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No Complacency

10-0 Lady Lobos defeat Lady Patriots

The La Joya Palmview Lady Lobos volleyball team defeated the Mission Veterans Lady Patriots in 3 sets Tuesday Night, 25-23, 23-17, and 25-23, to notch their 23rd win and extend their undefeated district record to 10-0. With only four district games remaining against familiar opponents, The Lady Lobos are within striking distance of achieving a goal set months ago: an unblemished District 30-5A championship. That goal may have sounded improbable last year. Now, it seems inevitable. All thanks to one coach’s persistent belief, an unbreakable sisterhood, and a war against complacency.

In September’s matchup between the Lady Lobos and the Lady Patriots, the Lady Lobos held off the Lady Patriots in 5 sets at home to establish themselves as preliminary favorites in the district. Led by upperclassmen Sophia Pacheco (11th), Chloe Rosillo (12th), and Camila Southerst (12th), The Lady Patriots had revenge on their minds. And with only two games separating the two squads, a district title and playoff seeding were at stake.      

The first set started slowly as each team adjusted to the game environment. The playoff-like atmosphere was electric. The lead was exchanged at least 5 different times over a flurry of aces, kills, blocks, and tips. Every time a team would gain an advantage, an error or stout defensive play would reverse the tide. Each front line refused to budge. Stellar play from middle hitter Jesslyn Flores (11th), who finished with 5 solo blocks, helped re-center the Lady Lobos and eke out a 2-point victory. “As a team, we just work together. We know our limits, and we know our power,” Flores said.

The second set could have started out better for the Lady Lobos. Errors and miscalculations allowed the Lady Patriots to open up a 5-point lead early in the set. Calm serving from Kylie Cantu (10th) helped them inch back into the game to tie the score at 11. As the crowd noise intensified and facility humidity dampened the floor, the Lady Lobos ratcheted up their level of play. After every point scored, joyously violent hugs, chest bumps, and excited shoves were exchanged. The Lady Lobos reveled as the Lady Patriots began to fade.

Progress Times photos by Joe Vela

The third set was littered with interruptions, questionable line calls, and desperation. Each team struggled to find their rhythm early because the floor was sweating. Floor condensation limited player movement, causing errors and several stoppages. The Lady Patriots jumped out early thanks to frontline defensive standouts Southerst and Isabella Canizalez (10th). Senior libero Rosillo stabilized the back row, and junior Monika Regalado maneuvered around the court’s edges to secure the outside. For a time, as is their custom, it appeared as if the Lady Patriots would rally and stampede forward to win the set. But a Palmview timeout at 12-9 helped them refocus. It felt like the perfect storm of obstacles had formed to stumble the Lady Lobos. Wisdom from head coach Margo Iglesias-Cantu kept them upright. The Lobos soldiered on to tie the game at 13, then 17, until they finally seized an 18-17 lead. A late push from the Lady Patriots almost extended the match, but the Lady Lobos would not be denied.

“When the officials are against us, the team is against us, the gym is against us, we know altogether we’re gonna come out on top because that’s the kind of team we are. We’ve been experiencing obstacles all season. They always wanna bring us down because they know we have a strong group. But as a team, we’re stronger. We’re a sisterhood, and we never let it stop us.” Flores said.

After the game, the Lady Lobos celebrated their victory as a sea of black and red serenaded them with chants “UN-DE-FEAT-ED!” Senior setter Alexia Arevalo broke into tears immediately after the game, filled with joy, relief, and accomplishment. “Endless practices, hurting, crying when your legs don’t wanna work, pushing through all that–this is the result… all that hard work. We worked as a team, and I was just very proud. Proud to be on this team,” Arevalo said.

Progress Times photos by Joe Vela

Coach Iglesias-Cantu was beaming with the same pride and sweltering with the same intensity and ferocity shown by her players even after the dust had settled. “It means a lot because we’ve never beat Mission Vets here…Ever. It means a lot to me and my players because we worked hard.” Even when reminded of her team’s success, Iglesias-Cantu exclaimed, “I have been taking every game one game at a time. I told them: “We cannot get complacent. It’s just one game at a time, one game at a time,” said Iglesias-Cantu.

The accomplishments made by the Palmview volleyball program this season haven’t been achieved easily. There was no pedigree or precedent to build from. There was no tradition of sustained success, no championships, and no expectations for either. But one coach breathing life, hope, and passion into a program and a group of sisters can change it forever. “When I went to Palmview High School, everyone told me that I couldn’t do it. They were like: “Don’t coach volleyball. It’s a dead end. You’re not gonna win in La Joya.” And when they told me that, I was like: “No, I am going to prove everyone wrong.” So, every single day, I work harder. I watch film, and I take every opportunity I can to get my team better. I don’t stop. I’m always thinking about what I can do to make my team better. So, I just feel like it’s been a long time coming. The girls really deserve this. They work very hard. So I’m very happy, and I’m very proud,” Iglesisas-Cantu said.

 

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