Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
Riley Luther lets out a roar after recording a kill for Los Lunas against Cleveland.

LOS LUNAS — It’s a little early in the volleyball season to get too excited about one game, but the victory last Thursday by Los Lunas over perennial power Cleveland is worth celebrating for Tiger fans, who packed the LLHS gym.

Los Lunas defeated the Storm 3-1, alerting the top teams in 5A that the Tigers will be a tough out.

The key takeaway for coach Tanya Sanchez?

“The biggest thing is the program has heart,” according to Sanchez. “We might be little but we’re ready to fight against whoever comes up against us.”

Cleveland took a six-point lead in the first set when Sanchez called a time out.

“Let’s take a breather,” Sanchez told the team.

The Los Lunas Tigers, in the far court, defeated Cleveland 3-1 last week.

After being out of their system, “We started playing together — it was pretty impressive.”

The Tigers rallied to win the first set 26-24, but numerous service errors helped the Storm capture the second set 25-19.

A key sequence came in the third set, when Tigers’ middle blocker Ella Zamora stuffed a hit by one of the much taller Cleveland players.

“It kind of shut them down a little bit,” Sanchez said. “We had the momentum.”

And the fans got louder.

“The girls’ confidence level went up. I think it had a lot to do with the crowd support. The crowd was super into it.”

Los Lunas closed out the match in convincing fashion, 25-18 and 25-16. Sanchez listed a string of players who stood out, including Mia Mendoza, Riley Luther, Lauren Shiplet, Mellody Chavez and Aleigha Romero.

Abigail Landry, number 15, and the Valencia Jaguars opened the season with a victory over Alamogordo.

However, when it came time to award Tigger to the Player of the Game, it was decided to leave the stuffed animal, from Winnie the Pooh fame, on the shelf.

“Coach, don’t give it to any of us,” Sanchez recalled the players’ saying. “It’s the team. We all played our part.  We all did something amazing to win big.”

Los Lunas (3-0) played Tuesday at Alamogordo, winning  3-0.

Elsewhere, Belen (1-1) rallied from a two game deficit in its home opener to beat Española Valley 3-2.

Valencia (1-1) opened the season with a 3-0 victory over Alamogordo but fell at Gallup 3-2.

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.