The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Portales girls had uphill climb to state playoffs, literally


October 24, 2017

PORTALES — Every time the Portales girls soccer players attacked the hill in front of Eastern New Mexico University’s Greyhound Arena, every ache and pain they felt from the sprints, bear crawls and beasts they did getting up that hill, it was all worth it.

The Lady Rams were working to be in top condition for their games, and it paid off when they were awarded the ninth seed in the upcoming Class A-4A playoffs, announced Sunday. They will face eighth-seeded Moriarity on the road Friday, beginning at 3 p.m.

It was a long time coming, especially for the players who have been in the program awhile.

“I’m actually really super-excited,” senior forward/wing Lillie Saiz said Monday in front of that dreaded Greyhound Arena hill. “I started (playing varsity) my sophomore year and we hadn’t made it to the playoffs. So, it’s a new experience.”

“I’m excited,” senior defender Fernanda Jimenez said. “We haven’t qualified since my freshman year, and when they qualified I was on jayvee.”

“I think we have a good chance (of advancing) because we have a lot of upperclassmen on our team,” junior wing/defender Rebekah Christensen said. “When we’re focused, we can play pretty amazing.”

They were certainly focused on getting this playoff spot. They ran those sprints for this, following two hours of practice. They crawled up the hill for this. Those beasts — a unique form of workout torture where they crawl up the hill while not letting the back of their feet touch the ground — were done to help them grab a playoff spot.

“Just to remind them what hurt is,” Portales head coach Ruben Tellez said. “To get mentally focused.”

It worked. So did the hours of practice. And their brutal schedule enhanced their seeding.

“We said, ‘Maybe (we’ll be seeded) 11, maybe a 12,” Tellez said. “A 9 was pretty good. After looking at our strength of schedule ... six of our losses were to 5A schools or higher.”

Portales made its final push to get in with a three-game winning streak — 3-1 over Friday’s opponent, Moriarity, at Greyhound Stadium; 1-0 over Ruidoso; 4-1 over Lovington. The Lady Rams did what was necessary to earn it on the field.

Some of the players were at a car wash Sunday when they found out about their playoff selection. “I felt like crying,” Saiz said.

Maybe, but she was also pumped, ready to go against Moriarity right then and there instead of waiting all the way until Friday. The weather is predicted to be a stark contrast to Monday’s sunny warm conditions. It will be cold, perhaps even a little snowy. No worries, say the Lady Rams.

“I think we play better in the cold,” Saiz said.

Portales had mixed results against Moriarity this season. There was that recent two-goal win at Greyhound Stadium, but also a 2-0 loss up in Moriarity on Sept. 26. What has to happen for them to capture Friday’s all-important rubber match?

“We can’t look past them,” Tellez said. “We have to take care of business. ... Our minds need to be right.”

“If we’re selfish, we won’t get far,” Jimenez said. “Everyone has their own position to make us better. ... We’ve been working as a family. I feel like we’ve got this.”

“A lot of people see Portales and they write us off,” Christensen said. “That’s the best way to win. They let up a little bit and we can sneak in and steal the win. ... We’re hungry for it. Sometimes, that’s the difference.”

“I think we’re going to hit Moriarity hard and we’re going to have fun doing it,” Saiz said. “If we’re ready, we’re going to kick butt. We have to be confident because it we’re not, we’re going to get trampled.”


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