By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
It’s a different feeling for Portales junior Morgan Erf to be a libero. It’s a different feeling for her and her Portales teammates by winning so much so early.
A sweep Tuesday night at Goddard pushed Portales to 9-2 on the season, unfamiliar territory for Portales coach Ruth Chavez. Chavez’ teams had never been more than four games over .500 in her first four years as Portales coach, but the teams have consistently peaked late and played in three state title matches.
Just because the former is different doesn’t mean the latter should follow suit, Chavez said after Wednesday’s practice.
“I think we’ll get a lot better because I can see room for improvement,” Chavez said. “We don’t play the perfect game. We have to work on getting better starts.”
That was the case Tuesday, as Portales was pummelled in the first game against the host Lady Rockets. The team went on to win 12-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-19. Chavez said she’d like to not see the team lose an early game like that at the state tournament, where a one-game deficit can feel much larger.
Late in matches, Chavez feels confident because of the team conditioning they do at the conclusion of every practice.
“We see a lot of teams in Game 3, they have no legs left,” Chavez said. “I tell the girls conditioning gets us through tough games.”
Portales will have plenty of time to work on conditioning or anything else, as the team is idle until Tuesday’s non-district match at Roswell High.
Something else that has helped is usage of the libero position, currently filled by Erf. As the libero, Erf is not allowed to serve, kill, set or attempt to block. The advantage is that the libero, designated by a different-colored jersey, does not count against a team’s 18 substitutions per game.
Erf said that she’ll get questions from people after matches who have not yet learned about the libero position — Erf said they ask if she forgot her normal jersey and had to borrow a different one from her coach.
Other than that, there are few complaints on the season so far.
“I think we’re finally clicking as a team,” Erf said. Everybody’s talking and staying together and keeping each other up.”
It’s part of a focus to return back to the state championship match and win it after losing in the semifinals last season.
“They’re focused on a state championship,” Chavez said. “They work hard to correct anything that’s a problem for them. If they’re struggling somewhere, they come back and really work at it.”