By Dave Wagner
Ruidoso coach Maria Bennett has earned a few state championships in her time, but she knows Saturday’s win against Portales High was an important one for her team.
Senior middle hitter Christine Brown pounded out 19 kills to help the Lady Warriors rally for a 19-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-21 District 4-3A victory at the PHS gym, all but assuring Ruidoso (15-3, 3-0 district) the regular season championship.
Before coming to Ruidoso in 2002, Bennett spent 25 years coaching Hot Springs High School in Truth or Consequences, leading the Lady Tigers to seven Class 2A and two Class 3A state crowns.
This is probably her best chance to be competitive at that level since coming to Ruidoso. And she knew, psychologically, Saturday’s win was big for her girls.
“We’ve never had much success over here,” Bennett said. “I could see it (early) in the girls’ faces. It’s something they’ve been wanting to do for a while.”
Portales (4-12, 1-2) took momentum late in the first game, erasing a six-point deficit with a game-ending 16-4 run. Junior Morgan Hill, who collected 18 kills and three blocks, had five kills in that stretch while junior setter Ashleah Richards finished it off by dumping a ball into Ruidoso’s court that fell between several players.
PHS coach Ruth Chavez took heart in grabbing a game from the Lady Warriors after getting swept earlier in Ruidoso.
“Our goal going in was to be better than we were the last time,” said Chavez, whose squad hosts Clovis on Tuesday before ending regular-season play at district rival Lovington on Saturday. “We still had our struggles, but we were better.”
Ruidoso dominated the second game to square the match, then fought off several Portales rallies in the final two sets behind Brown, who was devastating at the net at times.
Bennett said that while Brown uses her left hand almost exclusively in volleyball, she’s actually ambidextrous.
“She plays basketball and shoots right-handed, and she plays tennis right-handed,” the veteran coach noted. “Go figure.”
Bennett thinks her team has the makeup to do well in postseason.
“These kids don’t know when to quit,” she said. “They’re going to take a good shot at it.”
Junior Megan Kabrick notched 11 kills for the Lady Rams, while freshman Whitney Miller served three of the team’s nine aces.
In the junior varsity preliminary, PHS beat Ruidoso 25-16, 25-17.
Ruidoso 3, Portales 1
Ruidoso 19 25 25 25
Portales 25 13 19 21
Kills — Ruidoso, Christine Brown 19, Earvina Herrera 5, Samantha Serna 5, three tied with 4. Portales, Morgan Hill 18, Megan Kabrick 11, Ashleah Richards 6, Bethany Self 6. Blocks — Ruidoso, Amanda Gardner 3, Ashley Harkey 2, Brown 1. Portales, Hill 3. Aces — Ruidoso, Jeanette Zagone 3, five tied with 2. Portales, Whitney Miller 3, Amanda Terry 2, four tied with 1. Records — Ruidoso 15-3 (3-0), Portales 4-13 (1-2).