By Eric Butler: PNT Correspondent
Portales and Roswell hit the volleyball court Tuesday night wearing almost identical uniforms. In fact, the only difference between the squads — attired in red shirts and black shorts – was the “RHS” on the Coyotes’ jerseys.
By the end of the contest, the squads were also just as even on the scoreboard.
Portales (3-1), after losing the first two games, finally came back to take a 21-25, 19-25, 28-26, 25-18, 16-14 victory.
Tied at 14-14 in the final game, a kill attempt by Roswell junior Samantha Matta was called long to put the Rams at match point. On the next play, Portales senior Megan Kabrick pounded the last of her 12 kills to clinch the victory.
“We kind of lost our focus at first, but we came back — it was just determination,” said Portales junior Briana Hernandez, who added six kills from her outside hitting position.
Roswell (0-1), seeing its first action of the season, controlled play through the first two games behind the power of juniors Matta and Ingram. Matta finished with a match-high 13 kills while Ingram added seven kills and three blocks.
The Coyotes’ biggest weapon early may have been their serves. Roswell recorded 10 aces before Portales began its comeback.
In the third game, the Rams raced out to a 6-2 lead before giving away three straight points on long kill attempts. Those efforts, however, signaled a more aggressive attitude on the part of the Portales players.
Hernandez said the message of Rams’ coach Ruth Chavez in between games two and three was to swing away.
“She’s been telling us the whole time, but we just finally got it after awhile,” Hernandez said. “We’re thinking that, after the first kill we got, we can do it all over again.”
Trailing 20-17 in the third, Portales’ aggressiveness began to pay dividends as kill shots from Morgan Hill and Bethany Self helped the Rams tie at 20 apiece. It wasn’t, however, until shots from Kabrick and Self – with the score tied 26-26 – found the floor that Portales forced a fourth game.
Hill finished with 11 kills and a pair of blocks, while the sophomore Self added five.
“We need them (Hernandez and Self), because we can’t just rely on our middles. We’ve got to go outside,” Chavez said. “They both swing and hit hard.”
Portales will next play in Artesia this weekend in a round-robin competition that includes 1A powers Tatum and Fort Sumner as well as the host Bulldogs. Chavez said, after the Roswell win, that her team will play two matches, but didn’t know which two squads it would be.
Roswell will next play against Clovis, which had head coach Darrel Ray and assistant Andy Sweet attending the contest. Clovis heads to Roswell Thursday.
“I told (the Roswell players), ‘Darrel and Andy left after the second game. They thought it was over — so did you,’” Coyotes’ coach Bryan Masse said. “I don’t think we got it to (Matta) enough or to Kim Ingram in the middle. When we did, I think we were very successful.
“Portales is a good club too, so you have to give them credit. I mean, they definitely could have given up,” Masse added. “They were down two (games) and, in the third, they were down and were getting a little frustrated. They could have packed it up and said ‘Okay, this is over.’”