The Cardinals, who made it to the state semifinal round last year, still have senior powerhouses Shelly and Kelly Gensler, and senior setter Allysanne Huey, who led the one-set offense. They paced a group of younger girls who looked ready to get back to Albuquerque in November.
Win or lose, however, both coaches seemed happy with what they saw.
“I’m proud of them,” said Colt coach Stephanie Schooley. “I told them at the end, ‘Hold your heads high. You guys did some really great things out there.’ They made some good plays. They had some good passes. We had some good serves. We played 100 percent better than we did in Hondo on Tuesday night. I praised them for that. Corona did a great job as well. They had some really good servers. Some tough servers. They were moving us around on the court.”
“I thought we played well,” said Corona coach Richard Gage. “We covered their hits and their tips fairly well. Our serving needs to improve. We had some stretches where we didn’t return serve then we’d step back up and return any serve they had. We got some good hits on the net tonight. I was glad to see that. We got a lot of good sets. I think it’s a great start to the season. NMMI’s always tough to play. It’s always tough to play here, too.”
The Colts led early, then the game went back and forth, tied at 5-5; Corona up 9-6; tied at 11-all then NMMI up 17-14. But after a big block by Kelly Gensler of Colt 6-foot-2 hitter Bianca Walker, the Cardinals tied the game at 18-18 then went on to take the victory.
“(Kelly) came up with a big block, and after that (Walker) quit trying to hit on her,” Gage said.
NMMI also led early in Game 2, 6-4, but from then until Game 3 it was all Corona, with four points the closest the Colts could get.
After ties at 3-3 and 5-5 in Game 3, the Colts went up 6-5, then there was more back and forth with NMMI taking an edge until late.
The Colts led 12-9; 16-11; and 17-14, but the Cards tied the game at 18-all; 19-19; and 20-20. A kill by Isabell Manwill put NMMI up 21-20, but Corona strung together four straight points, and took the victory when Manwill’s kill attempt went long.
“It was our home game and of course we wanted to come out on top and it just didn’t work out for us tonight,” Schooley said. “Had a lot of serve-receive errors still. I’ve been preaching that all year long. We’ve only had one practice since Gateway, to work on anything, and that makes a huge difference, without being able to work on anything. We worked serve-receive yesterday, but 30 minutes isn’t quite enough.”
The loss put NMMI at 2-2 on the season, but for Corona, it was the season opener.
“For the first game of the year, I’m thrilled to see that that coverage is there,” he said of how his players covered the floor. “Maybe that will carry us through a little bit.”