty did not get the 12th and final seed, as Silver ended up getting the final spot. The Lady Pintos were ranked 12th in the final Freeman ranking, compared to the Lady Colts’ 14th.
“Silver, they lost to Chaparral a couple of weeks ago, and they didn’t beat anybody,” Salazar said. “I don’t understand how Moriarty, who lost nine games in our district and we go five, six, 11, isn’t in. I still think our team are going to do some damage.”
In Class 2A, Escalante earned the four seed, while Pecos nabbed the nine. Desert Academy, the District 2-2A champion, was No. 12. In Class 1A, Santa Fe Waldorf, the 7-1A champion, also earned the 12 seed.
Pool play for the state tournament starts on Thursday in the Santa Ana Star Center (Classes 3A-5A), Rio Rancho High School (1A and 2A) and Rio Rancho Cleveland (1A).