By Dave Wagner
Staff writer 

Volleyball coaches optimistic on season


Last updated 2/27/2021 at 4:43pm

CLOVIS — Volleyball coaches Darrel Ray and Ruth Chavez have returned to their familiar stomping grounds.

Ray, Clovis High’s coach for eight seasons (2009-16) before taking an assistant’s position for the same length of time at Friona under former Roswell High coach Bryan Masse, has returned to the Lady Wildcats’ helm.

Chavez, who replaced him at CHS, is once against Portales High’s coach. She spent the last three years with Clovis after a 29-year run, the last 15 as head coach, at PHS.

Clovis and Portales open the belated 2020 season this week, and both coaches are optimistic as they look forward to a 12-match regular campaign.

“We’ve got a lot of experience; I think we have eight seniors on our team,” Ray said. “It’s a fairly athletic and skilled team; we’re just not very big.”

Most of the top players are seniors, including outside hitter/setters Kameron Kelley and Tabatha Gallegos, middle hitters Kaci Cabeldue and Mili Ratledge, middle hitter Kiki Cox, defensive specialist Camryn Barros and libero Janelle Macias. Juniors expected to key contributors are outside hitter Skyler Jordan and defensive specialist Hannah Gallegos (Tabatha’s cousin).

The Lady Cats open with home matches against Artesia on Monday and Lovington on Tuesday, then travel to Portales for a Thursday encounter with the Lady Rams.

Their final six matches are against District 4-5A foes Hobbs, Carlsbad and Roswell High. Ray said the schedule should prove challenging.

“Our kids generally do a good job of playing well together because they’ve been playing together for so long,” Ray said. “If our passing is on, I think we can trade points with just about anybody.”

Meantime, the Lady Rams’ opener is on Tuesday at Class 2A area power Texico. Chavez, who has been a part of five state championships (four as the head coach) and four state runnerup finishes at PHS, said she enjoyed her time in Clovis but is now looking forward to good things with this year’s Portales squad.

She said it was exciting to finally get back to full practices last Monday.

“We’ve been working since the summertime in our pods,” Chavez said. “Our kids are ready to play — they’ve been ready for quite a while.”

Seven major contributors are back for PHS, including senior outside hitters Kenzie Davis and Rheagan Courtney and setter Madison Blakey, and junior middles Kylyie Paden and Adri Garcia, setter Riley Shillings and libero Teagan Faust. Chavez expects junior outside hitter Taris Rippee, up from the junior varsity, to be a key factor as well.

“We feel like we’re as prepared as we can be,” Chavez said. “I feel like the girls are strong and in shape.”

District 4-4A home-and-home matches at the end of the regular season will be against Roswell Goddard, Lovington and Artesia.

“We’ve got a strong team with a lot of hard-working, good kids,” Chavez said. “We’ve got a lot of size.”

How the season goes with the pandemic still a factor remains to be seen, she said. It’s a matter of taking things one day at a time.

“Every game we play, we’re going to celebrate,” Chavez said. “We’re just going to enjoy ourselves and play as hard as we can.”


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