Tucumcari qualifies


November 13, 2019

Courtesy photo: Ellen White

Tucumcari volleyball coaches and players point to their spot in the Class 3A tournament bracket after a seeding selections were announced Sunday. Tucumcari qualified for the state tournament for the first time in 30 years.

Tucumcari's volleyball team learned Sunday afternoon it had qualified for the state tournament, something the Lady Rattlers hadn't done in 30 years.

Coach Dana Benavidez posted on social media a short video of her staff, players and parents at the Snake Pit watching a live internet feed of Class 3A state tournament selection show. When Tucumcari showed up in the tournament bracket, it prompted cheers, hugs and raised fists from those watching.

"It's been a long time," Benavidez said. "There were tears of joy. Everyone was super excited."

Tucumcari's last volleyball team to qualify for state was in 1989. Players from that team now are in their mid- to late 40s.

Tucumcari (11-11), seeded ninth in the tournament, plays No. 8 seed Socorro (13-9) at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. The winner of that match plays top-seeded Tularosa (19-2) later that day at 6:30 p.m. The tournament is a double-elimination format on multiple courts.

The quarterfinals will be Friday and Saturday, with the semifinals Saturday afternoon and the championship at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Although Tucumcari's win-loss record doesn't look impressive, it played a tough schedule with three matches against Tularosa, plus battles with Class 1A powerhouses Melrose and Logan, that helped sway the selection committee.

Benavidez said its two wins against Dexter and a road victory at Santa Fe Indian, both which made the tournament, proved crucial in Tucumcari making the final 12. A seven-game winning streak in midseason also pushed Tucumcari into the top 10 of the MaxPreps.com Class 3A rankings.

Benavidez said she won't be satisfied with her team simply making the tournament.

"I think my team has absolutely nothing to lose," she said. "They're not going in with a lot of pressure. I think they can make a run at it because we've played the No. 1 team (Tularosa) three times and never played badly against them. Hopefully, we can make a run against these other teams in the state tournament.

"I think there are games we can win and make our stamp on history," she added.

Logan qualifies

As expected, Class 1A defending state champion Logan (18-4) landed the No. 2 seed in the state tournament.

The Lady Longhorns, which have a first-round bye, play the winner of the Fort Sumner-Des Moines match at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Rio Rancho High School.

The winner of that potentially faces No. 3 seed Pine Hill at 4:45 p.m. Friday at Rio Rancho High School. The only loss for Pine Hill (20-1) was a five-setter against Tularosa, the No. 1 team in Class 3A.

Melrose (19-0) was awarded the No. 1 seed. Logan suffered all four of its losses this season to the Lady Buffaloes, a district rival.

The semifinals and final will be played Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. The championship match is scheduled for 6 p.m.


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