By Eric Butler, Freedom Correspondent
CLOVIS — If Saturday night’s championship of the Clovis volleyball tournament were a card game, the visitors showed an impressive hand early.
But Clovis had some good hands too, both on defense and offense, and the host Wildcats dealt out an 18-25, 25-12, 25-12, 25-12 victory over Portales to win their own invitational for a second year in a row.
After watching Portales (3-1) impressively take the first game, Clovis (3-1) got its offense in gear — particularly around junior Lainey Flatow and sophomore Antiesha Brown. Flatow, the tournament MVP, scored 21 kills for the match after registering only one in the opening game.
“I didn’t look at the (stats) chart, but I know she was over 20 kills. She had 22 or 24 the first night (vs. Tatum), the same the next ballgame (vs. St. Michael’s, in the semifinals),” Clovis coach Darrel Ray said. “When you’re talking in the 20s in kills, you’re talking about some good play.”
An 8-0 run by Clovis at the start of the second game, behind the serving of setter Meagan Baglein, propelled the Wildcats in a different direction. Brown was able to hang in the air and find the open spots in the Portales defense, had two kills in the run to go with one from Flatow and another from senior Haleigh Marshall as the ‘Cats jumped out to a 9-1 lead.
Brown, Flatow and Marshall also played well in the fifth game of the semifinal victory over the Lady Horsemen earlier in the day.
“We paid a lot of dues last year training a freshman, but you can see why we spent so much time with her,” said Ray of Brown. “It’s showing up now in a big, big way.”
“We got off to a slow start, but we picked it up,” Brown said.
Jasmine McDonald, Clovis’ other middle, was selected to the all-tournament team and garnered nine kills in the victory over Portales.
With Clovis up 6-5 in the third, kills by Brown and McDonald kicked off an 8-1 run to give the hosts control of that game. In the fourth, the Wildcats got the first five points as Flatow and Brown had two kills apiece in the early streak.
Arquitia Jernigan, a junior for Clovis, contributed with five kils while setter Baglein got in on the scoring action by getting a pair of kills and a pair of blocks.
For Portales, the team leader in kills was senior Bethany Self as the 6-foot-1 outside hitter got 11 overall. However, Self scored six of those in the first game — when the Rams’ offense was at its best. In the opening game, with the game tied at 10-10, Self got consecutive kills to give her team the lead for good.
Portales, which had nine kills from Jordan Roehl in the loss to Clovis, earlier beat Hobbs for the second time this season in a four-game semifinal.
After the championship match, Portales coach Ruth Chavez admitted her team looked pretty good in the first game — before the Clovis defense shut off the Rams’ offense.
“Scary good,” Chavez said. “It’s hard to understand what happened, but I guess it’s a learning experience. We’re gonna all be looking at the film.”