A homecourt advantage can even be stronger than usual at the end of a long tournament. Clovis took advantage of home comforts by winning its 12th annual tournament, knocking off St. Michael’s 25-19, 25-21, 28-26 in the championship match.
“We were fortunate to close a little bit better than they did,” Clovis coach Darrel Ray said. “I think it’s a huge advantage and I told Chela (Butler, the St. Michael’s coach) that when we come up there, that I imagine they’ll look forward to doing the same to us on their ‘wood.’”
In the finale, Clovis (3-1) held a slight 20-19 lead in the first game before scoring the last five — four off the serving of junior Antiesha Brown.
The end of the second game was similar as the Lady Wildcats scored the last five points again, this time overcoming a 21-20 advantage from St. Michael’s (2-1) to pull away.
A nip-and-tuck third game was sitting at a 26-26 deadlock when Clovis senior Meagan Baglien hit a nice kill shot down the line, which was followed by Brown powering a kill through a St. Mike’s block in the middle for match point.
“There was just a slight difference in the energy level. At the end of game one, both teams were a little tight and they were just able to relax a little bit,” Butler said. “They were able to take it to that next level.”
While Brown, with eight kills, and senior Lainey Flatow, the match leader with 13 putaways, were their usual offensive selves as the team’s main threats, Clovis got some big production from Baglien as well.
Last year’s full-time setter is splitting the position this season. On Saturday night, Baglien accounted for nine kills — often at crucial moments.
“Meagan’s kind of a funny, odd kind of piece of work as far as her being a strong side hitter,” said Ray, whose team swept Aztec in the semifinal round. “This summer, she even kind of poo-pooed the idea on a couple of our playdays and then she started to enjoy it,.
“She was actually probably the difference-maker in the first two games.”
Baglien said she enjoys the challenge.
“It’s a big adrenaline rush, man,” she said of hitting the ball. “It’s always fun to be able to put the ball down and smash it in their face.”
Brown was named tournament MVP, while Flatow was also picked for the all-tourney squad.
St. Michael’s was led by Sarah Hattis’ seven kills, while Maya Cordova and Aimee Geyer added six apiece.
The tournament was also a bit of a triumph for Class 1A Fort Sumner — the smallest school in the 16-team field.
After winning their pool on Friday, the Vixens fell to Denver City in the quarterfinals. But Fort Sumner rebounded to beat El Paso Ysleta on Saturday and then knocked off Class 4A Albuquerque Academy in a 25-20, 25-18, 25-17 in the fifth-place match.
“I thought it was a good day,” Fort Sumner coach Lisa McMath said. “We came back from a disappointing loss yesterday.”
The Vixens had two all-tournament selections in seniors Bree Lucero and Rita Herrera.
“We did great in pool play and came back that evening and got intimidated somewhat,” McMath said. “But they were really focused (on Saturday). If anyone got two points on us, we were going to stop it and readjust — the girls responded to that well.”
Lubb. Estacado def. EP Ysleta 23-25, 25-27, 25-21, 25-12, 15-12
Fort Sumner def. Albuquerque Academy 25-20, 25-18, 25-17
Denver City def. Aztec 25-17, 25-19, 25-12
Clovis def. St. Michael’s 25-19, 25-21, 28-26 (championship)
West Las Vegas def. Clovis JV 25-16, 25-11, 25-14
Lovington def. Dexter 25-18, 24-26, 27-25, 25-12, 15-8
Lubbock Christian def. Raton 25-16, 25-18, 25-21
Portales def. Del Valle 25-11, 25-21, 25-21