By Kevin Wilson
After playing volleyball on a collegiate and international level, it could be understood if high school players were unimpressive to Ruth Lowanson.
However, that wasn’t the case as the incoming head coach of Angelo State University started the first day of the annual Portales Ram Volleyball Camp.
“I think these girls are really good on skills,” Lawanson said, “but that is somewhat because of the success here.”
The court where Lawanson will teach fundamentals through Saturday is the same court that hosts home games for Portales, which has won Class 3A state volleyball championships in three of the last five seasons.
Portales coach Ruth Chavez, who has been head coach for two of those titles and was an assistant for the other, is hopeful for another solid campaign. Portales returns eight players from last season’s squad — Stefanie Sharrock, Rachelle Self and Tana Prewett graduated while Whitney Miller will be attending school in Clovis.
Chavez opted to let Lawanson take control of the camp, featuring many players who will competing to make a Portales volleyball squad of some kind — whether varsity, junior varsity or freshman.
“I had some time to visit with (Lawanson and her staff) and tell her where we are and what we need,” Chavez said. “I’m impressed. They’re very serious about volleyball.”
Coming in, Lawanson’s resume was enough to impress Chavez. A three-time volleyball MVP for Fresno State (1982-84), she set season records for kills (488) and service aces (55) and a career record for kills (962). She was the first female athlete to have her jersey retired at Fresno State and was a member of the bronze-medal winning U.S. Olympic volleyball team in 1992.
A question she normally asks at high school camps — Lawanson arrived from California, fresh off 10 days of volleyball camps there — is if anybody in the camp intends to play college volleyball. She tells those that raise their hands that college volleyball is an option for all of them.
“You just have to find the best fit for you,” Lawanson said. “Not everybody can play Division-I, but there are some really good Division-II schools and there are some really good Division-III schools. They also have to do their work in the classroom to even get a chance to look at those schools.”
Lawanson said she is trying to add a mental aspect of the game to go in line with the physical activities.
“You put them in drills where they have to get a certain number or so many in a row,” Lawanson said, “and they can’t get out of the drill until they’re done with that.”
Having Lawanson at the camp could be beneficial for Chavez and Portales for another reason — the libero. The libero, present in college and set to be introduced in high school play this season, is a designated defensive player who does not count against a coach’s 18 substitutions per game.
Portales will open its season Aug. 26-27 at the Wildcat Invitational in Clovis.