The Veterans Memorial Lady Patriots volleyball team capped off their third straight undefeated season and outright district championship with a straight sets victory over the Edinburg Vela Lady Sabercats Tuesday evening. As a result, the 12-0 (36-3 overall) Lady Patriots will now be heading into the bi-district round of the state playoffs where they will be playing Brownsville Pace on their home court, Tuesday Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
Big 7 teams joining the Lady Patriots in the bi-district round will be fellow District 31-5A members Sharyland Lady Rattlers (9-3, 19-7) and Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks (7-5, 25-13) as well as District 30-6A’s fourth place Mission Lady Eagles (6-6, 16-20). The Lady Rattlers are the second seed and the Lady Diamondbacks are fourth.
“The girls are looking good on the court and making good adjustments to our offense,” explained Castillo. “They are very excited about the playoffs but I’ve told them we need to stay focused and motivated because it’s clutch time and our opponents are only going to get tougher. We need to play great games from here on out; not only for our senior captains; but for ourselves.”
The Lady Diamondbacks bi-district opponents will be the Edcouch Elsa Lady Yellowjackets. The Lady Eagles will be taking on either Laredo United or Laredo Alexander, who ended their regular season in a tie. The day, time and location of both of these games had not yet been determined at press time.
With former Lady Patriots’ head coach Diana Lerma reassigned, her long-time assistant, Vivian Ray, has been leading the Valley’s top team through the final weeks of district play and will continue to do so through the playoffs. When asked what it means to her and to the team to have once again swept their district opponents Ray said, “I think that it’s very important for the girls and to our program as part of a tradition. We knew that we had the team to do what we’re doing and now we’re well on our way to accomplish what we’re capable of accomplishing.”
With five members of the Lady Patriots squad being seniors this year, most of whom have been starters since they were freshmen, this may be the best chance that Ray and her girls will have to get past the Regional Semifinal (Sweet 16) round they have reached the past two seasons.
“Our goal is always to get beyond the round of the playoffs we’ve reached before,” Ray said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do this year. The seniors that we have are phenomenal. They’ve worked very hard and they play well together as a team. They’re out to accomplish the goals that they’ve had since they were kids.”
One of those seniors is Karina Garcia.
“Being undefeated means everything to me,” Garcia said. “I’m so happy that it’s our year and I have high expectations for our team this year. Hopefully, that will be the state tournament but whatever we accomplish, I’m just happy to be part of this team.”
Libero Mariah Gonzalez is another senior on the Lady Patriots’ team. As such she has had to face the fact that in the playoffs, each and every game could be her last as a Lady Patriot.
“Being a Lady Patriot has meant everything to me. We have all accomplished so much by combining our skills and abilities. We have set our standards high and now we have to meet up to those standards and represent,” Gonzalez said.