By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
The Portales Lady Rams are looking to end a five-year “drought” when it comes to Class 3A state volleyball championships this weekend.
The Elida Lady Tigers, meantime, are hoping to extend their Class B title run to four.
Pool play is scheduled today in all classes at Rio Rancho. In 3A at the Santa Ana Star Center, the second-seeded Lady Rams (16-5) take the court at 1 p.m. to face 10th-seeded Las Vegas Robertson (8-12), then after Robertson plays No. 7 Sandia Prep (11-11) the Lady Rams clash with the Sundevils.
The top four seeds after pool play have byes through Thursday’s first-round bracket matches, with quarterfinals and semifinals on tap Friday and the championship match set for 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Coach Ruth Chavez has led PHS to eight 3A championship-match berths in 12 years at the helm, with titles in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Portales is seeded just behind Hope Christian, although Chavez said the roles could have been reversed.
“I think our strength of schedule is probably higher than anyone else, but that’s not the (seeding) criteria,” she said. “Their record (Hope is 19-2) is better than ours, so we are where we are.”
Hope’s losses were back-to-back in midseason to Class 5A schools Cibola, seeded second in that tournament, and La Cueva, seeded fifth.
The Lady Rams have one of the top hitters in 3A in Kristen Wagner, who had 19 kills in a three-game sweep of Ruidoso in last weekend’s District 4-3A tourney finals.
“We’ve got a strong team, but Kristen is a dominant player,” Chavez said. “It’s exciting to have her on our team. She’s probably the best player in 3A and one of the best in New Mexico, and she’s also a great leader.”
Portales has plenty of experience overall with eight seniors, the most Chavez has had since her first season. A ninth senior, Kacie Terry, has missed the season after sustaining a knee injury playing basketball in June.
Chavez said the Lady Rams have as good a chance of winning it as anybody.
“It’s a state tournament; anything can happen,” she said. “But I think if we’re strong and play our best, we can win this.”
Elida (20-1) is probably an odds-on favorite in Class B. The top-seeded Lady Tigers match up in pool play with eighth-seeded Evangel Christian (16-4), fifth-seeded Mosquero (10-6) and fourth-seeded Santa Fe Waldorf (18-3), starting at 1 p.m. today at Rio Rancho H.S.
Quarterfinals will be Friday morning at Rio Rancho Cleveland H.S. before the tourney moves over to the Star Center for semifinals on Friday night and the championship at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“Pool play will shake everything out the way it should be for the most part,” Elida coach Darrell Chenault said. “I kind of like pool play because it gets you over the jitters; it’s not devastating if you have a bad game.”
Chenault thinks second-seeded Carrizozo (20-1) could provide the biggest challenge.
“I know Carrizozo’s extremely tough,” Chenault said. “They’re a top-notch program and I expect them to be ready to go.”