By Mickey Winfield: CNJ staff writer
David marched right into the heart of the enemy, raised her sling shot — took aim, and fired a deadly shot right between the eyes of Goliath, Saturday night at the Portales High School gymnasium.
The Portales girls won both matches against Ruidoso during the district regular season, going a perfect 6-0 in district, but the Lady Warriors shocked a packed Portales gymnasium beating the Lady Rams three games to one; 25-21, 27-25, 20-25, 25-19, to win the District 4-3A championship.
“This is big,” Ruidoso head coach Steve Brown said. “I told coach Chavez before the district season started, that I thought this was a four-act play between the two teams, and this was just act three. I think we still have another match to play next week (in the state tournament).
“We knew they were going to come out like that,” Portales head coach Ruth Chavez said. “They played like that every time we played them, so we knew, we let that first game get us. We just had to pull from behind too much. They got too good of a lead on us, and they were playing well. I just think we were surprised that we didn’t step up and play like we can.”
The Lady Rams took a quick 7-3 lead in the first game, the Ruidoso girls took their first lead of the night, grabbing nine of the next 12 points. The Lady Warriors held on to their first game lead with great net play from Amanda Gardner. Gardner blocked several Portales hits, to give Ruidoso a 21-16 lead. The Lady Rams took five of the last seven points but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Warriors took the first game 25-21.
Early in the second game, the Ruidoso girls seemed ready to dominate once again, taking a fast 16-5 lead, headlined by three Haley Williams kills and a serving ace. Ruidoso held a 23-14 lead late in the second game, but the Lady Rams fought back, scoring 12 out of the next 13 points thanks to several Briana Hernandez kills, to tie the game at 25. Ruidoso won the next two points to win the second game 27-25.
The third game saw both teams catch an early run, with an 11-11 tie. Portales junior outside hitter Bethany Self left the third game with an apparent right knee injury, something the Portales girls seemed to use to play inspired volleyball, scoring seven consecutive points, and winning the third game 25-20.
Portales and Ruidoso found themselves tied once more midway through the fourth and decisive game, at 15-15, before the Lady Warriors scored 11 of the next 15 points, to win the third game 25-19, and with it, the district championship.
The Portales girls had nearly 10 days between their last district match at Lovington, and their district championship match, Chavez hopes the girls will use the loss to their benefit heading into state tournament pool play, beginning Wednesday afternoon in Albuquerque.
“It’s been a while since we’ve actually had a good game,” Chavez said. “We’ve been sitting around for a long time, I think it will make them see that no matter how long you have to wait, whatever, you have to play. Hopefully it will light a little fire under them.”