Portales two wins away from another state title

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

ALBUQUERQUE — Apparently, Bethany Self makes an appreciable difference in the Portales Lady Rams’ lineup.

Held out of Wednesday’s pool play after sustaining a strained right MCL in last week’s District 4-3A tournament championship loss to Ruidoso, the 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter returned with a vengeance on Thursday.

After helping the Lady Rams dispose of Laguna-Acoma in a Class 3A state first-round match, Self pounded out 27 kills later in the day as Portales disposed of Hope Christian 25-19, 25-19, 24-26, 25-13 at Tingley Coliseum.

Wearing a brace to protect the knee, Self showed little if any adverse affects of the injury.

Without her, Portales went just 3-7 in games on Wednesday and finished last in its pool.

“I have to get used to the brace, but I’ll be fine,” Self said. “I just wanted to play. I didn’t really worry about it.”

Junior outside hitter Jordan Roehl added 10 kills and senior outside hitter Briana Hernandez added nine for the Lady Rams (15-6), who take on Pojoaque in a 4 p.m. semifinal match today.

Portales won its fourth 3A state title in six years last spring by edging the Elkettes in five games.

“We’re definitely going to have to play good, but I know we can do it,” Self said. “I think everybody played really good tonight.”

Portales trailed only briefly in the first game, and eventually opened a couple of nine-point margins before subduing the Lady Huskies (13-8). Self then collected 10 of her kills in the second game to help the Lady Rams overcome a 15-10 deficit.

“We went without her in pool play to give her an extra day to rest,” PHS coach Ruth Chavez said. “She came back this morning and just made a big difference. Beth just took it to them.”

Hope Christian, which got 15 kills from senior strong-side hitter Michelle McNeil, squeaked out a win in the third game but quickly fell behind in the finale. Senior Montana Russell’s kill earned a point and a side-out before her sister, sophomore Dallas Russell, took over at the service line and helped the Lady Rams run off seven more points — two on aces — for a 19-7 cushion.

“I have to give our defense credit — they’re really tough,” Chavez said. “I was really proud of how the girls came back (in Game 4). They just took it to them, and that’s what you have to have.”

Chavez said her team expects a stiff challenge from Pojoaque.

“Tomorrow should be a heck of a (match),” she said. “Pojoaque’s a heck of a team, but I think we’re ready for them.”