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Mission Vets, Pioneer volleyball teams advance to area round

It was a good start to the 2019 UIL volleyball playoffs for the Big 7 schools participating. Opening games concluded Tuesday night and two of the three Big 7 teams that qualified are moving on to the area round after sweeping their first round matches.

District 31-5A champions Mission Veterans travelled to Mercedes on Tuesday and came away with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-11) victory over Mercedes High, the fourth seed from District 32-5A. It was the eighth straight opening round win for the Lady Patriots.

2019LadyPatriotsVolleyball2The win highlighted the trio of seniors who have been part of the team’s long history of success. Kassy Lerma recorded 22 kills, Ronnie Cantu had 25 assists and Bella Dominguez 25 digs. Another senior, Karina Salinas recorded eight kills as did freshmen Rylie Barnett. The win improved the Lady Patriots record to 42-5 on the year.

Coach Diana Lerma summed up the win in four short words, “The girls were ready.”

Lerma went on to comment on how the team seems to be peaking at the right time and noted the contributions made by the team beyond Lerma, Cantu and Dominguez.

“Everyone has a role and it’s important,” said Lerma.

Next up for the Lady Patriots is the District 30-5A runner up Corpus Christi Carroll. The Lady Tigers defeated Tuloso-Midway 3-1 in the opening round Tuesday night, winning their first post season game since 2009. The team has played the last month under the direction of Becky Valenzuela following the passing of head coach Stacy Selby.

The area round match-up between Mission Vets and Carroll is scheduled for tomorrow in Falfurrias at 1:00 pm.

In Mission Tuesday night the Sharyland Pioneer Lady Diamondbacks secured another second round appearance with their 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-12) sweep of Donna at Pioneer High School. The win marks the fifth time the Lady Diamondbacks have won their opening round game in the school’s six year history.

Pioneer dominated the third seed from District 32-5A with an array of big hits from a number of players. In the first set the Lady Diamondbacks recorded 15 kills from six different players. On the night, sophomore Lorelai Hill led the team with 16 kills while senior Daniela Alvarez recorded eight. Senior Samantha Ayala and junior Daisy Monie each had six.

“Our passing was exceptional tonight”, said Pioneer coach Laura Cavazos. “It was probably one of the best (passing games) we’ve had. We were able to give it to the hitters and the hitters executed very well tonight.”

Setter Natalie Reyes is the focal point of the Lady Diamondbacks passing attack. On the night, the sophomore assisted on 36 of the team’s points. The Lady Diamondbacks defense was led by Joy Caraballo and Elizabeth Fina who recorded 14 and 13 digs respectively.

The win improved Pioneer to 33-10 on the year.

Next up for the Lady Diamondbacks is Victoria West, champions of District 30-5A, who defeated Calallen 3-0 on Tuesday. West has been on a long run of playoff success in recent years. They eliminated Pioneer from the area round in 2015 and 2014.

The area round match-up between Pioneer and West was scheduled for last night in Kingsville.

On Monday night the Lady Rattlers of Sharyland High came very close to making it a clean sweep of opening round victories for the three area teams but fell short to District 32-5A co-champion Edcouch-Elsa 3-2 (25-16,25-22,25-27,23-25,16-14) in a match that required extra points in two of the final three sets.

It didn’t look like it would go that way at the start as the Lady Rattlers dropped the first two sets and then trailed 17-10 in the third.

“I told the girls “It’s now or never”, said Sharyland coach Raul Castillo. “ I pointed out (to my seniors), “It’s now or never.”

The Lady Rattlers responded with a comeback to win that third set, then won the fourth to force a deciding fifth set. They were one point away from winning the entire match before Edcouch scored three straight points to end the season for Sharyland. The Lady Rattlers finished 2019 at 21-20.

“They didn’t stop fighting, they could have folded”, said Castillo. “I couldn’t be prouder.”

The Lady Rattlers three seniors went out with big games in the loss. Tristan Maddox had 13 kills and Marissa Jones had seven to go with four blocks. Andrea Espinoza had nine kills and three aces. In addition, junior setter Ana Paola Cerda assisted on 45 points and sophomore Marianna Martinez contributed 19 kills and two blocks.

This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 8, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

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