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Lady Rockets fall short in volleyball tournament

The Goddard Lady Rockets volleyball team stands with the runner-up trophy after Friday’s Class 4A state championship game against Albuquerque Academy at The Pit. Goddard fell short of its first state title since 2013 in straight sets. (Steve Notz Photo)

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Just maybe, some of the Goddard fans can be upset about what happened at The Pit on Friday. But if they were to be totally honest, just getting to this point for them has to be a bonus.

Many people forget how this team regrouped — after getting beat by St. Pius X and putting forth a championship effort all season — to go undefeated through the regular season and the tournament.

No one foresaw that the Lady Rockets would come back with ruthlessness for any one opponent they would face. This would be Goddard’s second championship game in three years and the year before a semifinal game.

Despite what happened at The Pit on Friday, Goddard came up short in their quest for their first blue trophy since 2013. Albuquerque Academy seemed to have all the answers that Goddard did not have. Goddard was beaten by a better team and went down fighting: 20-25, 22-25 and 15-25 for the Class 4A title.

“It’s athletics,” Goddard coach Dewayne Roberts said. “It’s part of the game, you’re going to have highs and you’re going to have lows. This just happens to be one of the lows. Keeping it in perspective, we still finished better than 26 other teams in Class 4A. It doesn’t make the loss any easier.”

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It’s OK to be down and disappointed, but Goddard went down giving it their all. Goddard and their seniors will have memories of a lifetime. Just to keep things in perspective, just three months ago, people in the state of New Mexico were lobbying elected officials to be able to play sports in the state.

When given the chance, Goddard made the most of their opportunities — they were in shape and played with heart. No one likes to lose the last game of the season, but there are other teams in 4A that would have loved to have been in the Lady Rockets’ place trying to win a championship.

One of the key moments of the games was the second set when Goddard had a 21-14 lead and somehow lost it and lost the match. It seemed to take all of the wind out of their sails.

“Definitely,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t set you up well momentum-wise for the third set. In my opinion, if we won that set things might have turned out differently.”

Goddard had an 8-4 lead in the third set but could not keep it. The Lady Chargers seemed to match the Goddard runs of their own, except that Goddard could not stop them.

“They’re a good team (Academy),” Roberts said. “I’m at a loss for words. This is not the way we wanted our season to end. We had moments of brilliance tonight. It’s athletics and volleyball for you. This is such a game of momentum.”

Rockets’ coach Dewayne Roberts said he thanked the seniors for four years of hard work and dedication to this program and it is a better program because of them. Roberts said it wasn’t the way he wanted it to end, but told them to hold their head high when they leave the gym, because they are representing Goddard and the tradition.

“We didn’t finish this year,” Roberts said. “We had a lead and just couldn’t take advantage of that lead on multiple occasions. Once you have someone down, you have to make sure they are not getting back up and we didn’t do that today.”

Goddard will miss their seniors but have enough coming back to make another run at the title. It will not be a rebuild. Sophia Valdez, Alissa Benavides, Mireya Armendariz and Kathryn De La Cerda will be back and have big game experience.

“I’m expecting those kids to contribute,” Roberts said, “not only on the floor, but in a leadership role off the floor. We have some holes to fill, and we have to replace Sidney Bills in the middle and replace Lacie Schooley. It won’t be easy because they are two big parts of what we did.”

Because of this year, Roberts said that Goddard has a target on their back, and he welcomes it. With Roberts as coach, the team has won three district championships in a row: an undefeated regular season and two final games to go along with a semifinal game.

“Goddard volleyball is not going anywhere,” Roberts said. “I’m very confident in the younger kids we have coming up, and our underclassmen we have on varsity right now. I fully expect to be back in the state tournament next year.”

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

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