By HENRY MILLER
Two district-shaping matchups highlight Tuesday’s high school volleyball field.
PSJA Memorial travels to Edinburg Vela in District 31-6A and Mission Veterans travels to Sharyland in District 31-5A.
The winners will be in the driver’s seat in each district with a little more than half of the district season left to play.
“We know it’s going to be battle tomorrow,” said Edinburg Vela coach Araceli Ortega, whose team sports a 24-7 overall record and is 3-0 in the district. “They are not a team that gives up easily and they’ve got height up front and quickness in the back row.”
PSJA is coming off a five-set loss to Edinburg High School and needs a win to remain in a tight district race. A loss would drop the Lady Wolverines behind both Edinburg and Vela in the standings.
Meanwhile, a win for the Lady Sabercats puts them a game up on Edinburg and two up on PSJA – their two biggest district-champion hopefuls.
“We need to be fast in this game,” Ortega said. “They have a nice double block along the net and we have to get to the angles they are giving up.”
Vela brings a cast of hitters who can attack in a variety of ways. Bianca Cortez, a junior spearheads the middle for the Sabercats. When she rotates out of the front row Victoria Cavazos takes the helm in the middle. Their top hitter is outside hitter, and senior Jaida Muhammed. She and Nicole Aguilar combine with the two middles to create a strong double block, something that has been a strength for Vela in their recent matches.
“We are very fortunate that we can spread the ball around and do some different things,” Ortega said. “We may have to change things up at times and hope to not let them get momentum. That’s how they play. If that happens, it could be a different situation. It should be a good one but our girls are ready.
Mission Veterans finds itself in a similar position as Vela. A win by the Lady Patriots against Sharyland and they will find themselves in the driver’s seat. Sharyland has one district loss, Sharyland Pioneer has two and Veterans is the only one with an unblemished district record at 6-0.
“This is a big game – they beat Pioneer and we beat Pioneer in five games,” said Veterans Head Coach Martina Carrillo. “It’s a statement game. We want to send a statement that we are 7-0. Our game is elevating right now. We are trying to stay one game ahead.”
Sharyland comes in as a bigger team, but that’s not new to the Lady Veteran, 21-11 overall, who played almost all their non-district games against Class 6A teams, including McHi and McAllen Memorial. Using a quicker offense and multiple offensive attacks
“They have a couple of good hitters who can do damage at the net, said Carrillo, whose team is ranked No. 17 in the state in Class 5A. “They are way taller than we are – but we play tall. We’re not big, but we have the hops and get up at the net. We are quick.”
That quickness is how Mission Veterans equalizes the bigger opponents. Faster passing and quicker sets, along with having three capable hitters at the net at all times, can keep opponents off guard and late to set up effective double blocks and a defensive return.”
“The girls are really enjoying the system and getting comfortable with it,” Carrillo said. “They have been able to execute the strategy. We don’t concentrate on one hitter and we don’t always have to go high and outside all the time. All the different types of hitters we have are able to contribute and we are able to run a fast-tempo offense. We aren’t totally there yet but we are working toward that goal. ”