Lady Rams fight through fatigue

Portales’ Morgan Hill looks to block a Las Lunas player’s shot during the Clovis Invitational volleyball tournament Saturday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

If the New Mexico Activities Association were to pull a surprise and announce that state volleyball match will be a best-of-nine format, consider Portales well prepared.

Long matches created just that circumstance, as Portales had to play a pair of matches with a 15-minute break in the second day of the Wildcat Invitational in Clovis and ended four-and-a-half hours of volleyball with a third-place finish in the tournament’s silver bracket.

The Lady Rams five-set loss against Bel Air to defeat Los Lunas 25-19, 25-15, 19-25, 25-16. Portales (2-1) started at 1:30 p.m. against Bel Air in a match that ran late (the previous game in that gym also went five games) and ended its day at 6 p.m. with a commanding fourth-game performance against the Tigers.

“I told them every time we jump ropes, every time we run a hill, that’s what makes us tougher for these matches,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said.

Portales ended up in the silver bracket after a poor showing in its pool.

“We played horribly in pool play,” Chavez said. “We went out and struggled and we didn’t make good decisions.”

Paired with a Friday sweep against West Las Vegas, Portales comes into Tuesday’s home opener against Roswell with a winning record. The Lady Rams will face Artesia on Saturday.

In the practices between each match, Chavez said the team would work on its consistency, which wasn’t always evident in Portales’ first action of the year.

“We’d put together one, two good hits, then we’d fall off,” Chavez said.

Up two games to none against Los Lunas (1-2), Chavez attempted to get her starters rest by substituting liberally, even as Los Lunas jumped out to an 11-3 advantage. The strategy backfired, as Portales ran out of substitutions while trailing 22-16 and couldn’t recover.

Substitutions weren’t a problem in the clinching game, as senior Ashleah Richards served Portales to a 7-0 lead. Los Lunas played even from that point, but Portales held off another five-game match when a Tara Johnson kill took an unusual bounce off the net and hit the floor well out of reach of Los Lunas outside hitter Ashley Trujillo, who up until that point had fueled the Tiger offense.

Los Lunas coach Allen Musgrove said his team also dealt with unusual circumstances, but quickly added that they paled compared to Portales’ doubleheader-style match.

“They played back-to-back and they came out hard,” Musgrove said. “They came out swinging and they served really well against us.”

Musgrove called the weekend a learning experience, one made uncomfortable by a
“Honestly, we struggled every match,” Musgrove said. “We had a disciplinary incident the first night (without any suspensions issued) and we didn’t recover from it the whole weekend. We only played two games with great intensity in all three of our matches and pool play.”