Portales drops season opener

By Dave Wagner

CLOVIS — For a while, it appeared the Portales Lady Rams had Clovis High on the ropes in second game of Tuesday night’s volleyball opener for both teams at Rock Staubus Gym.
Portales built a 12-8 lead in the second game and led until late. But the Lady Wildcats survived their struggles and went on to a 25-15, 25-21, 25-15 sweep.
CHS coach Darrel Ray, whose squad hosts a 16-team invitational this weekend that also includes Portales, said the Lady Cats played so well in the first game that he didn’t know what to say to them during the intermission.
“It was a good opener,” he said. “In two of the three games we played at a high level.
“We’re glad to get an opener so we don’t have to go into the weekend cold.”
CHS senior middle hitter Monique Walker said that while the team wobbled in the second game, she never thought the match was out of control.
“We struggled with our passing,” Walker said. “But Portales is a good team. They’re scrappy, and they showed they could dig up whatever we had.
“I think if they had won the second game, it might’ve let them think they could beat us. But I think we would’ve come back.”
Ray said Clovis simply labored a bit after a solid first game.
“We didn’t do a good job of ballhandling, and we didn’t pass as well in serve-receive,” he said. “We lost some of our effectiveness at the net.”
The Lady Rams never mounted a serious run after losing the second game. After Kassandra Richards’ ace pulled Portales to 5-4, the Lady Cats ran off seven consecutive points — five on Lady Rams miscues.
“I thought we had a lot of mental errors and beat ourselves a little bit,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said. “We played hard; they’re a good team. But we had some critical errors in the second game that cost us.”
Chavez said her team blocked well in the match, notably sophomores Morgan Hill and Megan Kabrick, and added that Richards and Amy Archibeque had good outings in the setter position.
But she added that the Lady Rams needed to attack with more aggressiveness.
“This early in the season, we want to run a lot more at the net,” Chavez said. “It’ll take time — we have some kids that have never played at this level.”
The Lady Cats will try to win their own invitational this weekend for the first time in the tournament’s seven-year history. They’ve been runnersup in each of the last two seasons.
“We want to win it for Jess,” Walker said, referring to senior outside hitter Jessica Wymore, injured in a car accident just before practice began this month. “We’ve been to the finals the last two years, but we just haven’t been able to win it.”
In a preliminary match, the Portales junior varsity defeated the Clovis “C” team 25-17, 25-23.