MISSION – Despite losing eight seniors to graduation and another pair to off-season injuries, Mission fourth-year volleyball head coach Edna Clemons and her Lady Eagles are quite optimistic about reaching the playoffs again.
“This is a rebuilding year for us at Mission High School,” Clemons said. “I’ve had to replace 10 total because I lost two early on this season to ACL’s.”
The Lady Eagles lost Alyssa Olivarez and Karyme Rocha to ACL injuries, but have managed to hold together and post a 14-12 overall record, 2-3 in District 32-4A, so far this season with the leadership of senior captains Cassie Clemons and Sara Stubbs.
Cassie Clemons is the Lady Eagles’ go-to player, who is also a standout in soccer and track, while Stubbs is also the president of Mission’s Student Council.
“They have taken the leadership roles on this team,” Clemons said. “Cassie is our all-around player and she has really blossomed this year.”
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Along with two other seniors, Mission has a pair of sophomores and four freshmen on this year’s varsity squad that is vying for a 32-4A playoff spot that include: Yaritza Pérez, Jackie Ovando, Briana Villarreal, Michelle Madden, Emily Alvarado, Kazzandra Rodríguez, Gabby González, Amber Solís, María García and Lissete Vela.
“We have set our goals, we are going to make playoffs,” Clemons said. “I’ve instilled that in them since day one. It is a rebuilding year and having such a young group and a variety, it is also a re-teaching year. I re-teach a lot. I do have four freshmen and they were playing junior high last year, so it’s a whole other ballgame coming from a junior high game mentality to varsity level. The freshmen I have are coming around, they do want to learn and they love volleyball.”
Coach Clemons’ style of play has involved having a strong defense and although she is rebuilding her team, the Lady Eagles have tried to maintain their defensive prowess.
“Our goal is that the ball does not hit the floor so we practice on digging, rolling and proper way to pick up the ball no matter where it may land,” Clemons explained. “Our back row has been strong. It’s all going to be about experience and gaining experience. I’m sad to see Cassie and Sara will be leaving us after this year, but I feel we’ll be OK for next year.”
“It was a learning experience,” Clemons said. “That’s why I take them to Laredo because it’s pool play and we get a lot of games in and we get to see who we might see in playoffs.”
One of the weaknesses the Lady Eagles have this year compared to last season is height, but they are compensating and adapting their style of play to the team’s current characteristics.
“Last year we had a lot of height and I could move around my hitters and middle blockers, but height is not one of our assets this year,” Clemons said. “It’s a whole different set of girls so we are figuring out what our flaws are and what our good skill level play is so we know where we have to improve. It’s different. JV to varsity is a whole different level for a lot of the girls. It’s a lot of reps and re-teaching because they are new to this level.”
Mission is adapting as quick as possible, but the level of competition for the top spots in 32-4A remain almost the same with Mission Veterans Memorial and Edcouch-Elsa sharing the district with the Lady Eagles. However, the Lady Patriots have separated themselves from the pack this season.
“It is different,” Clemons said. “Last year you had the top two, Mission Veterans and Edcouch, but this year Veterans has been really solid and I applaud them and wish them well. Veterans stands alone. I want to fight for that third spot, last year that’s where we ended up and it’ll probably be between us and Roma for the last two spots.”
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