The Rio Rico High School girls volleyball team started out strong in Tuesday night’s match with Walden Grove, winning the first set 25-19.
But they dropped the next three by scores of 25-19, 25-8 and 25-23 to lose the match and fall to 3-10 on the season.
Speaking after the game, head coach Alexis Bermudez was enthusiastic about her team’s progress this year, saying they’ve become more aggressive and adapted well to numerous changes. But, she added: “For some reason, we just can’t finish.”
She had trouble putting her finger on the reason why the Hawks have difficulty closing out a match after a strong start.
“I think sometimes we’re standing around and we’re not covering how we’re supposed to. We’ve got everything together, it’s just that something’s missing and I don’t know what it is yet,” she said.
The team has suffered some injuries during the season, and Bermudez said she’s brought up a couple of freshmen from the JV team. “They’ve done really outstanding jobs,” she said.
One freshman, Ariann Tapia, made a good impression on Tuesday with her fearless play after coming off the bench late in the match.
“I love her attitude. She knows when she makes a mistake and she corrects it the next time, and I don’t have to say anything,” Bermudez said.
The Hawks faced a height disadvantage against Walden Grove, but Bermudez was quick to praise the front-line work of junior Ailani Rodriguez, a middle hitter.
“No. 14, Ailani, has done absolutely amazing,” the coach said. “She’s blocking, she’s hitting hard, playing really smart, knowing when to tip.”
Rodriguez had 18 kills on Tuesday – six coming in the team’s first-set victory – as well as 19 blocks.
Seniors Estefania Valenzuela and Maria Fernanda Juarez, both hitters, played two sets each and tallied six blocks apiece. Samantha Alcantar, a sophomore, led Rio Rico with 13 assists.
The Hawks were next set to play Douglas on Wednesday in their final home match of the season. They have three road contests remaining after that: at Amphitheater, Walden Grove and Douglas.