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Netters come from behind to top Portales

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Morgan Gutierrez slams the ball past a Portales block during Game Three Thursday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green - Daily Press)
Morgan Gutierrez slams the ball past a Portales block during Game Three Thursday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

After falling behind the Ramettes of Portales two games to one Thursday at Bulldog Pit, the Artesia High School netters were on their heels.

But if there’s one thing the youthful ‘Dogs have proven themselves consistently capable of this season, it’s battling back in the face of adversity.

Buoyed by their success and on the verge of a four-game win, Portales jumped out to an early led in Game Four, but a five-point service that included a pair of aces by Kyrah Gonzales turned the tables, giving the Bulldogs a 7-5 edge.

From there, the squads would trade points before two kills by Gracie Puentes and one from Stacia Martinez during the service of Mattie McCombs expanded Artesia’s cushion, 12-9, and a Martinez ace and solid spike by Morgan Gutierrez pushed the ‘Dogs out in front further still, 16-12.

Following a Ramette serve into the net, Alexa Riggs proceeded to rattle off five straight, notching an ace and a big dig on defense to take Artesia three away from the win, 22-13. A pair of side-outs and a hit out of bounds by Portales tied the match, 25-14.

As any volleyball fan knows, an early deficit in the first-to-15 fifth set is more often than not fatal, and the ‘Dogs found themselves trailing by four midway through, 5-9.

That’s when the killer instinct kicked in.

A solid hit by McCombs forced the side out, and the junior proceeded to serve up a trio to knot the game at 9-all. A misplaced pass returned service to the Ramettes, who followed with an ace to make it 11-9, but a hit out of bounds put the ball in the hands of senior Kamryn Esquibel, who was able to throw off the Portales defense with a mix of long and short serves.

A hit into the net and one out of bounds by the Ramettes were followed by kills from Martinez and Gutierrez, but with match point on the line, the Artesia D was caught out of position, giving Portales one last shot.

It was Gutierrez who would do the firing, however, blasting a kill to send the sizable Homecoming Week crowd into a frenzy.

“It was definitely a nailbiter,” Artesia coach Alan Williams said Thursday. “But I was really proud of how we came back in that last game. The fifth game is not the one you want to go down in, but the girls held it together.

“I think what you saw last night was two teams trying to gain experience, and it was a little sloppy at times. But I was proud of our team. Portales is a good team, so to come away with the win is big for us.”

The girls in orange made quick work of Portales in the opening contest Thursday, 25-17, but could not dig their way out of an early hole in the second contest, falling 25-13. Riggs kicked off the third with a five-point service that gave Artesia a lead they would hold through the midway point. But with the score at 13-9, the Ramettes delivered six straight points, and despite twice reclaiming the lead during two- and three-point services by Gonzales and Kacey Thurman, a few defensive errors would cost the Bulldogs in a 25-21 loss.

While a bit less dramatic route may have been preferable, Williams said he was pleased with what he saw from his athletes.

“Some of the girls are really passing the ball well, and we really served well, too,” said the coach. “I think part of what we struggled with tonight was just playing together and trusting our teammates, but that comes with experience and time.

“We also need to do a little better job of getting our middles involved in our attack, so we’ll be working on that for next week.”

The Bulldogs will host Ruidoso at 7 p.m. Tuesday before hitting the road Friday and Saturday for the annual Rio Rancho Jamboree.

“Ruidoso is another good team, and they’ve got some big wins under their belt,” Williams said. “They have a player on their team who’s already signed with UNM, so we’ll have to be ready to play a good game.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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