Lady Rams anxious to begin defense of Class 3A state title

By Dave Wagner

The Portales Lady Rams hope it’s the team at the end of the season which shows up at this week’s Class 3A state volleyball tournament, not the one which went 6-15 during the entire regular season.
The defending 3A state champions enter the three-day competition beginning Thursday at Albuquerque’s Manzano High School with the only losing record in the field. Yet, they’re glad to be there and think they can make some noise.
“I’m excited just to be able to step up and try to win a state championship,” junior defensive specialist Rebekah Gonzales said. “In the (matches) against the tough teams, we learned what we needed to work on and that’s what’s helped us get to state.”
Portales has won three of the last four state titles, finishing second in 2002. The Lady Rams are in Pool B and will face Hot Springs (11-6), West Las Vegas (19-2) and Thoreau (11-9) in two-game matches which will seed the teams, based on games won, for Thursday’s quarterfinal bracket play.
Pool A includes Ruidoso (16-3), Shiprock (16-5), Santa Fe St. Michael’s (9-5) and Soccoro (11-11). Semifinals will be on Friday at Manzano, with the championship match at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Johnson Gym on the University of New Mexico campus.
Portales hasn’t played since losing a competitive 3-0 match at Ruidoso in the District 4-3A tournament finals on Oct. 30.
“We knew we’d have to push hard to grow and mature some of our players,” coach Ruth Chavez said. “We finished out real good at Ruidoso; those games were close.
“I don’t really think records are a big deal right now. It’s a brand new season for everybody, and when you get down to that level people don’t always play well.”
Certainly, the Lady Rams aren’t concerned with records at this point.
“We just have this mindset right now that we’re going to go out and get it done,” said junior outside hitter Megan Kabrick, one of four returnees from last year’s state squad. “Our practices have been so good lately.”
Chavez said it’s hard to say how the layoff from match competition will affect her squad, but Kabrick said the players are ready to go.
“We just want to get out there and keep on playing,” she said. “We’re just anxious to get there.”
With their record, the Lady Rams figure they’re going in as underdogs.
“We don’t have any expectations (on us),” Gonzales said. “But we have expectations for ourselves — to win state … and beat Ruidoso.”
Chavez said the Lady Rams have been well-parpared by a schedule consisting mainly of Class 4A and 5A teams, plus quality 3A squads such as Ruidoso and West Las Vegas.
“Nobody knows what we have in store,” she said. “I think our best volleyball is still to come.”
As far as Kabrick is concerned, everybody is 0-0 at this point.
“That (6-15) record doesn’t count; it’s in the past,” she said. “It’s a whole new season starting Thursday.”

Class 3A State Tournament
Thursday’s pool play
Two-game matches
At Albuquerque Manzano H.S.
Pool A (Court No. 1) —
Shiprock (16-8) vs. St. Michael’s (9-5), 8 a.m.; Socorro (11-11) vs. Ruidoso (16-3), 8:30 a.m.; Shiprock vs. Socorro, 9 a.m.; St. Michael’s vs. Ruidoso, 9:30 a.m.; Shiprock vs. Ruidoso, 10 a.m.; Socorro vs. St. Michael’s, 10:30 a.m.
Pool B (Court No. 2) — Thoreau (11-9) vs. West Las Vegas (19-2), 8 a.m.; Hot Springs (11-6) vs. Portales (6-15), 8:30 a.m.; Thoreau vs. Hot Springs, 9 a.m.; West Las Vegas vs. Portales, 9:30 a.m.; Thoreau vs. Portales, 10 a.m.; Hot Springs vs. West Las Vegas, 10:30 a.m.
Bracket play
At Manzano H.S.
Thursday’s quarterfinals
Pool A 2nd vs. Pool B 3rd, 1:30 p.m.; Pool B 1st vs. Pool A 4th, 3:30 p.m.; Pool B 2nd vs. Pool A 3rd, 5:30 p.m.; Pool A 1st vs. Pool B 4th, 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s semifinals
1:30 p.m. Thursday winner vs. 3:30 p.m. Thursday winner, 5 p.m.; 5:30 p.m. Thursday winner vs. 7:30 p.m. Thursday winner, 7 p.m.
Saturday’s finals
11 a.m. (at UNM’s Johnson Gym)