PNT staff writer
The Portales Lady Rams return a strong nucleus from last year’s state runner-up team, but will need some of the younger players to develop if they’re going to make another run deep into the playoffs.
“We have some really good athletes, we’re strong and our fundamentals are solid,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said. “I think putting it all together and getting these kids some experience is what our challenge is this season.”
Portales, which graduated six seniors from last year’s team that went 16-8 and lost to Pojoaque in the state title, returns seniors Gabby Garcia, Megan Chambers, Sarah Christensen and junior Macy Mitchell.
“We’re going to have two really strong centers returning in Mitchell and junior Kelsey Laurenz,” Chavez said. “They are going to be strong at that position for us and Garcia is coming in as a hitter. We’re also getting our setter back with Chambers. I think having someone at setter with experience is very important.”
With the returning starters and new faces the Lady Rams have height that the longtime Ram coach hopes will improve their defense.
“I’m going to try to run a 6-2 and run with only one setter,” Chavez said. “Just so we can make the front row and middle bigger. This is one of the adjustments we’re making from last season. I expect us to be a really good blocking team.”
Chavez said the scrimmages that are coming up this weekend gives them a chance to see what adjustments they need to make with the team.
“We’ve been working to get stronger and we haven’t been just focusing on Hobbs,” Chavez said. “We’re thinking about the beginning of our season and how are we going to prepare for everyone.”
Sophomore setter Chelsey McMath said she thinks the team should be really good this year because they have been working really hard.
“If you want something bad enough you will go at it at a much faster pace,” McMath said. “I think people are starting to step up and work hard for it. I’ve been focusing mostly on my defensive play because this is the first time playing defense. I’ve been working on passing, too, but mostly defense.”
Chavez said another up-and-coming player is junior Danae Garza, who is coming back from knee surgery.
“She played the last week of junior varsity last season coming off of surgery” Chavez said. “When you have someone sit out for a year with an injury, they sometimes fall behind, but she has been doing well.”
Portales opens its season Tuesday at Hobbs.