Portales blows past Ruidoso for district title

By Dave Wagner

CMI sports writer

dwagner@cnjonline.com

The Portales Lady Rams expect to get one of the top two seeds in next week’s Class 3A state volleyball tournament at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center.

If they play like they did on Thursday night at the Ram Athletic Center, they could well be in the title hunt.

Five days after beating Ruidoso with a so-so outing in the regular-season finale, the Lady Rams dominated start to finish en route to a 25-8, 25-18, 25-9 dismantling of the Lady Warriors in a match completed in well under an hour.

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Tony Bullocks: CMI photo
Portales junior Brooke Lopez, left, preepares to serve in Thursday’s District 4-3A tournament championship match against Ruidoso as PHS sophomore Sheraya Cox, front, and teammates break from their serve formation at the Ram Athletic Center. The Lady Rams breezed to the championship with a 25-8, 25-18, 25-9 thumping of the Lady Warriors.

Senior outside hitter Kristen Wagner collected 19 kills, 11 digs, five aces and two blocks in the runaway. She said the Lady Rams (16-5) were expecting to face Ruidoso (10-11), which played competitively in a four-set loss last weekend at the RAC and eliminated Lovington 25-15, 25-17, 25-18 at home in Tuesday’s semifinal.

“We’ve been preparing for them,” said Wagner, who injured an ankle late in Saturday’s match but said she felt close to 100 percent for this one. “When we stepped on the floor tonight we were focused, and we executed.”

The Lady Warriors had a chance to make a match of it for a while in the second set, but never led by more than a point. Wagner’s tip-kill created a side-out a 17-17, and PHS ran off eight of the final nine points.

“At 17, I just felt like we really took control of the match,” Lady Rams coach Ruth Chavez said. “The last time (on Saturday), we had errors we normally don’t have.

“We played our game this time, and when Kristen starts hitting like that, it’s pretty tough (to beat).”

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CMI staff photo: Tony Bullocks
Portales senior Kristen Wagner gets one of her 19 kills over Ruidoso sophomore Andi Harrelson during Thursday’s District 4-5 Thursday night’s game at the RAC.

Ruidoso managed only one block in Thursday’s match, and no aces compared to 13 for Portales. Senior outside hitter Marikka Temple led the Lady Warriors in kills with six.

Wagner and Chavez agreed the rout was due more to Portales’ strong play than what Ruidoso did.

“Ruidoso is the kind of team, when they get up and have momentum and energy they’re tough,” Wagner said. “We just let them get in our heads too much (on Saturday).”

She said it hadn’t dawned on her that much that Thursday’s match was her last at home.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I’m not necessarily said because my focus is elsewhere (state tournament) and this isn’t the end.”

The Lady Rams, who often enter the state meet with a .500-or-below record, haven’t lost to a 3A school this year and they have some quality wins over good opponents.

“I just feel like we’ve played a tough schedule and done well,” Chavez said. “We’ve come a long way this year.”

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