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At Rio Grande City High School Tuesday, the 18th ranked Veterans Memorial Lady Patriots defeated the Laredo Nixon Lady Mustangs in the bi-district round of the state playoffs. After taking the first two sets 25-11 and 25-21, it looked as if Coach Diana Lerma’s Lady Patriots were well on their way to a straight sets victory when the Lady Mustangs bounced back to take the third set 25-22. Not having lost a set to any team other than 8th ranked Edcouch-Elsa all season, Veterans Memorial got back on their game in the fourth set to finish off the Lady Mustangs 25-12.

The serving of freshman Gabby Lerma and the hitting of junior Shania Gilpin were the two keys to the Lady Patriots’ quick start against the Lady Mustangs Tuesday, said Coach Lerma.

“In the first game, Gabby had seven service aces right off the bat and that gave them difficulty and I think they ended up being very timid in the first game,” said Lerma. “You could tell that Nixon is a very well coached team, but with Shania’s hitting and Gabby serving they gave us a lot of free balls allowing us to go to our go-to players and that’s why the score was 25-11.”

While the score in the second set was closer, Lerma’s squad used the same formula to take a 2-0 lead in the best of five sets game

“The same thing happened in the second game,” explained Lerma. “Laredo Nixon got intimidated because of the fact that our servers were doing their job, which caused Nixon to give us a lot of free balls. They were also not attacking the ball.”

The third set was a different story, but it was nothing more than a minor setback as the Lady Patriots returned to their winning ways in the fourth.

“We fell behind in the third game because of the fact that our first server missed it and Gabby just got one ace,” said Lerma. “We tried coming back, but it was too late. That’s why we lost it 25-22. In the fourth game we went back to normal and the serving was there which allowed us to get a lot more free balls.”

After Tuesday night’s victory, the Lady Patriots advance to the area round of the state playoffs where they’ll be playing the Floresville Lady Tigers tonight at 7 p.m. in Alice. Floresville made quick work of Victoria East 25-22, 25-12 and 25-19 in their bi-district game Tuesday to earn the right to play Veterans Memorial in the area round.

“We did not scout Floresville this year, but they’ve always had a very well-rounded program,” said Lerma. “We always meet up with them either in bi-district or regional quarter-finals and we always end up meeting them there in Alice. I know that they’re under a new coach this year, but they’ve always had the height and that’s why it’s very important for us to do our coverage and for our girls not to get intimidated if they get blocked.”

Tuesday’s game was the first playoff experience for the five freshmen on the Lady Patriots roster. The fact that her squad rose up to the challenge with predominately inexperienced players impressed even Coach Lerma.

“Being that we had the five little freshmen and the sophomores and only two seniors, that was a tremendous accomplishment,” said Lerma. “We have good things (going) from here on out.”

As has been the case for most of Veterans Memorial’s games this season, middle blocker Shania Gilpin led the way for the Lady Patriots with 21 kills, two aces, 21 digs, one solo block and four assists. Outside hitter Gabby Lerma added 16 kills, seven aces, and 25 digs. Junior setter Kassy Lopez had 20 assists, five aces and eight digs. Senior setter Kenia Garcia had 17 assists, two aces and 10 digs, while freshman offside blocker Isela Rodriguez added six kills, six digs and one solo block to the winning effort.

Lady Eagles lose in bi-district to CC Moody

The news was not as good for the Mission High School Lady Eagles who lost their bi-district game against the Corpus Christi Moody Trojans Tuesday. The Lady Eagles lost the first two sets 25-20 and 25-21 before pulling out the third set 25-21. Mission’s comeback fell short in the fourth set, however, when the Trojans bounced back for a 25-18 win to bring the Lady Eagles’ 2012 season to an abrupt end.

Mission qualified for the playoffs, finishing third in District 32-4A with a 9-5 record. The Lady Eagles closed the 2012 season with an 18-15 overall record.

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