By HENRY MILLER
The timing couldn’t have been much better for Edinburg Vela to be reunited with its city rivals in District 31-6A than it was this year.
After all, the Lady Sabercats had nine players returning from last season’s team that finished third in District 30-5A with an 8-4 district record and a 33-12 overall mark. Vela defeated PSJA high in the Bi-District tournament before falling to Flour Bluff. The Sabercats have shown that they are ready, so far, compiling a 21-7 record with 1.3 wins and one loss against McAllen perennial power Nikki Rowe.
One-point-three wins? Well, it wasn’t actually a win in the record books but in Thursday’s contest at Nikki Rowe, the Lady Sabercats won the first set before air conditioning problems and an unplayable floor caused the rest of the match to be canceled. However, after splitting the first two meetings of the year with the Lady Warriors, that one-set win was enough to move Vela to No. 3 in the weekly 956Sports.com Volleyball Top 10.
McHi easily remained No. 1, improving to 27-1 after wins over Harlingen and Brownsville Veterans. McAllen Memorial (22-3) solidly remained No. 2 following a three-set sweep of Edinburg High (20-5), which fell from No. 4 to No. 6. Vela came in third, followed by Nikki Rowe. A quiet but solid PSJA Memorial rounds out the top 5
Jaida Muhammad, a senior outside hitter for the Lady Sabercats, and setter Nicole Avelar has been with head coach Araceli Ortega for four years. Muhammad was promoted to the varsity squad midway through district play as a freshman, and Avelar came up during the playoffs, also as a freshman.
“They are the two we build our offense around,” Ortega said. “They are leaders for us.”
Two other returners who have “blossomed from last year,” according to Ortega are middle hitter/blocker Bianca Cortez, a junior, and libero Dylann Guerra, a sophomore and cross country runner.
“She’s a very quick libero,” Ortega said. “Bianca is our big middle and leads our front line defensively. She’s a very athletic individual.”
Ortega joked that the rest of the Edinburg schools surely were welcoming Vela “with open arms.” Vela already has one win over a district rival, dispatching PSJA in two sets in a tournament. Still, the full-time district schedule is less than a week away. Edinburg Vela plays on Tuesday at home against Donna North before district play opens on Saturday. The Sabercats host Edinburg North at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The last time Vela played 6A was in their first year of existence. 31-6A has changed a little since then. Out are the La Joya schools and in are the PSJA Schools, including a very strong PSJA Memorial Squad.
“We knew coming it that it was going to be tough going from 5A to 6A but it was something to look forward to as well. We expect to play at this level,” Ortega said. “We are still getting to know the new teams but we’ve been keeping our eye out for them as well.”
Following is the 956Sports.com High School Volleyball Top 10:
- McAllen Memorial
- Edinburg Vela
- Nikki Rowe
- PSJA Memorial
- Sharyland Pioneer
- Los Fresnos
- Mission Veterans