By Eric Butler: Freedom Newspapers
In four years of playing volleyball at Portales High, recent graduates Megan Kabrick and Morgan Hill showed they had all the natural physical gifts to play the sport. In their second of two championships, a knock-down, drag-out battle with Pojoaque in the 2005 Class 3A title game, Kabrick and Hill showed they also had the grit.
With the talented tall ones now gone, along with their athleticism and determination, the Lady Rams naturally will struggle in their absence, right?
Not so fast my friend, might be the response from Portales coach Ruth Chavez.
Though Chavez will be without Kabrick, the 3A player of the year, and Hill, a 6-foot-1 force in the middle — as well as setter Ashleah Richards and outside hitter Tara Johnson — there’s still plenty of hope that the Lady Rams have a chance at successfully defending their state championship.
“We’ve got three good, big hitters; I knew they were there,” said Chavez, comfortable in the thought that she did have replacements in the wings. “We try to prepare to where we don’t have to rebuild. We want to try to keep on rolling.”
Junior Bethany Self will now have an increased role on the front line for the Lady Rams. Senior Briana Hernandez is also a solid hitter from the outside despite being just 5-5.
Chavez said that 5-10 Jordan Roehl, a junior outside hitter and middle blocker, should also be a key player on the varsity after spending most of her time on the JV a year ago. Another newcomer who could make an impact is 5-8 outside hitter Vicki Huber.
“We’re big, believe it or not,” Chavez said. “Bethany is 6-1 and it looks like she’s grown. And Jordan Roehl is big also. Briana is a big hitter (and) she can really jump, too.”
Dallas Russell, a sophomore, will be a primary setter for Portales this year — reprising a role she shared last year. The Lady Rams, however, won’t have their accustomed help at that position because Richards graduated and Johnson, also a sophomore, tore an ACL playing basketball at the end of June.
Russell’s older sister Montana, a senior, is one of the returnees on the back row. Tori Teague, Amanda Terry and Morgan Erf will combine with Montana Russell to give the Lady Rams a senior-laden crew on defense.
“Our entire defense is back, which is awesome,” Chavez said. “Defensively, we’re sound. They have been working together for three years now.”
As for the intangibles that help teams pull out five-game state championship victories, the Portales coach said her current group still has that too.
“Our kids are fighters,” Chavez said. “We’re going to miss (Kabrick and Hill), for sure, but these kids work hard and they have the same dream — they want another state championship.”