RIO RANCHO — Portales used a quick offense to get back to the Class 3A state championship match on Saturday. Pojoaque just ran a quicker one, and pulled off a championship season in the process.
The top-seeded Elkettes held off a strong challenge from second-seeded the second-seeded Lady Rams, and staked a 25-23, 14-25, 25-8, 25-20 win to claim the second volleyball championship in school history Saturday night at the Santa Ana Star Center.
Kira Trujillo had 12 kills and Elizabeth Gomez 11 for Pojoaque (23-4), which closed the season on a 19-match winning streak, despite having only two players — Gomez and Trujillo — taller than 5-foot-8.
“We just play a really fast style because we’re so short,” said Pojoaque coach Brian Ainsworth, who also coached the squad to its other title in 2006. “We try running the offense as fast as we can.”
And the ball went around, as five different players had at least five kills for the Elkettes.
“We preach that one player doesn't win a state championship,” Ainsworth said. “We had everybody step up tonight, which was awesome.”
But Portales coach Ruth Chavez felt Pojoaque’s success started well before the hitters ever got chances.
“Their setter (senior Marissa Romero) made the difference, I thought,” said Chavez, who has led Portales to four state titles and two runnerup finishes in nine seasons. “She was amazing. Their libero (senior Mequella Lovato) got the ball where it needed to go every time. You can run a quick offense like that when you have a setter that’s that good.”
The Elkettes stormed out to an 8-2 lead in the first match, before the Lady Rams closed the gap to 16-14, and later 22-21. But a service ace by Cara Salazar helped the Elkettes close out the first set.
Portales (16-8) recovered in the second game, and roared out to a 20-8 lead as the Elkettes committed a litany of hitting errors.
“We made 21 errors (in the second game),” Ainsworth said. “Portales is a great team. They put pressure on us. They took us out of our normal game and we got into a tip game. We cleaned up the errors in Game 3 and put it back together.”
Pojoaque dominated the third set ,and never completely let go of the momentum in a tight fourth game.
The Lady Rams lose six seniors heading into the 2010 season, including middle blocker Jenna Wagner, who led the way with 17 kills.