It’s always been a state title or bust mentality when it comes to Portales High School volleyball, which has kept coach Ruth Chavez happy.
“They come in expecting to win every year,” Chavez said. “I think that’s a good thing.”
And with Portales winning Class 3A every other year since Chavez took over in 2001, players know what it’s like to win a state title.
“It’s just amazing,” said senior LeAnne Blaeser, a defensive specialist on the 2007 champs. “All that hard work you’ve done has paid off.”
But, the players also know what it’s like to come up short, as Blaeser experience in her junior year.
“It’s devastating,” said Blaeser, shaking her head.
After coming up short last year, said Chavez, the Lady Rams have shown a hunger to bring the school its eighth state title and fifth since Chavez took over for longtime coach Brenda Stockton.
“They are very dedicated to practice, they’re working hard,” Chavez said. “There’s a lot of leadership.”
Portales opens its season today against Hobbs and plays in the Clovis Invitational Friday and Saturday.
Chavez said Blaeser and senior Jenna Wagner have the most tournament experience for Portales, and they’ll lead a roster of nine varsity players — with three leftover roster spots saved for a rotation from a junior varsity squad Chavez said is one of the program’s strongest in recent history.
“I see potential, a lot of potential,” said Wagner, a 5-foot-11 middle blocker ready for her fourth year on the varsity. “We have a well-rounded team this year.”
That means a lot of options for Blaeser, who’s entering her first year at setter.
“You’re kind of a quarterback of the team,” said the 5-foot-5 senior. “Your top concern is setting the hitters up.”
She’s still learning the job, but she knows Wagner likes the one (a quick set passed a few inches above the net), junior Gabby Garcia likes shoots (a quick set to the outside of the net) and sophomore Macy Mitchell likes the slide (a set to the middle of the court, where the hitter approaches from behind the setter).
“We don’t want to hit our highest point (by district),” said Wagner, who figures district rival Ruidoso, Pojoaque and Robertson will be Portales’ top competition. “We want to be a solid team, basically.”
Chavez echoed Wagner’s sentiments that they still want to be improving once November and the postseason come around.
“We don’t want to be one of those teams,” Chavez said, “that’s so good there’s no room for improvement.”