By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
With a little blip in the middle, the Portales Lady Rams did on Saturday what they usually do — win the District 4-3A regular-season volleyball championship.
Of more concern, though, was an ankle injury sustained by senior outside hitter Kristen Wagner midway through the fourth set of their 25-21, 14-25, 25-19, 25-23 win at the RAC. The Lady Rams (15-5, 4-0 district) finished it out without her, and learned later that the injury wasn’t as severe as it might have been.
Wagner, who had 16 kills, 17 digs and a pair of blocks, should be ready when PHS hosts Tuesday’s Lovington-Ruidoso winner in the district tournament finals at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Portales led 9-2 in the fourth set when Wagner inadvertently stepped on the foot of a Ruidoso player as they battled near the net. The Lady Warriors (9-10, 2-2) rallied to take a couple of one-point leads, but the Lady Rams finally ended it a kill by senior Simone Laurenz on match point.
“I was proud of the way we came back after Kristen went out,” said PHS coach Ruth Chavez, whose team claimed the district title for the 11th time in her 13 seasons.
Portales struggled a bit to finish off the first set, then fell behind 14-8 when the Lady Warriors ran off seven consecutive points in the second, highlighted by three of freshman middle blocker Liz Mosher’s match-high six blocks.
“They were good on blocking today; they keyed in on our big hitters,” said Lady Rams senior outside hitter Savannah Vincent, who was second in the match to Wagner with eight kills. “They just had it in their minds that they were going to get us.”
Overall, the Lady Warriors had nine blocks.
“They blocked well on us,” Chavez said. “We just didn’t pass as well as I’d hoped we would.
“We struggled a little hitting into their block (and they were) able to force us into some errors.”
Ruidoso that momentum into the third set, building a 9-5 lead before sophomore Bailey Rowley’s block helped PHS turn the momentum. The Lady Rams went on a 16-5 run to take control of the set, then weathered the loss of Wagner to finish it off in four.
“I think when she (Wagner) went out, we just said, ‘We’re going to finish this,” Vincent said.
She added that communication on the court was a key.
“We just started talking,” Vincent said. “Talking is big, honestly, on the court. We started seeing the holes (in Ruidoso’s defense).”
Senior setter Pari Cox also had a double-double for the Lady Rams with 14 digs and 21 assists, while Laurenz finished with five kills, 24 digs and a match-high five aces.
Ruidoso had four players with at least five kills, led by senior outside hitter Marikka Temple with seven.