By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
In high school volleyball, 22 wins say a lot about a team. In Portales’ case, three losses said just as much.
After Portales survived five-game battles against St. Michael’s and Pojoaque to claim its fourth Class 3A title in six years, it could be said those three losses that came along the way played a huge part in Portales getting the three wins it needed in Albuquerque.
“Win or loss, the journey is what gets you there,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said Monday with the state trophy still on her desk, waiting to be displayed with other trophies in the office. “Sometimes the losses are the reasons you get the big one.”
In Portales’ case, the three obstacles came in three different circumstances. Portales took an early loss against El Paso Bel Air in August’s Wildcat Invitational, knocking the team to 1-1 on the season.
“The loss against Bel Air was just a wake-up call to where we were and what we had to do,” Chavez said.
Portales’ two losses to New Mexico teams came to Class 1A champion Tatum and Class 4A semifinalist Roswell.
Normally a loss to a 1A team is a negative experience, but that wasn’t the case with a Coyote squad that dominated in all classes. Tatum defeated Portales on Sept. 3, 25-20, 25-17, 25-20.
“That team was just tough,” Chavez said. “They gave us a battle. We were happy to be in the 20s.”
Tatum went 27-0 on the season and swept its first 26 opponents. Before Saturday’s 1A title match, which saw the Coyotes beat Jal in five games, Tatum coach Mike Majors said Portales helped his team as well.
“They were easily the best team we played against all year,” Majors said of Portales. “You never knew where the ball was coming from.”
The final loss Portales had came at Roswell, which was eliminated in the semifinals by Kirtland Central. Portales and Roswell played twice in the season. On Aug. 30, Roswell had a two-game lead and saw Portales win the next three. On Sept. 20, Roswell swept Portales and the rest of the state saw Portales win its final 13 matches.
“That was one of the best things that happened to us,” Chavez said. “We realized we could be beaten. We didn’t lose from that point on, and that was the end of it.”
Though the blue trophy from 2005 has yet to be placed on a shelf, Chavez is hoping to get another to match it in 2006. On paper, Pojoaque is likely next year’s Class 3A favorite with only one senior on the 2005 roster, while Portales loses four.
Chavez does expect Pojoaque to be playing for the state title again next year — she joked that she told Elkettes coach Brian Ainsworth she’d see him “same time, same place next year” after Saturday’s match.
“I don’t think they’ll be any more favored (than us),” Chavez said. “We’ve got some really, really strong players coming back.”
Thanks to Portales’ lofty record this season, Chavez improved to 73-51 for her career after hovering around the .500 mark for her first four years.