Lady Rams cruise to state championship

Kevin Wilson

ROSWELL — A Portales-Lovington volleyball match to end all Portales-Lovington volleyball matches never materialized.
Seniors Erika Cook and Kelly Parkey led the way with eight kills each, and Portales capped off another Class 3A state title season — its third in the last four seasons — with a convincing 25-20, 25-20, 25-13 sweep over District 4-3A rival Lovington Saturday night at Goddard High School.
Lovington took Portales (14-10) to five games in their previous meeting for the District 4-3A championship, but the Lady Rams took control early in the first and second games with runs of 9-1 and 10-2, respectively.
“We knew that Lovington played good,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said. “We beat them in three games, then four games, then five games.
“We knew they were going to play well, so we knew we’d have to play the game of our life to beat them.”
They did just that, never trailing by more than three at any point in the match. Lovington rallied a few times, tying the second game up 18-18 on a Jesika Jameson kill, but Portales put away that game with a 7-2 burst and never trailed in the third game.
Senior Amy Truelock, who served through part of a 13-4 run in the third game that put the match away, was sure the Portales season would end exactly as it did, with her and her teammates mobbing the court at Goddard, one of several higher-classification schools the Lady Rams faced in pre-district play.
“I think it makes us a stronger team, starting out playing tougher competition,” Truelock said. “We knew all along we were going to end up here. We knew that we were the best.”
Portales has been able to make that claim often in recent years — St. Michael’s defeated Portales in four games last year.
During that span, the Lady Rams saw the retirement of legendary coach Brenda Stockton, who ended a three-decade coaching career with her third state title with Portales. Chavez is 40-32 since taking over for Stockton three seasons ago, but has already won a pair of state titles and finished second.
“Our record wasn’t really pretty, but today is all that matters,” Chavez said.
On the other end of the spectrum, Lovington’s lack of experience in the state tournament showed. Lovington coach Melissa Frazier played five years for then-Tatum (and current Roswell) coach Bryan Masse and was part of four-straight runnerup teams from 1982-85.
In the Goddard lobby, Frazier watched highlights of the match her team had just lost on a projection screen. Holding the red trophy, emblematic of the second-place finish, she didn’t want a 16-win season to be remembered only by loss No. 10.
“It’s been a successful season in my eyes,” Frazier said. “I’m not narrowing it down to tonight.”
The Lady Wildcats had rallied just to be there, knocking off top-ranked Hot Springs in regionals, then recovering from a 2-1 game deficit in the semifinals against Robertson.
“Yesterday was a big game and we stepped up,” Frazier said of Friday’s semifinal, which saw them trail 6-0 in the fourth game, “so I don’t know. As a coach you might look back and think ‘What could I have done?’ I think we just played too timidly.”

Friday
Portales 3, West Las Vegas 2
The Lady Rams were again the bane of the Lady Dons, as Portales rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to advance to the state title match.
In its last three state tournament appearances, West Las Vegas (17-7) has seen its season end at the hands of Portales.
The Lady Dons nearly swept Portales, but a block by sophomore Megan Kabrick and a Parkey kill sparked a game-ending 3-0 spurt to force a fourth game.
“I just though we came out focused and determined (after that),” Chavez said. “We started hitting the ball at them.”
Momentum took over from that point, as Portales never trailed by more than one in either of the next two games.
“We stopped playing consistently,” Lady Dons coach Dawn C’ de Baca said. “They played a little more aggressive than us and we had a few that just didn’t step up when they needed to.”
West Las Vegas took a serious hit going into regionals, when a pair of players quit the team in a dispute over playing time.
“We’re not going to make any excuses for it,” C’ de Baca said. “It was a very selfish move and I’m not going to jeopardize the integrity of my team as a coach.”