BY HENRY MILLER
When McHi opened the second set of the Lady Bulldogs match against city rival McAllen Memorial, after losing the first set 25-22, with a monstrous kill by outside hitter Sydney Pemelton it seemed as if McHi had found its legs and its thunder.
The Lady Bulldogs pulled ahead in that set early, 7-3. However, the Lady Mustangs kept their composure, and followed a strict game plan en route to a three set sweep – 25-22, 25-18, 25-18 over the Bulldogs Saturday in a match featuring the top two teams in the 956sports.com top 10 volleyball poll and two state-ranked squads. McHi (30-2) came into the match after winning 30 straight matches and was ranked 12th in Class 6A. Memorial (27-3) was ranked 20th.
With Memorial making a comeback from the 7-3 deficit, McHi served back to back point into the net and Memorial kept up the pressure. The same went for the third game as McHi took a 6-3 lead but couldn’t muster any more than a couple mini-runs as Memorial clinched the sweep.
“That’s a great team over there,” said McHi Volleyball Coach Paula Dodge. “We just made too many mistakes and against a team like that you’re going to be in trouble if you do that. We weren’t ready for certain things and they took advantage of that.”
Memorial Head Coach Lorena Lopez said the key to the match was to not let McHi get on a run, keep the ball away from their big hitters and change up the game every so often. They did that to perfection with a series of kills – let by Jocelynn Everage’s 14 kills – mixed in with balls to the corners, softer spikes with pinpoint accuracy and spikes off the blockers on the outside.
“We had to mix it up against them,” said senior Taylor Marburger, who added 12 kills as the Mustangs chalked up 41 kills on 103 attempts for an impressive 39.8 kill percentage. “We wanted to move the ball around, look for those open spaces and keep applying pressure, especially with our serves.”
“We expect them to hammer the ball and strike it hard,” Lopez said. “We were able to keep out composure.”
Memorial tallied seven aces in the three sets. Marburger had four of the aces.
“We came in with a game plan and the girls had faith in the coaching staff and executed that game plan very well today,” said Memorial Head Coach Lorena Lopez. “We are a big team and not too many teams we play are bigger, but McHi is. We needed to pass the ball well and change things up to keep them off balance and our girls did a great job of doing that.”
McHi lost the first set the last time the two teams played in McAllen Poundfest. The Bulldogs came back, however, to win the next two 25-20, 15-2.
“I just kept saying over and over in the huddle, 15-2, 15-2, remember that,” Marburger said. “We know how strong they are and we needed to stay focused and play well to beat them.”
Julia Monday and Victoria Rogers each had eight kills for McHi while Carter Helcamp added seven.