Last year’s No. 1 ranked 4A volleyball team in the state for 12 weeks in a row had their hands full Tuesday night as they opened their district schedule at home against Sharyland High School (SHS). In the first district volleyball game between the two schools since 2003, the Lady Patriots emerged victorious over first-year head coach Raul Castillo and the Lady Rattlers in straight sets: 25-19, 25-20 and 25-14.
The opening of Sharyland Pioneer High School and the University Interscholastic League’s most recent realignment has resulted in SHS and Veterans Memorial High School (VMHS) being members of the same district for the first time since the 2002 and 2003 seasons. In 2002 the teams split their two district games ,while in 2003 the Lady Patriots swept both games.
“I can honestly say that they’ve shown tremendous improvement from the time that I first saw them here at the Mission tournament,” Lerma said. “All the preparation that we’ve done by going to all the out of town tournaments helped us have that winning edge tonight. I know that we have tradition here and that our expectations are high but the first two games especially tonight were too close for comfort….We need to work a little harder on putting the ball away a lot sooner.”
Leading the way statistically for the Lady Patriots were juniors Gabby Lerma (23 kills, six assists, one ace and 21 digs), Daisy Reyna (15 kills, three digs and two blocks) and Valeria Osorio (19 digs), and sophomore Darian “D.D.” Ibarra (nine kills, 28 assists, one ace and 21 digs).
As a freshman starter last year D.D. Ibarra contributed greatly to the unprecedented success the 2013 Lady Patriots achieved as they accumulated a 42-1 record, advanced to the regional semifinal (Sweet 16) round of the playoffs and were ranked as high as No. 11 in the nation. Shortly after Tuesday night’s hard-fought battle, Ibarra expressed what having the Lady Rattlers as a district rival means to her.
“I know Maddie (Lady Rattlers’ Maddie Garza) personally because she was on our club team so I knew that they were going to be really tough,” shared Ibarra. “In the second game when we were down 16-11 our team came together much like a family comes together when facing adversity and we pushed forward and we won.”
Fellow Lady Patriot Gabby Lerma expressed similar sentiments about the Lady Rattlers. “I’m glad that we get to play the Lady Rattlers because they’re always a playoff team as well so they’re bringing some stiff competition into our district. I’m sure that having to play them twice will make us stronger for the playoffs. I’m just glad that we won tonight.”
So far this season VMHS has accumulated a 21-6 overall record, with only one of those losses coming against a Valley team (Los Fresnos). The other five losses coming in tournaments across the state to teams such as state and nationally ranked South Lake Carrol and other highly rated teams such as Round Rock Cedar Ridge and Lucas Lovejoy.
While the loss did drop the Lady Rattlers to 0-2 in district play and 15-18 overall, their coach was pleased with the way his girls responded to the challenge of going up against the No. 1 team in the Valley.
“We did well defensively,” said Castillo. “After losing to [Edinburg] Vela we came back and we actually played well defensively tonight which helped us. Offensively, we were strong. The girls were swinging. They were not afraid and they adjusted well to the setter. You could see it on the court that they were swinging away.”
“My girls knew that this was a district match and that Mission Vets is not a team to toy around with and that they’re not going to give them anything,” added Castillo. “Just as I told them before the game, ‘This team is just relentless. They don’t give anyone a break and they’re not going to give Sharyland a break.’”