It’s almost become a November tradition in Portales — along with the shorter days and colder nights, the Lady Ram volleyball team makes its annual trek to the state tournament in Albuquerque.
Head coach Ruth Chavez says this team reminds her a lot of last year’s squad that rode a timely winning streak all the way to a blue trophy.
“Everybody (else) thought that it would be a year we were down, and we were at our very best at the state tournament last year,” Chavez said.
That’s what we hope for now. That’s what our plan is all year. You take your bumps and bruises along the way, but you hope to do your best at the very end.”
The Lady Rams begin pool play this morning at 8 a.m. playing against Wingate, district foe Lovington and second-seeded Pojoaque. Chavez knows how important pool play can be for a championship run.
“It’s important to start the tournament out strong,” Chavez said. “It’s also important because we want to try to get on the right side of the bracket.”
And the right side of the bracket, according to Chavez, is the side not containing top seeds Ruidoso and Pojoaque.
“We can’t overlook St. Mike’s and Robertson,” Chavez said. “There are a bunch of good teams here. Whatever we get handed tomorrow, we’re going to battle. We’ll be fine.”
The Lady Rams enter the tournament as the District 4-3A runners up to Ruidoso. The Portales girls hit a rough patch in the middle of their schedule, losing five straight matches, but closed out the season winning 8-of-11, including a 5-2 district record, with their only losses coming against Ruidoso.
Chavez also believes that several of her young hitters, like freshman Macy Mitchell and sophomore Bradi Carthel, who have contributed throughout the season, may surprise many this weekend.
“I think we have a lot of strong hitters that people don’t know about because they’re so young,” Chavez said. “Our passing has gotten a lot better and our serve-receive — we’re just a more solid team. We’re very well-rounded.”
Following Wednesday’s pool play, Class 3A quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday at the Santa Ana Star Center. Friday’s semifinals and Saturday’s championship will be held at the University of New Mexico’s Johnson Center.
“We are coming in confident and strong,” Chavez said. “(We’re) in good spirits. We had a great day, a great practice and a great bus ride up, so we’re ready to play.”