Lady Rams shoot for No. 1 seed in regional

Junior Briana Hernandez stretches to get a volleyball during a drill at Friday’s Portales practice. Portales (17-3) hosts Ruidoso tonight for the District 4-3A championship at 7 p.m. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

No matter what, Ruidoso and Portales should expect to receive homecourt advantage in next weekend’s Class 3A volleyball regionals, with a state tournament berth on the line in each case.

That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be gained from tonight’s District 4-3A championship, scheduled at Portales High. With a win, Portales earns the District 4-3A title after a one-year absence, and most likely a No. 1 seed for the regionals. Otherwise, Ruidoso repeats as district champion and proves that a Class 3A team can score a victory against the Lady Rams.

“They’re going to end up in the top 16, win or lose,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said. “(Ruidoso coach Steve Brown) said his main goal was to get better and get ready. We know people are working hard to beat us, so we’re working twice as hard here.”

During its current eight-match winning streak, Portales (17-3) has twice beaten Ruidoso. The Lady Warriors have put up decent challenges to Portales each time, taking the Lady Rams to four in the district opener for both teams and losing 25-21, 25-21, 21-16 at home.

The Portales players figure their odds are good against Ruidoso tonight as well.

“It’s not really what they do, it’s just been mistakes we’ve made,” junior defensive specialist Tori Teague said. “If we talk and play as a team we shouldn’t have a problem.”

There is a sense of confidence in the Portales practices, but Chavez wants to make sure it doesn’t turn to overconfidence.

“We don’t want to be nervous,” Chavez said. “We want to be confident in what we do, but not overconfident. I’ve told the girls that anybody can beat us. We’ve had some losses that we shouldn’t.”

Chavez said a five-game loss against El Paso Bel Air could have gone the other way and the team probably could have fared better at Roswell, where it was swept last month. Chavez had no qualms about losing to Class 1A power Tatum earlier in the season, though.

Ruidoso’s biggest challenge, is in their service ability, Teague said.

“You just have to focus,” Teague said, “and move your feet and keep your arms straight and go back to fundamentals.”