Spartans, Eagles ignite crowd, five-set match

Spartan outside hitter Emily Lopez goes up for a kill during the second set. ODETT OCHOA PHOTO

EL CENTRO-On Tuesday night the Central Spartans hosted the Southwest Eagles in a back-and-forth battle. The Eagles were led by head coach Sarah Marquez while the Spartans had head coach Yvanna Lopez leading them into battle. The game went into five sets, with the Spartans defeating the Eagles 3-2.

As expected the first set was a nail-biter, with both teams using everything they had to gain momentum. As the first whistle blew, both student sections were electric, with each chant giving the players the energy necessary to power through the next rally. Both teams covered every edge of the court and looked for open spaces where they could muscle in the live ball. The leads shifted multiple times until the Spartans overcame the Eagles 25-16. 

The Eagles entered the second set with just as much intensity as the first, never deterring from their game plan. The defense got even more aggressive while the offense kept their composure and continued to strike every ball that came towards them. The Eagles had their back row vigilant of any deep ball that came their way, while the Spartans had their front row protecting their turf. As both teams continued to battle, the Eagles’ heart and determination prevailed as they finished the set 25-20.

Once the third set began, tensions continued to run high. The Spartans took an early lead, but that was not enough to stop the Eagles; they never faltered or showed any signs of giving up. The Eagles fought for every point and worked together to gain an advantage over the Spartans. The Spartans focused on what they could control and ended the set with a 25-16 victory.

As the two teams entered the fourth set, the energy only increased as the desire for a win grew. The Spartans gained momentum with their consistent serving while the Eagles' dominance on the front lines continued to put them on the scoreboard. Unsurprisingly, the game went through several lead changes. The Spartans' defense focused on covering the hardwood floor, diving for every ball, even those that seemed impossible. However, the Eagles' spirit was high and confident. As the set entered its final stretch, the Eagles led 24-23 and overcame the Spartans 25-23.

The fifth set was a full-blown showdown from the fans to the players. However, both teams showed that these were the moments they trained for. They continued to play their game and never let the pressure get to them. The nail-bitter continued with even more lead changes and close calls until the Spartans defeated the Eagles 15-11.

Eagles defensive specialist Alyana Aguirre has emerged as one of the leaders of the purple and gold’s roster. Aguirre’s quick feet and volleyball IQ allow her to cover blind spots and keep even the toughest balls alive. 

"It was a great, lively crowd, we pushed through, had each other's back,  and, overall, we did pretty well. When someone was down, someone else was there picking them up, we were there for each other every step of the game, and it showed in our play," said Aguirre. 

Leading Central’s defense was junior Camila Munguia, who played with intensity and determination to protect Spartan territory. As one of the team's go-to for defending the corners, Munguia did not let the pressure of a loud crowd get to her or the team. 

“We had a fight in us, and we came back and delivered, we motivated and encouraged each other not only in the game but during all the practices leading up to this match-up. We’ve been working hard, mentally preparing and all the people that came out motivated us to do better,” said Munguia. 

Spartan sophomore Janelle Thomas contributed to the win with some big plays that reignited that fire in not only the team but the crowd. As an outside hitter, Thomas found the perfect spots to direct each ball. 

“As a team, we were working together, even if individually we were making mistakes. Today I had a little more confidence due to the crowd, but we couldn’t have done it without each other, the coaches, and the fans,” said Thomas. 

Today, the Spartans will take on Calipatria at the Hornets nest while the Eagles host the Imperial Tigers. 

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