By Kevin Wilson
Experience helps in a match where everything is at stake. So does being at home.
Playing better than the opponent is better than all of those things, though, and the Portales High volleyball team did just that Saturday with a state tournament berth on the line.
Portales (12-10) swept past Grants in Saturday’s Class 3A regional, 25-13, 25-17, 25-21. The Lady Rams will next play against West Las Vegas in a 1 p.m. Friday match at Roswell High School to open the Class 3A state tournament.
The visiting Lady Pirates (12-11) put together a few big rallies and even led Portales 19-14 in the third game, but could never take control at any point.
“Portales is tough and I give them all the credit in the world,” Grants coach Audrey Dominguez said. “We were a little off, but I will not take anything away from Portales.”
Dominguez credited Portales’ victory to better passing and solid play from the Lady Ram middle blockers. Megan Kabrick had 10 kills to lead Portales, and her teammates got several opportunities after the Lady Pirates set up a double block to stop her.
It became a “pick your poison” situation for Grants, a situation Portales doesn’t mind creating. Senior Kelly Parkey was often a fourth option on the night behind Kabrick, Morgan Hill and Erika Cook (six kills), but she didn’t mind waiting for her chance.
“I always feel good, whether I get a hit or when my teammates get a good hit,” Parkey said. “I think we can all do the job.
“We didn’t go in scared and nervous. We just played like we knew we could.”
Grants never led in either of the first two games, then held a lead for most of the third game. The Lady Pirates led 19-14 at one point in the third, but a kill by Hill started a match-ending 10-2 run.
“We saw their weaknesses and a lot of open spots on the floor,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said. “Even though we were down, we knew we could come back and take advantage of their weaknesses.”
The senior-laden Lady Rams were used to the pressure of tournament play, as the team has been to the state title match three-straight years. However, Chavez thought the newer varsity members contributed just as much.
“I think some of our younger kids did fine,” Chavez said. “Experience always helps, but we had some of younger ones do OK. “