By Kevin Wilson
Volleyball is a game of momentum — enough momentum to decide whether Erika Cook has a championship-winning kill off the hands of Jesika Jameson, or if it’s the other way around.
It’s a game of joy — enough joy that a quick set can make a sophomore lose track of the fact that she is playing out of her mind in the most important volleyball match of her life.
In the span of two hours, the Portales Lady Rams went from favorites to underdogs — and back — before Cook’s sixth kill deflected out of bounds off Jameson’s hands to cap a 23-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23, 15-12 victory over Lovington in the District 4-3A championship Saturday at Portales High School.
Portales (11-10) remains at home after winning its seventh-straight district title, and will face Grants on Saturday in one of four Class 3A regional championship matches. The match is tentatively set for 7 p.m.
Lovington (14-9) will face District 3-3A champion Hot Springs on Saturday.
Winners advance to the 3A state tournament, Nov. 14-15 in Roswell.
The visiting Lady Wildcats had Portales on the verge of defeat several times, but the Lady Rams were never gave in.
“We tried to leave our doubt behind long ago; I didn’t feel like we had doubts,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said. “Every time we were in the huddle, they were like, ‘We’ve worked too hard for this.’”
A similar thought, but different outcome, could be found outside the Lovington locker room. Melissa Frazier, who has been with her roster as both a junior varsity coach last year and as the varsity coach this season, fought her own emotions when talking about her squad.
“In my eyes, they’re champions,” Frazier said, fighting off the tears. “They worked so hard. This is the best game they’ve played as a group all year.”
Portales battled back from a 1-0 and 2-1 game deficit, with seniors Cook and Kelly Parkey helping sophomore Morgan Hill attack the Lovington defense.
Hill, a 5-10 middle blocker in her first season on the varsity, finished with a team-high 13 kills, several coming on a quick set the Lady Rams call the “1.”
“It’s my favorite one, I love it,” Hill said. “You can go up, really get all of your momentum going and then slam it really quick.”
Chavez was more than willing to go to her and younger players in crucial moments — sophomore Marissa Terry was called on to serve what would be the match point — without fear.
“I don’t think about their age when they’re out there,” Chavez said. “When you come up young, you step it up. You don’t wait for your senior year.
“We have confidence in everyone, even those who come off the bench.”
Kimberly Choate led Lovington’s effort with 14 kills and three service aces.