Lady Patriots return to Sweet 16

Officially known as the regional semifinal round of the 2014 UIL’s 5A State Volleyball Championships, the Veterans Memorial Lady Patriots have advanced into what is more commonly called the state’s “Sweet 16.”

Tuesday night’s 3-1 regional quarterfinal round victory over the Calallen Lady Wildcats earned the Lady Patriots their fourth championship of the year. That come-from-behind victory has them preparing to take on the Alamo Heights Lady Mules tonight (Friday) at Texas A&M Corpus Christi’s Dugan Center, the same location that Veterans Memorial saw its almost magical 2013 season come to an end at the hands of the Cedar Park Lady Timberwolves.

20141114 VMHS-Volleyball Adrian-IbarraWhile Lady Patriots head coach Diana Lerma has not seen the Lady Mules play this year, the fact that they defeated Cedar Park in straight sets Tuesday night to earn the right to play Veterans Memorial tonight gives her a pretty good idea of how good a team they are.

“From what I’ve read about them, they’ve been knocked out of the playoffs by Cedar Park several times before, so they made a commitment among themselves not to let that happen again,” explained Lerma. “That goes to show you than when girls come together with a common goal like that and they do whatever it takes to make it happen. They are able to accomplish things like defeating Cedar Park in three sets. That’s how strong of a bond team unity like that can form.”

“It’s like when we walked into the gym at Bishop for our game against Calallen, the first thing the other team said was, ‘Oh they’re so tiny’,” added Lerma. “But like they say, ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that matters,’ and the fact that our girls kept on fighting is what resulted in the outcome going our way.”

As one of the Lady Patriots’ setters and back row players, junior Karina Garcia shared how comments made by some of the Calallen players prior to their game Tuesday night motivated her and her teammates to prove that when it comes to volleyball heart matters more than height.

“When we were warming up they kept saying things to each other like, ‘They’re going to lose,’ and ‘We’re not going to carry them, we’re just going to play against them.’ But our defense is better and we finished strong against them, so what they said didn’t matter to us,” Garcia said. “As for Alamo Heights I’m sure that they’re going to underestimate us because everybody else does, but when we’re on our game we have the talent to beat them and it doesn’t matter to us if they did beat Cedar Park.”

Losing the first set to Calallen Tuesday night put the Lady Patriots in a position they’re not used to – having to come from behind. However, as Veterans Memorial junior Isela Rodriguez shared, it was the coaches’ words and the fans’ support that motivated her and her teammates to overcome the deficit and sweep the final three sets.

“After we lost the first set our coaches were telling us that it was going come down to who wanted it more…then we looked around and we saw all our fans and everybody that believed in us and we knew that we had to believe in ourselves,” said Rodriguez. “That was when we came out strong and got the victory.”

Tonight’s game between Veterans Memorial and Alamo Heights will be played at Texas A&M Corpus Christi’s Dugan Center at 5 p.m. The winner of the game will advance into the regional final game tomorrow, also to be played at the Dugan Center at 5 p.m.

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