Home Sports Local Sports Lady Rockets on way to state as district champs

Lady Rockets on way to state as district champs

Steve Notz Photo Goddard girls volleyball team came from one set down to win the 4A district championship at Hagerman Monday night.

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This game wasn’t like the first game against the giants of Artesia. In that first game at Roswell, the Lady Rockets’ were just trying to find their way and learn a new system with a new coach. In fact, coach DeWayne Roberts was so upset at his team and their effort that he told them during a bye week of 10 days they would have to earn their uniforms again.

The first time they faced off against the Lady Bulldogs on Sept. 22, they were intimidated by their size and it was the first time they had gone up against a team as big as they were this season. In that game coach Roberts felt like his team was tired, and didn’t compete after having to wait around for four hours in between matches.

“I think there was a mental block there,” Roberts said, “we hadn’t beaten them in two years. It wasn’t until we beat them on their home court that the girls realized they could win and beat them.”

Things sure have changed as the season has gone along. Goddard came out with fire after dropping the first set to Artesia — yes that same Artesia that seemed to have their number only two months ago. Led by timely hitting and blocks at the net by Allyah Valdez and all-stater Lacie Schooley, a trio of seniors, Valeria Martinez and libero Tatiana Villa, turned the tide after the first set with several key kills and slams from Vittoria Price — in the last set Price put her team on her back and inspired them as they put away Artesia in four sets: 22-25, 25-22, 25-23 and 28-26, on Monday night to win the district crown at Hagerman.

“I feel like we kind of like been brewing,” Tori Price said. “We’ve been waiting for this perfect opportunity to take it.”

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This win did so much for the Lady Rockets. It was their first regular season district championship and earned them a bye until Saturday, where they could face this same Lady Bulldog team they have defeated two out of the last three matches they have played. No matter what happens on Saturday by winning the regular season title they are assured of a state bid when the brackets come out.

“This win means so much,” senior Valerie Price said. “It means we’re starting a new legacy, it’s been five years since we beat Artesia, and here we are about to host a district championship at our house. It’s setting up our new coach and legacy, and I’m just proud to be the start of it.”

Many of the players feel like coach Roberts is still demanding on them but he allows them a certain freedom to try things in the game and to adjust on the fly. Roberts expects his team to lead themselves and hold each other accountable. By doing this he has made the girls owners of the team.

“This is the first year that I have gotten this much playing time and been on the court,” senior libero Villa said. “This has been awesome to step up and make a difference for my teammates as a senior. I know I have to have a role on the court, and have my teammates look up to me when they can. I can’t be down, because if I’m down everyone else will be down.”

Roberts used a different lineup tonight than what he usually does because of injuries and practiced their new rotation 30 minutes before the game. Roberts is impressed that his team is playing so well and taken to the new system he has put in since the beginning of camp. A system that he created at Sul Ross and Eastern New Mexico University where he wants to play fast and tire the other team out.

“We are the No.1 seed,” Roberts said, “we have to take care of business in districts first. But we want to win state. This win is huge for us. We’d like a top-four seed, the goal at the beginning of the year is to come home with the Blue Trophy.”

Goddard will host a district game Saturday at Ground Zero TBA.