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20131112-VMHS-v-Floresville-Playoff-Volleyball- dy-002They were in an unfamiliar position – the Lady Patriots hadn’t had to play five sets all year long, but the season came down to the final set that is played to 15 points rather than the usual 25.

Floresville had seemed like easy pickings after the opening 25-10 score, but the same team that had bounced the Lady Patriots last year came roaring back with a second set 19-25 win. The two teams traded the next two sets, setting up the emotional and crucial final set.

With the backing of a large and very noisy crowd of Veterans Memorial fans who made the trip to Alice, Coach Diana Lerma talked to her charges.

“We are a young team with a lot of sophomores and freshmen” she said after the game. “They wanted to cry and I asked them what they were crying about – the game’s not over yet. We can still win it and its going to go to the team that wants it the most.” With that, the Lady Patriots went to their go-to girls, sophomore Gabby Lerma, senior Shania Gilpin, freshman setter D. D. Ibarra and senior Kassy Lopez. It seemed they would take the final set easily when they took an 8-4 lead, but after the Lady Jaguars took a time out, the score tightened again. At 13-12, the Lady Patriots finished it off, including another score by Ibarra.

Lerma was asked how she felt now that her team was ranked number eleven in the country by MaxPreps. Showing surprise, she spoke of how special this team is – how many had sacrificed summer vacations to work out and practice. “I mean, we’ll take that ranking. We know we’ve worked hard.”

Gilpin led the way with 20 kills, 11 digs and 5 blocks, and Gabby Lerma wasn’t far behind with 19 kills, and she added a team-high 18 digs and 5 blocks. D. D. Ibarra didn’t play like a freshman. The steady setter had 28 assists, added 16 digs, 7 blocks and even had an ace. The Lady Patriots have now extended their record to 42-0 and go on to play Cedar Park in the regional semi-finals tonight in Corpus Christi.

Noting that Floresville’s players were a lot taller than hers, Lerma prepared them beforehand by showing them video of other games.

“They may be taller than us, but our girls were not intimidated when they saw for themselves that their vertical jump put them up higher. But that’s normal – most of the teams from the Valley are shorter than those from the rest of the state. We just have to work harder” said Lerma.

Head football coach Dave Gilpin noted the irony of his team playing in Laredo in the playoffs as his daughter and the rest of the Lady Patriots play elsewhere.

“While I’m disappointed that I will not be there Friday” he said, “I have faith in Coach Lerma and these girls, but we’ve got to go out and win a football game Friday. It’s bitter sweet that I’ll miss their game, but it’s also very sweet that both the football team and the volleyball team are still alive.”

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