By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
ALBUQUERQUE — It was a match so good that both teams cried.
Portales won the first two games, nearly collapsed, then rallied in the fifth to defeat St. Michael’s 25-15, 25-20, 21-25, 11-25, 16-14 on Friday at University of New Mexico’s Johnson Gym and advance to the finals of the Class 3A state tournament.
Portales (21-3), the Pool A champion, will meet Pool B winner Pojoaque (19-6), in today’s championship match at 1 p.m. Pojoaque advanced with a 25-20, 23-25, 26-24, 25-18 win over Thoreau in Friday’s first semifinal.
After senior middle hitter Morgan Hill kill’s ended the emotional match, both sides erupted in tears.
“I think the reason we’re crying is because we’re so excited,” said senior Megan Kabrick, had a match-high 16 kills, including six in the Game 5. “We worked so hard for this and we were not going to let it go.”
Hill added four blocks and nine kills in the match, including her spike for match point.
Portales coach Ruth Chavez said the late night on Thursday coupled with the noon start Friday played a factor in the outpouring of emotion.
“We didn’t get on the floor last night until 10, and we played until 11:30,” coach Ruth Chavez said. “We didn’t get to bed until late. We were tired, we were emotional.”
In the deciding game, the Lady Rams (21-3) were down 11-6, but came back to tie the Lady Horseman at 14-14.
“We just looked at each other and realized that we need to get our heads on straight and fight,” Kabrick said. “We pushed ourselves and fought back hard. I’m really proud of these girls.”
Junior Amanda Terry was the defensive spark plug for the Lady Rams, diving into the referee’s stand for a dig in the first game and smashing her chin on the floor diving for the ball later in the match. Terry, on her way to the hospital after the match, said the difference in Game 5 was poise.
“I was telling everyone, ‘take a deep breath, relax,’” she said. “’It’s not over yet, we still have a chance, just keep breathing.’”
The Lady Horsemen (16-6) avoided the sweep by winning game three, then dominated Portales in the fourth game to pull even.
“I’m just so proud of these girls,” St. Michael’s coach Chela Butler said. “The first two games it just felt like they were taking it to us. To come back and fight in games three, four, and to go down to the wire in game five, I’m just so proud. They went down fighting.”
Portales is riding a 12-match win streak in which the Lady Rams have swept seven opponents.
“We haven’t been pushed in a long time, so I think when we got pushed we panicked a little bit,” Chavez said. “I told them, ‘We walked in the gym on July 1st and we’ve worked our butts off all year. You don’t work that hard to go home. You work hard to be in the finals.’”