As the month of October in Northern New Mexico turns the weather from summer to fall, then to winter, it also turns the “regular” season into the “district” season and becomes the home stretch for many of our fall sports.
It was a relatively good week for Taos County schools, as far as winning is concerned. Almost all of the athletic teams from Taos, Questa and Peñasco had at least one win in the past couple of weeks – garnering a boost for players and notching a nod from local fans.
Currently, there are 12 interscholastic teams (including the Taos Composite mountain bike team) in the county that are active and call themselves fall sports. In the south, Peñasco High School touts two teams: cross-country and volleyball. According to both MaxPreps and the New Mexico Activities Association, Peñasco shows boys and girls soccer teams on their rolls, but the boys have not fielded a team since 2012. It is not known if the Lady Panthers soccer team has ever completed a full season. In the north, Questa football, soccer and volleyball make up the fall sports scene.
As the month of October in Northern New Mexico turns the weather from summer to fall, then to winter, it also turns the “regular” season into the “district” season and becomes the home stretch for many of our fall sports. It can be a fickle month, too – granting or denying teams the chance to play their respective sports deep into November. The challenges that October brings could be the ultimate turning point that determines whether or not that happens, and it requires the complete focus of our athletes and coaches, who want to make it to the “post” season.
The Peñasco cross-country teams have yet to take a week off from competition since starting the season at their home meet Aug. 25. Since that near-perfect outing, the Lady Panthers have racked up multiple first- and second-place finishes at various meets throughout the state.
The Lady Panthers traveled to the John Grimely Memorial XC Invite held near Cochiti Pueblo – joining 12 other teams from predominantly larger schools at the annual meet hosted by Santa Fe Indian School Sept. 30. The Lady Panthers were at full strength and attacked the hills to place fourth with a team score of 132. This ordinarily sandy and loose course had been compacted from the weeklong rain, providing a much faster course than 2016, when dryer conditions made the trail loose and precarious. This helped veteran runners improve their respective times from last year by several seconds.
Carly Gonzales was the top runner for the Lady Panthers, coming in second place overall with an unofficial time of 22:11. She was followed by Adrianna Tafoya, who placed 23rd with a time of 23:54. Maricela MacAuley came in third for Peñasco and 29th overall with a time of 24:28. Rounding out the last two scorers for the Lady Panthers were Martina Tafoya, who came in 31st with a time of 24:30, and Estrella Gonzales who came in 47th place with a time of 25:54. There was a total of 95 runners in the field.
Top teams for the girls included first-place Hope Christian with a score of 49, runner-up Santa Fe High School with 114 and Pojoaque Valley, which rounded out the top three with 121 total team points. Pecos came in fifth behind Peñasco with a score of 138 and host team Santa Fe Indian School came in fifth with 151. This is the first time this season the Lady Panthers have passed the Class 4A Lady Braves in team competition – a worthy target Peñasco has been stalking all year. The only other Class 2A team participating at the meet was Jemez Valley, which came in 12th as a team.
The Panthers and Lady Panthers are scheduled to race again Oct. 7, when they travel to San Ildefonso Pueblo for the Northern New Mexico XC Championship.
The Wildcats are in the midst of a six-game winning streak – a stark contrast to this time in 2016, when the Lady Cats were on a three-game skid, losing to the Taos Lady Tigers 3-0, Escalante Lady Lobos 3-1 and Mora Rangerettes 3-0. Those losses killed the momentum of an earlier seven-game win streak and most likely dashed the hopes of the Wildcats playing in the postseason in 2016. Questa languished in fourth place in District 5-2A for the remainder of last season and missed a state tournament invite despite a strong showing at the district tournament.
The latest Lady Cat victories are wins against the Escalante Lady Lobos Sept. 28 and Mora Rangerettes Sept. 30.
In the two district wins, Questa (7-4, 2-0) showed maturity and grit by overcoming challenges in the form of point deficits and heartbreaking set losses.
District competition continues, as the Wildcats host back-to-back games in “Mini-Pit” against the Mesa Vista Lady Trojans (1-7, 0-1) Oct. 5 and the Peñasco Lady Panthers Oct. 12.
The Lady Tigers’ struggles continued as they entered the District 2-4A season with losses to the Pojoaque Valley Elkettes Sept. 26 and the St. Michael’s Lady Horsemen Sept. 28.
The Lady Tigers’ slump continues in District 2-4A play, as Taos has yet to win a league match since Nov. 5, 2013. The Lady Tigers have only won one set against district teams dating back to 2012. Taos is currently 3-10 on the season and 0-2 in league play.
Taos played against the West Las Vegas Lady Dons after this section went to press Oct. 3.
Up next for the Lady Tigers is a home match against the Robertson Lady Cardinals Oct. 5. Game time is 4 p.m. for the freshmen, 5:30 p.m. for the junior varsity and 7 p.m. for varsity.
The Peñasco Lady Panthers snapped an eight-game losing streak and won their first game of the 2017 season with a 3-2 home victory over the mighty Mora Rangerettes Sept. 28. The skid actually began last year when the Lady Panthers lost the last three games of the 2016 season.
The win against the Rangerettes is significant because it marks the first district win for Peñasco in five years. The last time the Lady Panthers defeated a district foe was Oct. 25, 2012 – a 3-1 triumph over the Pecos Lady Panthers, when both teams belonged to District 2-2A. Peñasco has struggled in the sport of volleyball, having produced just 12 wins since the 2011 season. In that year, the team was 11-10 overall and 4-4 in districts under coach InezAnna Gonzales, who was in her second tenure at the time. Gonzales currently serves as head coach of the Lady Panthers and is in the third year of her third tenure.
The result of the district opener had a surprising outcome, too, due to the fact that Mora has enjoyed a 15-0 record against Peñasco dating back to Oct. 22, 2010. In fact, the Lady Panthers did not win a single set against Mora during that stretch.
The first set of this latest contest was won by Peñasco, which handily routed the Rangerettes 25-12. Mora powered back and won the next two sets 25-19 and 25-22 to retake the advantage in the best-of-five match. The Lady Panthers did not sway, however, and outlasted the Rangerettes 25-22 to force a fifth set. Ultimately, Peñasco would win the short set (played to 15 rally points instead of 25) by a final score of 15-9 to win the match to claim the historic victory over the defending Class 2A state champions.
The Lady Panthers played an away match against the McCurdy Lady Bobcats in Española after this section went to press Oct. 3. Next up for Peñasco is a three-game stretch played on consecutive days, including an away game against the Escalante Lady Lobos Oct. 5 (7:30 p.m. start), a home game against the Mesa Vista Lady Trojans Oct. 6 (7:30 p.m. start) and a nonconference home game against the Ratón Lady Tigers Oct. 7 (6 p.m. start).
Questa lost its fourth game of the season to the visiting Centauri (La Jara, Colorado) Falcons 38-0 Sept. 30.
The Wildcats are now at 0-4 on the season as they prepare for their homecoming game against the Cuba Rams Saturday (Oct. 7). Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Wildcat Field. The game will be preceded by the homecoming parade, which is slated for 9 a.m.
Previously, homecoming was scheduled for Oct. 6, but has since been changed.