By Kevin Wilson
The Portales High School football and volleyball teams ended their previous seasons as a state runnerup, but early indications are that each has a solid shot at improving upon those marks.
Monday was the first day for practices to begin in both sports, and each team featured a high turnout according to respective coaches.
The Lady Ram volleyball squad, which finished the 2002 season at 13-12 with a loss to St. Michael’s in the Class 3A title match, has about 45 players reporting, third-year coach Ruth Chavez said.
Chavez has a career record of 25-23 as head coach, but has taken each team to the 3A title game. This year’s squad is aiming for its third 3A championship in four seasons.
Chavez has conceded that new rules will make preseason work harder from now until Portales’ Aug. 26 opener at Clovis, but she liked what she saw in the first day.
“They came in in pretty good shape,” Chavez said. “I can tell they’ve done some stuff over the summer.”
The Lady Rams are holding their practices at Greyhound Arena this week, as the floor at PHS is being refinished.
The key area the Lady Rams need to address, Chavez said, is defense due to the implementing of rally scoring. This is the first year that New Mexico high school volleyball matches will be scored under the format. Games will be played to 25 (15 in the event of a fifth game), with let serves (serves grazing the net) considered legal.
No drastic rules have been changed in regards to football, but that hasn’t stopped the Ram team from preparing. Ram football coach Glen Johnson said the motivation for this year’s team has a lot to do with the end of last season’s 3A state title game, which saw Portales lose a 10-point lead in the game’s final three minutes to eventual state champ Ruidoso.
“The summer things (7-on-7 football league in Clovis) came from the last three minutes of the state championship game,” Johnson said. “What we’re doing now (in practice) has transpired from what we did over the summer.”
The Rams are coming off of an 8-5 season, including its first state title game appearance in 15 seasons. Johnson is 29-26 in five seasons at Portales, but is 23-12 over the last three seasons.
“It’s our job and our duty as a coaching staff to see them continue to improve each and every year,” Johnson said of the Rams. “Going into my sixth year, it’s great to see the kids come out composed, excited and just ready to be coached.”
The Rams open their season on Aug. 29, when they host West Las Vegas at 7 p.m. at Greyhound Stadium.