By Kevin Wilson
Including Saturday’s scrimmages, the Portales High volleyball team has four scheduled trips to Roswell this season.
But the Lady Rams don’t want anything short of five.
Roswell is the site for this year’s state volleyball championship, a familiar setting for PHS volleyball lately. Portales has won two of the last three Class 3A state titles, and it returns a nucleus to make a serious run at three titles in four seasons.
Some things have changed for the Lady Rams, who finished the 2002 season with a 13-12 record and a runnerup finish. Some things have not changed, though — Portales returns eight players from last season’s team and adds height with Morgan Hill, a sophomore 6-footer.
Between Hill, sophomore Megan Kabrick (5-10) and either Erika Cook or Kelly Parkey, the Lady Rams form a front line that coach Ruth Chavez hopes will be able to sustain an aggressive hitting attack.
“It’s everything because it takes the other team out of their offense,” Chavez said, “and it makes our team stronger and better.”
In addition to their hitters, the Lady Rams are pinning their hopes on senior setter Kassandra Richards. The 5-6 Richards struggled last season while learning the position, but said she feels more comfortable.
“Erika is short, so you have to set it off the net, but she can hit it anywhere,” said Richards who thinks her team will get a good hit every time if the passing is up to par.
“With Megan, you have to get it on the net so she can go down,” Richards continued. “Morgan’s the same way. With Kelly, you want to set it off the net, but Kelly can hit it anywhere.”
Setters and spikers alike will have less margin of error this season, as the New Mexico Activities Association has implemented rally scoring. Teams do not have to serve to score a point, and matches are played to 25 points (15 in the event of a fifth game).
Chavez doesn’t think her players will have trouble with the scoring format, since they went to a fifth game on numerous occasions last season. However, the let serve (serves that graze the net and are still in play) could be a problem early in the season.
“The let serve is the most difficult thing because we’re used to rally scoring,” Chavez said. “We see the ball hit the net and we relax, because we think it’s dead.”
The Lady Rams do have time to adjust before district play begins, but the schedule is unforgiving as always. Following Tuesday’s opener at Clovis, Portales plays seven matches against 4A and 5A teams before opening district on Oct. 4 against Ruidoso — and that number doesn’t include teams the Lady Rams will see in tournaments at Clovis (Friday and Saturday) and Roswell (Sept. 12-13).
Portales’ home opener is set for Sept. 2 against Roswell.
The Lady Rams’ biggest weakness last season was a lack of height, though it didn’t catch up to them until they faced St. Michael’s in the state title match. With Hill and Kabrick, the opinion is that height will make up for a relative lack of experience — and vice versa with Portales’ seniors.
“We don’t think of (their inexperience) as a weakness,” Chavez said. “We don’t like to think of anything as a weakness. They’re learning things correctly. They haven’t played for six years with a bunch of bad habits.”