PHARR — Ask Sarina Rios, she knows and will tell you. The Lady Bobcats came within a whisker of blowing their season Tuesday night. They managed a 5-set triumph over last-place Pharr North, getting off the mat to limp back to the tape after winning the first two and then slowly collapsing.
“I think we were overconfident,” said the senior standout. “But we were able to pull through at the end. And it’s a good thing we did, that would have been horrible.”
Horrible, yes, because EHS came into the night with a chance to make the playoffs once again, despite an up-and-down campaign with a young and inexperienced team. Horrible, yes, especially considering the team’s last outing, a stunning upset of Econ Oct. 17 that might have turned the season around.
“That was the speech the coaches gave us midway through,” explained Rios, who hit well at times but was also prone to streaks of unforced errors at the net. “They told us during a timeout that this is it, we lose and we’re out.”
As of Tuesday night, they were still in it, rising to 7-5 in District 31-5A (14-10 overall), good enough for a tie with P-SJ-A and Edinburg North for third place. Now they have to win one of two against Harlingen South (12-0, 30-1) and rival Edinburg North (7-5, 15-11) to have a shot.
It was like a dream where you cannot wake up. After grabbing a 2-0 advantage against a Lady Raider team seemingly playing out the string and going nowhere fast, Edinburg stumbled. And went down.
“I told the team we needed to pick it up,” said Rios, who had 18 kills and 10 digs. “We have worked so hard, we beat the Jags and now to lose to a team like this, no offense, but it just couldn’t happen like that.”
It was just one of those nights, as the Lady Bobcats held a 24-18 lead in Game Three, only to see the match point elude them as well as the game. The Lady Raiders hustled their way to a 26-24 win. Rios felt the pain afterward.
“It was really frustrating, because we had done so well against Econ,” she noted. “The way we played against them, well it was not the same team we had at the beginning of the year. Everyone was listening, communicating, they wanted to win and we did. Then to come out like this, well…”
The Lady ‘Cats had little trouble with North to start out, putting the first one away 26-24 after leading most of the way. Rios had three kills and fellow senior Andrea Solis contributed a couple of scores. Edinburg led, 17-11 until allowing six in a row, in a letdown that was a harbinger of more nightmares to come.
Rios scored on a sharp block to tie it at 22 and then sophomore Anissa Gonzalez slammed after a diving save from Ashley Garcia kept the play alive. Gonzalez served a winner and then two mistakes by the Lady Raider backline ended it.
In Game Two, EHS charged out to a 7-2 lead with junior Beckah Rodriguez (14 kills, nine digs) leading the way, and eventually built a 20-11 advantage on Rodriguez’ kill off a pass from freshman Myranda Hinojosa, who has been out of action due to a death in the family. The game ended at 25-16 with two faulty serves in a row from the home side,
At that point, it was time to warm up the bus, or so it seemed.
Alice Martinez began the supposed clincher with a super side-winder hit for a score but North forged into the lead with some inspired action. As they’ve done on maddening occasions in 2009, the Lady ‘Cats then got tentative, failing to talk and seeming unable to get into a sequence. Solis and Rodriguez tossed down the taps the team completes with regularity for a 16-15 edge, with Martinez (18 assists, 42 digs) following up with a deep push for a point.
After Solis and Rodriguez made plays it was 20-15. But soon it got bad. Rios and Gonzalez combined for a block and the team was on the precipice, leading 24-18. It would be outscored 9-1 the rest of the way.
“We were standing around, it seemed like no one wanted the ball,” Rios complained, charging herself with that debit as well. “If you want it, you think you can knock it down? You have to call for the ball. We weren’t in the game at that point at all.”
They got back in with a 5-1 rush to begin Game Four but the Lady Raiders rallied and would lead 11-9. Gonzalez to Hinojosa to Rios worked twice at a key spot and EHS rebounded into a 14-12 lead. But then they allowed six in a row, with the backline playing dreadfully, and North won it going away, 25-20.
Facing elimination from the postseason hunt, the Lady Bobcats regained their fire, as Martinez served an ace and combined with Bri Palacios to save a possession. It was 6-2 in the clincher as Rios fisted one off a Palacios pass.
But again, North came from behind, tying the game 7-7. Martinez was the hero of the latter stages of Game Five with two diving saves, and Roylinda Guerra also came to the dance with two huge plays at the net as the visitor assumed a 13-11 bulge, both teams playing at a superior level, hustling all over the court.
After North tied it at 13, Guerra scored on a deep push after an awesome sidestepping dig of a Lady Raider bullet from Garcia. Gonzalez served, dug the return and it landed in between two enemy defenders, handing the reprieve to a relived Edinburg crew.
Coach Deanna Sanchez-Dominguez admitted afterward that her team was fortunate to be in contention.
“We got lucky tonight, plain and simple,” she said. “We were not ready to play, we had a lot of girls missing from practice lately and it showed. We have the tendency sometimes to just error ourselves out, there’s just no way around saying that. But we were able to make it through and we still have a chance at the playoffs.”
NOTES: EHS went down in four Saturday to Harlingen South to drop to 7-6 overall while Econ (8-5) lost to P-SJ-A (8-5) and North (8-5) defeated P-SJ-A Memorial. The day’s work left the Lady Jags and Lady Coogs tied for second with the Lady Bears and EHS a game back. A win Tuesday over North would leave the Lady ‘Cats tied with them, while Econ looked good for a win over P-SJ-A Memorial despite having lost four of five. P-SJ-A was set to face off with last-place Pharr North.