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The No. 8 sports moment of the year

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Goddard’s Lacie Schooley goes high to return a shot against Los Lunas on Nov. 17. Goddard would lose in five sets. (Steve Notz Photo)

It is not how a team starts, but how they finish. Roswell Daily Record’s No. 8 sports moment of the year involved a first-year coach with big shoes to follow. Goddard volleyball was replacing successful coach Kristi Hager who had led the team to a championship game and a semifinal game the year she resigned. Hager was up 2-1 on St. Pius X and almost defeated them before losing in five sets.

Goddard hired former Sul Ross State University coach Dewayne Roberts. Roberts got off to a shaky start because of implementing a new system, which took his team time to learn and buy in. Things really hit the fan for Roberts and the team when they lost in five sets to 5A Hobbs at Ground Zero.

For Roberts, the seasons most critical moments came down to two. After the loss to Hobbs, Roberts read his team the riot act and told them that no one had a guaranteed position and if they wanted to play, they were going to have to earn playing time. He also said they were going to have to do things his way. It was a long 10 days between games, with nothing but practice and drills, hustle drills and reestablishing the right technique on serving, digging and hitting.

“Those 10 days were rough,” Roberts said. “Practices were rough for the players, and the coaches as well.

The other breakthrough moment was when Goddard went on the road and came from behind to defeat Artesia on their home court. It had been years since they had beaten Artesia — in a way, Roberts felt like Artesia had Goddard’s number from a mental aspect until they beat them.

“That was a huge moment in the season for us,” Roberts said. “It was the first time we had beaten them in the district in two years. That win raised our confidence sky high, that win was the moment we came together and began to believe in each other and ourselves as a team.” The key moment in the season was when they beat Artesia in Artesia — the first time they had beaten them in two years in the district. Confidence raised sky high — it was at that point we came together as a team.”

That win not only gave them confidence, but it gave them the belief that they could win the regular season crown, which they did in a one-game playoff at Hagerman High School to win the regular season championship in four sets as they finished district play, 5-1.

“A lot of people ask me the highlight of our year,” Roberts said. “To me, it was our first victory over Artesia at their place — that win set the tone for the rest of our season and allowed us to get to where we ended up at the end of the year.”

Where the Lady Rockets ended up was being up two games to one and serving in the fourth set to win the championship.

“After some time to reflect,” Roberts said, “coming so close to getting the Blue Trophy — we put things in perspective. In the preseason poll, we were picked third in the district. We were disappointed to lose the championship game, but the season was a success for Goddard volleyball. When I take a look back, we (Goddard) were picked third in district. (We were) disappointed to lose in the championship, but the season was a success for Goddard volleyball.”

Roberts wants every team to think they will be rebuilding, but he thinks the terminology is wrong and they should say retooling. He will have to replace all-state Vittoria Price and Valeria Martinez on the right side, but he has already started working with his team in the seventh and eighth periods in how he wants the team to play in the future and to get in shape: bigger, faster, stronger.”

Roberts thinks that with a whole offseason to work with his team, they could be right back there in the final four. Roberts was hired late and got a late start with his team.

“Going into the offseason,” Roberts said, “I told our girls there are several positions up for grabs. I’m not going to give them to anyone — they will have to earn them. There is competition, which is good.”

Because of the change in the season and the thrills the Lady Rockets gave the fans of Chaves County, they are RDR’s No. 8 sports moment of the year.

Goddard just misses on state title

From the Nov. 18. edition of the Roswell Daily Record

Goddard girls volleyball was up two games to one, they were feeling no pressure. In fact, they were so relaxed going into their fourth set against Los Lunas that as they waited for play to begin between intermission, Alyssa Hernandez and Hannah Roe were bobbing their heads and shaking their shoulders to the Earth Wind and Fire song, “September.”

Why wouldn’t they, after they had established domination at the net as Los Lunas had no answer for Sophia and Tori Price, to go along with Lacie Schooley and Allyah Valdez. Goddard was playing out of their minds making diving saves from Tatiana Villa and Sidney Bills, and received timely serving from Kiaya Island.

Somewhere between a timeout called by the Lady Tigers in the fourth set, when the game was tied at 10-10, the Lady Rockets could only match six more points the rest of the game to force a fifth set. In the fourth game, Goddard made errors that they haven’t made in this tournament run in the fourth and fifth sets. Fans could see the Lady Rockets not able to return balls they were chasing down three games earlier — now they were just out of reach. If the balls made it past Goddard’s superior front line, the ball seemed to have eyes just past the outstretched hands of a Lady Rocket.

Somehow, in the fourth game is where the wheels came off and they would end up losing 25-16. Los Lunas found a way to deal with their height at the net and got around Sophia and Tori Price. Goddard Coach Dewayne Roberts — who was in black dress slacks, black shirt and a purple tie with black shoes — would call three timeouts in the game as he furiously talked to his team, encouraging them, but it seemed momentum had moved to the Tigers’ side. It was enough to send the Lady Rockets home without the Blue Trophy as they lost to Los Lunas: 25-16, 13-25, 25-12, 16-25 and 15-13.

“It is not the way we wanted our season to end,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t take away from what we did this year. The game was — we just made too many mistakes at inopportune times and that’s what happened.”

In the fifth game of the set, Roberts stuck with his normal rotation, as both Prices were on the bench when the game counted most. In that game, a questionable call on the second point of the match was called a do-over, which broke Goddard’s roll. The officials said that someone was in the net.

“I have the utmost confidence in all my girls,” Roberts said. “That’s the rotation that has gotten us here and we stuck with it. I saw no reason to change.”

The Tigers scored the point and made for a back-and-forth match until Schooley served to give them an 11-10 lead. It went back and forth until the Lady Rockets took the lead on a Tori Price kill to make the score 13-12 — it would be the last point of the season for the Lady Rockets.“I told our team,” Roberts said, “I want them to remember this feeling and how it tastes in their mouths because we don’t want to feel this way next year. I told the seniors thank you, even though I only got to coach you one year, you guys have been Goddard volleyball the last four years and I thank you for all of the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve given this program.”

Roberts stressed that Goddard getting to state was always and will always be the goal of the program as long, as he’s the coach. He expects to be back soon. Roberts’ confidence in his team never wavered once the tournament started. Roberts saw that his team was picking up his system and they were ready to play.

Looking ahead to next year, Goddard has Lacie Schooley, Sophia Price, Sidney Bills, and Kiaya Island, along with some junior varsity players.

“We have to get back to work,” Roberts said.