“Practice. Perform. Playoffs. Repeat.”
As far as I know this is not a slogan used by any of the three Big 7 volleyball teams who qualified for the UIL playoffs that begin next week but any or all of them could. Qualifying for the postseason is a tradition at Mission Veterans, Sharyland Pioneer and Sharyland High.
Here is a look at how each team fared this season along with what each team faces in their first round match-ups.
Mission Veterans (40-5, 14-0) District 31-5A Champion
If there is such a thing as district domination then the Lady Patriots are the textbook example. The team won another district title and again went undefeated in doing so. Three members of the team, Kassandra Lerma, Bella Dominguez, and Ronnie Cantu finished out their four year varsity careers without suffering a district loss. Each of the three has vital roles on the floor for Veterans; Dominguez plays libero, Cantu handles the setting, and Lerma provides many of the big hits for points.
Having advanced to the regional semi-finals in 2014 and 2015, Veterans has yet to get that deep into the playoffs since. The 2018 squad fell just short of the mark last year, eliminated by Flour Bluff in the regional quarter finals.
The first stop this year is a bi-district match-up with Mercedes. The Lady Tigers finished fourth in District 32-5A and are entering the post season for the first time since 2014 when they were eliminated in the first round by the Lady Patriots.
Game time is scheduled for Tuesday November 5 at 7:00 pm at Mercedes High School.
Veterans has also scheduled a warm up game with McAllen Memorial tomorrow at 12:30 pm at Mission Veterans High School.
Sharyland Pioneer (32-10, 12-2) District 31-5A Runner-up.
Since opening in 2014 the Lady Diamondbacks have been a regular in the state playoffs and 2019 is no exception, finishing second to Mission Veterans by defeating every district opponent except the Lady Patriots. Despite the two losses, each match with Mission Veterans was close. Both went four games.
The Lady Diamondbacks have a good mixture of experience and youth on this year’s squad. As with any good team they have strength both offensively and defensively relying on junior libero Jorieliss Caraballo, sophomore setter Natalie Reyes and several hitters from the front, like sophomore Lorelai Hill and senior Daniela Alvarez.
The Lady Diamondbacks were eliminated from the playoffs in 2018 by Brownsville Veterans Memorial in the first round after advancing to the second round in each of their previous four appearances.
This year’s first round opponent, Donna finished third in District 32-5A and are making their sixth straight trip to the postseason. The two schools met in the first round in 2016 in a match won by Pioneer.
Game time is scheduled for Tuesday November 5 at 6:30 pm at Pioneer High School.
Sharyland High (21-18, 9-5) District 31-5A third place.
The 2019 Lady Rattlers had a bit tougher road to the postseason than the other two Big 7 teams but could be a surprise once play gets started. All of their five district losses came at the hands of other playoff bound teams.
This is the Lady Rattlers fifth straight playoff appearance with the previous four ending in either the first or second round. They were eliminated by Donna in the first round last year.
The team is made up of mostly juniors and seniors.
Outside hitters Andrea Espinoza and Tristan Maddox have the most significant experience. The two seniors have lettered for the varsity for four and three years respectively. Other key players on the team include junior setter Ana Paola Cerda and junior libero Ximena Chapa.
As of press time the Lady Rattlers were still waiting to find out who their first round opponent will be.
Brownsville Veterans Memorial and Edcouch-Elsa finished tied for first in District 32-5A and will play tomorrow to determine the seeding. Sharyland is scheduled to face the loser of that match. Both of those teams enter the postseason with a long history of playoff appearances.
If the opponent is Brownsville Vets, the first round game will be Tuesday November 5 at 7:00 pm at Weslaco East High School.
No details of a possible matchup with Edcouch-Elsa were available.
The Lady Rattlers will be playing a warm up game against McAllen Rowe tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm at Rowe High School.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 1, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.