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Lady Rockets advance to semifinals

Goddard’s Sophia Valdez (9) hits the ball over the net against Valley Monday night during a Class 4A state quarterfinal game at Ground Zero. The Lady Rockets will host Hope Christian tonight at 6 p.m. at Ground Zero in a Class 4A state semifinal game. The winner will play in the Class 4A state championship game on Friday at The Pit in Albuquerque. (Steve Notz Photo)

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There is something special about this Goddard volleyball team. For the third consecutive year, the Lady Rockets are in the semifinals and looking to add another blue trophy to their trophy case.

Goddard’s quest began Monday night. A special guest was present to cheer on the Lady Rockets. Former Goddard coach Pam Allen came to watch them play. Allen was the first Goddard coach to win a blue trophy, and her team won it at Ground Zero with a standing-room-only crowd. She is in the New Mexico Hall of Fame.

What Allen saw of the latest edition of this team was impressive. Goddard had no trouble defeating the No. 8 seed Valley Vikings in three straight sets: 25-17, 25-4 and 25-9.

Goddard came into the game as the No. 1 seed in District 4-4A and is perfect on the season. In this match, Valley never threatened the Lady Rockets at any point. It was a total team effort as everyone on the team contributed to the victory. Rockets’ head coach Dewayne Roberts used the game to work on things his team might need in the next two games.

Goddard expects the next step to the title to get a little tougher as they will face the No. 4 seed Hope Christian, who dispatched Portales at home 25-17, 25-21 and 25-14 on Monday.

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Goddard has not played Hope Christian in two years. Roberts knows his team has their work cut out for them if they are to return to the championship game on Friday.

“We played them two years ago,” Roberts said. “We don’t know much about them. I know they’re a good team. We played them my first year here and knocked them at state.”

Roberts said Hope Christian is a different team than they faced two years ago. Roberts cited Hope Christian for taking a set off Academy this season. He expects the match to be a battle, with the winner advancing to the state championship game on Friday.

“We expect it to be a battle,” Roberts said, “We’ll come prepared. We are going to work on everything, and we will clear up errors.”

Roberts said he is approaching this game like it’s day one practice. He has made notes about the mistakes the team made, and he wants to correct them before the game.

“I told the girls that they (team) are starting the season over again, it’s 0-0,” Roberts said. “The good thing is that Hope Christian doesn’t know a lot about us.”

For Goddard, one of the keys to their success this season is they have come back in shape from the COVID-19 pandemic. He also credits the team’s mental toughness as a major contributor to their success.

“Even if we are behind,” Roberts said, “I never feel like we are out of a game or match.”

Roberts said it is only going to help them as they progress to their dream of winning a blue trophy. Another major factor is this senior-laden team has played together for the last three years and knows Roberts’ system.

“That’s what has helped us a lot,” Roberts said. “Having eight seniors on the team and they know my system and style of play and how I run the practices and offenses. I can basically roll the balls out there and they are going to be able to do it themselves. Not every coach has that luxury.”

Roberts said his front line is big, and they are good kids, and a joy to be around. He said they put the work in, and they all want the ball. Roberts said they have six attacking options at the net, making them hard to defend.

Goddard will face Hope Christian at Ground Zero, Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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