The Gateway Warriors have been flying under the radar most of the season, but that may soon change as they are now 10-2 and ranked third in the state after sweeping Mescalero 25-17, 25-18, 25-18 Thursday night inside Gateway Gym.
The Warriors controlled the pace throughout most of the three sets and got contributions from all the players as they look to wrap up a successful pre-district slate of matches before ultra-competitive district 4 play begins in a couple of weeks.
The Chiefs – continuing their tour of Chaves County sports teams as they beat NMMI on Monday and fell to Hagerman on Tuesday – fought hard throughout, but could not get on any sustained runs as they fell to 6-6 on the year.
“I thought it was actually kind of a slow match for us,” explained coach Kerri Pirtle. “We like a little bit of a faster pace in these games, so I thought we struggled a little bit there, but overall, it was a good game. We got playing time for everybody, so that was good.”
Mescalero got off to a quick 4-1 lead in the opening set, but that quickly changed as the Lady Warriors got big kills from Aubrey Freese and Isabel Worrall to take the lead all while senior Savannah Fox’s serves keeping the Chiefs from setting up their offense.
The Warriors would go up 10-5 until the Chief’s lone senior, Kate Yuzos, would stop the bleeding with a big kill to the back row. Yuzos would get plenty of hitting opportunities throughout the match, but the Warriors would do a good job of defending her.
The Warriors would start to put the set away as kills by Heeta Bhakta and Megyn Balok would make it 17-9. Bhakta would follow with a block in the middle and the Warriors had a huge advantage.
The Warriors would get a few late errors to get the Chiefs back into it, but a key kill by Fox would get them rolling again. Fox would get three straight service winners and a final kill by Lauren Wulf would end set one at 25-17.
The Warriors played error-free from the serving line in the initial set and kept the errors at bay for the majority of the game. “Serving-wise, yes,” said Pirtle. “Some of our better servers struggled a little bit, but honestly, we’ve been in and out of practices this week, so we haven’t had as much time as we would have liked.”
Game two saw the Warriors use a kill by Fox and an ace by Wulf and Gateway was off to an early 5-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
With all three Warrior setters – Worrall, Kaylee Stephens, and Sierra Fresquez – controlling things, the lead would grow to 12-3.
The Chiefs would make a run, but, again, the Warriors would get a key kill – this time by Wulf – to regain the momentum and stretch the lead until the end. A final kill by Stephens ended the set at 25-18.
Coach Pirtle was pleased with the way her team would answer every Chief run with a key play. “Key something is exactly right. We are chasing down balls that we would not have chased down in the past. We are not giving up on plays and keeping the ball in play.”
The Final set was a nip-and-tuck affair for the majority of the game. Balok served some bombs for an early Warrior lead, but the hosts saw the Chiefs get the lead at 10-9 and hold it for awhile.
The Warriors got a kill by Fox and a dink by Stephens to tie the score at 16-all and then a subsequent ace by Fox gave the Warriors the lead back. With Balok digging every shot the Chiefs gave her from her libero position, the hosts would stretch the lead and take the set 25-18 and get the sweep.
The Warriors play the Chiefs again next Tuesday and NMMI next Thursday as they wrap up their pre-district slate.