By Dave Wagner
It’s early, but Ashleah Richards figured it was about times for the Portales High volleyball team to get cranking.
The defending Class 3A state champions struggled at times Thursday night, but never relinquished control in posting a 25-14, 25-21, 22-25, 25-15 win over Artesia in their hope opener at the PHS gymnasium.
PHS (2-3) led most of the way before staggering to a third-game loss, but then recovered in time to close out the match.
“We haven’t had any confidence lately,” said Richards, the Lady Rams’ junior setter. “We’re really inexperienced, but the younger kids are gaining some confidence.
“Playing at home really helped us.”
Junior Megan Kabrick collected 11 kills, and junior Morgan Hill added seven kills and two blocks. Freshman Bethany Self chipped in five kills and two blocks, while Rebekah Gonzales and Morgan Erf each collected four of the Lady Rams’ 15 service aces.
“I thought Bethany Self had a good, solid night, both hitting and blocking,” PHS coach Ruth Chavez said. “And our setting was really good tonight.”
Except for a 1-1 tie at the start, Portales led all the way through the first two games. The Lady Rams then jumped in front 7-0 in the third game, but Artesia (0-2) responded with nine unanswered points and eventually built a five-point lead before holding on.
“We just have to learn how to finish games,” Chavez said. “The game we lost, we beat ourselves with our service-receive errors.”
The fourth game stayed close after Portales scored the first five points, but the Lady Bulldogs were never able to get closer than two points. PHS’ Whitney Miller got an ace off the net for a 24-14 lead, and Self’s kill finished off the final point.
“There were some things we needed to work on tonight,” said Artesia coach Bobby Bates, whose team dropped its opener to Carlsbad in five games on Tuesday. “It took us a while to settle down, but I liked more what I saw tonight.”
Senior Shelisa Madrid had eight kills and senior Adriana Gonzales added five kills and three blocks for Artesia. Senior defensive specialist Sherida Elkins notched four of the team’s seven aces.
“Adriana Gonzales got some things going for us tonight,” Bates said. “Finally, we got a little more enthusiasm on the court.
“(Portales has) a good tradition and a good program. By the time they get to their district, they’ll be a lot better team.”
The Lady Rams are idle for a week before taking part next weekend in a tournament at Roswell, where they finished fourth last year.
“We’re going to come out and work our butts off, and hopefully we can take that tournament,” Richards said.
PHS beat Artesia 25-13, 25-21 in the junior varsity preliminary.
Elida wins — The Elida Lady Tigers opened their season Thursday night with a 25-18, 25-15, 20-25, 25-15 victory at San Jon.
Elida coach Darrell Chenault said senior outside hitters Adrienne Coe and Amber Griffin had strong matches, and Griffin also served the ball well.
“She hits the ball pretty hard,” Chenault said of Griffin. “They didn’t return very many of them.”
In the junior high matchup, San Jon prevailed over Elida 21-25, 25-14, 15-9.
Lady Broncos fall — Junior Lori Richardson collected nine kills to lead unbeaten Texico to a 25-21, 25-16, 25-23 win over Floyd Thursday night.
Amber Parmer added four kills and three blocks for the Lady Spikers (3-0), who have two wins this season at the expense of the Lady Broncos (1-3).
Texico won the JV and junior high matches from Floyd, each in two games.