BY HENRY MILLER
At the beginning of any sports season there are always questions. It’s at every level, from professional to high school.
Maybe the biggest question for the high school volleyball season in the Rio Grande Valley was how good – if at all – is perennial powerhouse Mission Veterans Memorial going to be? After all, they only had three seniors coming back from a team that advanced to the regional quarterfinals last year. To top it off, Martina Carrillo, was comingin as a new coach with a complex offensive system, replacing longtime coach Diana Lerma.
Calls to coaches throughout the Valley, asking what teams would be among the elite came back with mixed responses regarding Veterans. They were clearly a top five by some coaches, a top 10 by others and even more said things like “well they’re always good, so I guess they’ll be up there again…even though I’m not sure what they have coming back.”
It didn’t take very long before those questions were answered. The Lady Patriots are 5-0 in district play and 19-11 overall after a three-set sweep at Laredo Nixon on Saturday, 25-20, 25-16, 25-18. That followed an exciting five-set victory at home over then No. 7 Sharyland Pioneer. Veterans is also ranked No. 17 in Class 5A in the state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association. That body of work has helped jump the Lady Patriots from No. 9 to No. 4 in this week’s 956sports.com Top 10 High School Volleyball Poll.
Carrillo took over the program after nine years at Freer High School. She led Class 3A Monahans to the state semifinals, Class A Tilden to the state finals and has nearly 500 coaching victories. Her complex offensive system, with a variety of attacks and at times a lot of movement, is meant to keep opponents off-balance and unable to pick up any patterns.
“It has taken time time, we are already in district and they are just now able to use the system,” Carrillo said. “They are getting more and more comfortable with it and are executing the offense better each time out.”
While Mission Veterans is a Class 5A school, they have played a schedule that would challenge some of the top Class 6A schools. They finished second in the Mission tournament, third in the Sharyland tournament and had solid matches against some highly competitive 6A schools in the Pearland tournament.
“Most of our losses – and wins – have come to 6A schools. I would say we’ve had a pretty rough schedule.” Carrillo said. “We don’t have the luxury of six footers on our team but I feel like we play like we do.”
Now in district, Carrillo knows her team is the one everyone will be gunning for. She said she feels her team is not only prepared, but focused on winning the district, whatever obstacles they may face.
“We’ve already faced obstacles and they have just made us stronger as a team,” she said. “Our focus is to win a championship, condense our mistakes, go 16-0 in the district and get to game five in the tournament, something this program hasn’t done.
“It’s not easy to make the state tournament or else everyone would be there. We are getting the job done and we are continuing to learn and grow and have fun – and win.”
McHi and McAllen Memorial remain a solid 1-2 in the poll. The two state-ranked teams face off at 11 a.m. Saturday at McAllen Memorial High School. They square off again on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at McHi. PSJA Memorial is third, followed by Mission Veterans and PSJA Memorial to round out the top five.
Following is the 956sports.com High School Volleyball Top 10
- McAllen Memorial
- Edinburg Vela
- Mission Veterans
- PSJA Memorial
- Nikki Rowe
- Sharyland Pioneer
- Los Fresnos