Sedona Red Rock Junior High School’s volleyball team took a lesson learned from a 2-1 loss to Beaver Creek School on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and turned it into a Verde Valley Athletic Conference tournament championship performance.
The Scorpions, despite hosting the tournament, had to be prepared for the loud crowd supporting the Bobcats, and pulled out a 2-1 comeback win [23-25, 25-18, 15-8] on Saturday, Oct. 21.
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“The pressure we got back in Beaver Creek in the last game, we learned a lot from that because it was loud and packed, so we made an adjustment to that,” Scorpions head coach Pedro Ortega said. “What we learned from that game is to be able to close the games when it’s time and so it was our time right there. I told them, ‘Be calm, be poised.’”
Eighth-grade outside hitter Stephanie Medel-Garcia opened the match with a service ace, but Beaver Creek sixth-grader Makela Martinez responded right away with a kill.
The set went back and forth until Scorpions eighth-grade outside hitter Karla Gonzalez hit three straight aces to open a 13-10 lead. It was the first lead of two points or greater for either side.
The Bobcats climbed back into it at 16-16 and 18-18. Red Rock’s biggest lead came at 22-18, but a 7-1 run by Beaver Creek, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, provided the first-set victory.
Bobcat service aces and kills compounded by Scorpions errors handed over the lead, and the set.
But Red Rock never trailed the rest of the way.
It opened the second set with a 4-2 lead, but Beaver Creek tied it on three separate occasions, the final time coming at 10-10. Then a 10-5 run gave the Scorpions a solid lead at 20-15.
“Serving at the right time with right attitude kind of put us over the edge,” Ortega said. “Momentum changed and it’s all about momentum in this game. We put the pressure on them and we kind of started to relax and play more relaxed and things turned around nicely.”
Eight of those points came by way of Bobcat errors, and eighth-grader Anna Shimkus capped the run with a kill. Beaver Creek pulled to within two at 20-18, but a trio of aces by seventh-grader Mayra Landaverde put the set away.
“I have [Landaverde] playing in the back row and one girl in the front so she’s always serving, because she improved so much through the season,” Ortega said. “I wanted her or Stephanie [Medel-Garcia] closing the game and she responded, she did an awesome job.”
In the decisive set, Landaverde added five more aces along with a kill by Medel-Garcia. Two Bobcat hitting errors and a service error handed the victory, and championship, to the tournament’s No. 2 seed.
“I thought our rivals did an excellent job. Obviously they proved that when we played them in the last game when we went there and they beat us by two,” Ortega said. “From the beginning I knew they would be our competition, and it turned out to be a great championship game, so awesome job to both teams.”
Medel-Garcia was named tournament MVP while Gonzalez, Landaverde and seventh-grader Helen Westervelt were named to the All-Tournament team.
Red Rock’s first game of the tournament was against Camp Verde Middle School, winning 2-0 [25-6, 25-10]. Clarkdale-Jerome School took third place and Camp Verde fourth.
Next up the team will play in the Arizona Small Schools Volleyball Championship on Nov. 3 and 4 at Clarkdale-Jerome School.