By Kevin Wilson
CLOVIS — Megan Kabrick and Kelly Parkey keyed a match-ending 5-0 run, and the Portales Lady Rams salvaged a seventh-place finish in the gold bracket at the Lady Wildcat Invitational on Saturday.
Portales (1-3) slumped after a strong showing in pool play, but swept Artesia to claim its first win of the season. Scores were 25-13, 25-13, 25-23.
The Lady Rams trailed 23-20 late in the third game to the Lady Bulldogs, but put together their late run to steal a game they never seemed to take control of.
“I told them when it was 22-20, ‘We will not go four games,’” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said, “and they said, ‘OK.’
“We struggled all day and we wanted to finish on a positive. Going four games would not have been a positive.”
Portales coasted in the first two games, but could not finish strong against an Artesia team looking for its first win of the season. The Lady Rams tied the third game at 19-19 when a kill attempt by Kabrick took an unusual bounce off of the net and the Lady Bulldog back row could not recover.
The Lady Rams took the lead, 20-19, on a hitting error, but found themselves in danger with a quick 4-0 run from Artesia, including an ace from Kristin Porales.
Portales rallied back, drawing even with a kill from Kabrick. After an Artesia line violation set up match point, Portales put it away with Stefanie Sharrock setting up Parkey for the final kill.
The win was a bittersweet finish for the Lady Rams, who lost two of three matches in bracket play. Portales dropped a four-set decision to Lubbock Christian on Friday (25-17, 22-25, 16-25, 19-25) and were swept by West Las Vegas on Saturday morning (23-25, 9-25, 24-26).
Portales plays its home opener on Tuesday against Roswell, while Artesia (0-3) will wait for a second chance against the Lady Rams on Saturday.
Artesia coach Bobby Bates said he tried to pull a positive out of coming up short of a third-game victory.
“I think it depends on how you take it,” Bates said. “If you’re learning from situations and improving, we’ll take that. If we’re not learning, it hurts us.”
Bates is in his first year coaching Artesia following a stint at Goddard that included three-straight state titles. Bates hopes Saturday’s match against Portales will be a good “measuring stick” for how his team improves.
“Right now, it just frustrates you because of limitations,” Bates said. “One by one by one, we’ll shave those edges.”