By Mickey Winfield: CNJ staff writer
Two of Portales’ starting seniors didn’t start playing the game of volleyball until their eighth-grade year, and in the next week, they’ll be called upon to help the Lady Rams win their fifth state championship in the last seven years.
Lady Ram seniors Ella Erf and Briana Hernandez both started playing volleyball as eighth-graders, something Hernandez seems particularly proud of.
“I was on the ‘B’ team,” Hernandez bragged. “I was a ‘B’ team player, and I got moved up to the ‘A’ team.
Both girls explained how they started playing volleyball.
“(Volleyball) seemed like it would be fun,” Erf said. “We were a really close-knit class, so we just kind of started out playing, and we learned to love it.”
“I didn’t really talk to a lot of (the other girls), I was really by myself a lot of the time,” Hernandez said. “But after awhile I got real close to them and I figured I would just play along with them and I could do it.”
Erf is a defensive specialist, while Hernandez is the lone senior on what has been a devastating Lady Ram front line.
“It gives us a lot of confidence in whatever else we do,” Hernandez said. “It builds our self esteem and we know that if we try hard, we can do anything.”
Erf and Hernandez are joined by seniors Tori Teague, Montana Russell and Amanda Terry.
“It seems like they’ve been a part of my team for a long time,” Portales coach Ruth Chavez said. “They are hard-working, dedicated, great leaders. They’ve been there through everything. All five of our seniors are probably the most amazing kids that I’ve ever coached. Not a one of them are selfish, they work hard, they’re good to each other, they’re good to their teammates, and they’re just the five most positive kids I’ve had. It’s going to be a hard loss for me.”
Erf, and Hernandez along with the other three seniors played on last year’s state championship team, and with this year’s trip to the state tournament already locked up, they all want to finish their high school volleyball careers with the Lady Rams on top again.
“We’re so used to winning state championships, it’s kind of hard to settle for less,” Hernandez said. “So, we’re just going to have to try our hardest, don’t let anything hit the floor and play our game, and we’ll do fine.”
The Lady Rams host the District 4-3A championship match Saturday night at Portales High School, the last volleyball match the girls will ever play at Portales High School.
“It’s going to be very sad for me,” Erf said.
“I’m real excited, It’ll be emotional but it’s been a real good experience,” Hernandez said.
After Saturday’s district championship, state tournament pool play begins Wednesday in Albuquerque, with the tournament continuing through the weekend.