The Los Lunas Tigers are proof positive that there are multiple methods for a volleyball team to be effective.
The Tigers do it more with guile than force. They do it more with defense than power. They do it with speed, with work ethic, with team chemistry.
And it is a formula that has, by and large, been working fantastically well for Los Lunas.
The Tigers, ranked fourth in Class 5A, remained undefeated in league play Tuesday night, going on the road to Bulldog city and sweeping No. 8 Albuquerque High.
The scores in this District 5-5A matchup were 25-17, 25-20, 25-16.
“We talk a lot about effort. In our gym. That’s our biggest thing,” Los Lunas coach Tanya Sanchez said. “Give effort, and everything else works.”
Quietly, Los Lunas (14-3, 5-0 in 5-5A) is having one of the best seasons of any 5A program. Only the three teams ranked ahead of them in the 5A coaches poll — Las Cruces, La Cueva, Cibola — have solved the Tigers.
Albuquerque High (10-8, 3-2) couldn’t, as Los Lunas’ smaller lineup kept points alive, setter Mia Mendoza did a brilliant job feeding hitters, and the Tigers consistently found the angles at net when they had their chances.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time. For some of us, it’s our fourth year playing together,” said Mendoza, a junior. “We’re all just really comfortable with each other and we trust each other, and we play our heart out.”
So far, halfway through their league schedule, the Tigers are 15-0 in sets against their five district rivals.
Mendoza guides a fast-paced offense; hitters such as senior Riley Luther and Chavez flourished successfully on the outside, finding gaps in the middle, firing cross court, and going up the lines.
“Our back row defense, they get the ball right where Mia needs it, and then our timing … we just keep our offense going really fast,” Chavez said.
Sanchez had high praise for Mendoza.
“I think what makes her stand out from the other setters, these other setters have these big girls, but (Mia) is working hard for every single ball and she’s delivering a perfect set to every single hitter,” Sanchez said.
Things were going so well for Los Lunas that on the penultimate point of the match, Ella Zamora just about whiffed on a kill attempt for the Tigers, but the ball went off her fingertips and still floated over the net, landing on the other side for a clean winner.
“We’re feeling very good this season,” Chavez said. “We think we’re gonna go very far at state.”
Los Lunas still must face Santa Fe and AHS once more in league play over the next couple of weeks.