By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer
The Portales Lady Ram volleyball team begins their quest for a fifth state championship in seven years tonight as they travel to Hobbs for their 2006 season opener. Portales hits the court with most of their defending class 3A state championship team intact.
“We only lost two seniors to graduation last year, and we’re coming back with our entire defensive line as a unit,” head coach Ruth Chavez said.
Chavez also likes the Lady Rams size this season, pointing out hitters Bethany Self and Jordan Roehl both of whom tower near the net and should also be valuable defensive assets.
One of the anchors of that defensive lineup is senior defensive specialist Ella Erf. “We’ve worked really hard throughout the summer to get into game condition, and we’re ready for this first game,” Erf said. Tonight’s game will be the first time the Lady Rams have hit the court since hoisting the blue trophy last November.
Coach Chavez hopes this first match of the season will bear some fruit.
“I want to see a good solid performance, of course, with the first game action of the season, Chavez said. There will be plenty of room for improvement but I want to see how the girls perform in a real game situation, how they handle the pressure.”
Pressure is certainly something that both Chavez and the Portales girls have dealt with in season’s past, with four state championships in the 21st century.
“We try to put them in those tight situations in practice, we work the pressure,” Chavez says.
As usually happens, the Portales girls success in recent years has put a target on their back, but as Erf relates, the girls are used to it, and use it to their advantage.
“We know that everybody will be coming for us, but we just need to take it game by game, and make sure we improve everytime we go out there,” Erf said.
Tonight’s season opener at Hobbs will be followed by the annual Clovis volleyball tournament Friday and Saturday, Aug. 25-26. The Lady Rams head to Roswell High on Aug. 29, before their home opener on Sept. 2 against Artesia.