After letting Tuesday’s season opener slip away against Roswell High, the Clovis High volleyball team was determined not to let it happen again.
The Lady Wildcats began defense of their Clovis Invitational championship Friday night by turning back Lubbock Estacado 25-20, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20 in a quarterfinal match at Rock Staubus Gym.
Senior middle blocker Antiesha Brown collected 15 kills and four blocks for the Lady Wildcats, while senior outside hitter Lainey Flatow came on late and finished with nine kills.
Flatow seemed to pick it up after a couple of indecisive plays early in the fourth game. She had three kills in short order as Clovis turned a 3-1 deficit into a 6-4 lead.
“When she came out, I said, ‘That’s the hitter we’re supposed to have,’” Lady Cats coach Darrel Ray said. “It’s still a new lineup and we’re not smooth yet.”
The Lady Matadors (9-4) put an athletic team on the court, led by lanky senior middle blocker Brittany Johnson, who finished with 15 kills and three blocks. Johnson’s attack was blocked by CHS junior Delaney Ware late in the fourth game, helping the Lady Cats close it out.
“They had the ability to score,” Ray said of the Lady Mats. “That one girl (Johnson) is a hard matchup for us. She just went over the top of us about any time she wanted to.”
The Lady Cats fell behind 6-3 in the first game, but moved in front for good on an Estacado hitting error. Brown then tipped down an overpass for a 20-18 lead and Clovis got game point on an ace by senior Meagan Baglien.
“We had trouble staying consistent, but we picked it up at the end,” Brown said. “We were facing some pretty good athletes, but we knew we had just had to keep our heads and not take ourselves out of the game.”
After trailing most of the second game, the Lady Cats appeared to be in charge in the third with an early 13-5 lead. Estacado, though, fell behind 19-18 on a tip-kill by Shanee Johnson before the Lady Cats used three consecutive putaways by Brown to regain the lead for good.
Then, with sophomore Felicia Aguilar on the service line, the Lady Cats ran off 10 consecutive points in the fourth game — including an ace and Brown’s kill and two blocks — to turn a 4-3 deficit into a nine-point cushion.
Clovis plays Aztec, the runnerup to the Lady Cats in Pool A, in a 12:30 p.m. semifinal match. Aztec upended Albuquerque Academy 25-23, 25-23, 25-21 in Friday’s late semifinal.
Clovis beat the Lady Tigers 21-16, 21-11 in pool play en route to a 6-0 mark in games.
Portales wins in silver bracket — Portales finished third behind St. Michael’s and Denver City in Pool C, but advanced to the semifinals of the silver (consolation) bracket with a 25-10, 25-14, 25-9 win over the Clovis junior varsity.
The JV Lady Cats filled in during bracket play for Lubbock High, which did not participate in the meet due to a scheduling conflict.
Portales faces Raton in the semifinals at 12:30 p.m. today in the north gym. The Lady Rams swept Raton 21-11, 21-11 in pool play, while splitting with St. Michael’s 7-21, 21-18 and losing to Denver City 22-21, 21-14.
“We played good against the Clovis JV,” Lady Rams coach Ruth Chavez said. “We had a good day. We didn’t want to be in the silver bracket, but we’re young and improving all the time.”
Fort Sumner swept the three-team Pool D, beating El Paso Ysleta 21-9, 21-13 and Lovington 21-11, 21-12, but the Vixens lost in bracket play to Denver City 25-23, 25-19, 25-18.
They will play Ysleta at 10:30 a.m. today.