The way it ended, with total domination in every facet and every girl doing everything right, the Lady Jags could have played all night. The Lady Bobcats, meanwhile, beat a hasty retreat into the rainy evening, to return home and figure out what happens next.
It was a nasty beatdown Tuesday, as Econ swept EHS to run to 3-1 in District 31-5A. However, as easy as the last two sets were, the first was brutally difficult, making for a dramatic contrast for both units. After a magnificent opener from both squads, EHS sagged while Econ raged.
In Game Three the Lady Jags walloped their foe unmercifully, 25-6, handing EHS its worst loss of the season, slightly more lopsided than a 25-7 setback to Lyford in an early tourney. Econ Libero Val Perez, after having once again pitched in her share of solid plays, commented on the team’s recent hot streak, and on the inspired play of her junior teammate, Kayla Silva.
“Hey, that was kind of boring,” joked the senior veteran. “I wanted to play some more! We were really clicking, and when we find that rhythm, we’re tough. I’m proud of my team.”
Of Silva, who was on another planet in the clincher with seven ringing kills to lead her gals to a 12-2 advantage and usher in a one-sided blowout, Perez had nothing but high praise.
“I think she has just improved a lot overall,” she said. “Wherever we put her, she just plays good. As a team, people have underestimated us all year, but we have shown what we can do so far.”
With all cylinders firing, the Lady Jags wasted the flailing visitor for an easy victory to close it out, with freshman Leigha Brown taking up where Silva left off once the smooth junior leaper left the game for a breather. But the Game Three laugher was a far cry from the first game, when the Lady ‘Cats (2-2 now after a second loss in a row) battled Econ step for step in a monumental struggle that saw the teams tied 11 times before the Orange squeaked out a win.
The Lady Jags have been sky high since last week’s narrow loss to Harlingen South, having followed that spirited near-win against the Lady Hawks with a 5-set comeback win at North Saturday. Facing perennially tough EHS, the girls were ready for a fight, and they got one. In the beginning, anyway.
It was another Kayla (they have three on the roster) who started fast for Econ, as Kayla Banda scored through a block to start things off. There were some fierce rallies in Game One, with Brown up top going against Lady Bobcat star Sarina Rios. Rios blocked Brown early on and then she and Bri Palacios stuffed Lory Martinez for a point, setting the tone for a topsy-turvy game with several lead changes.
EHS reached the high-water mark with a 10-7 lead, with libero Alyssa Perez in the mix and setter Myranda Hinojosa finding the open teammate. But Brown hit through two for a tally and then Silva rose up to deny Hinojosa.
Net play was the highlight of the evening, with Econ’s Daniella Gaytan holding her own front and center quite well. Her lefty slapdown of a wayward dig tied matters at 11, as Econ surged. But Lady Bobcat Anissa Gonzalez vaulted out of the gym to send a super spike to the ground and EHS assumed a 2-point bulge again.
Silva’s serve hit the net and dribbled over as Econ took the lead 16-15, but Lady Cats Perez and Gonzalez dived to keep a ball in play that Rios turned into a winning dink; it was that kind of awesome entertainment.
EHS looked strong for the win at 21-19 after Silva overdid it on a hit, out of bounds long. But after a timeout, Econ’s Britany Curiel popped a lefty winner crosscourt and Beckah Rodriguez served one out of bounds, for a tie.
Just when it looked like Comeback City for Econ, Rios rebounded from a dig of her smash by Perez, scoring at the end of a long sequence for a 24-22 Lady ‘Cat lead.
With Silva again serving, the Orange rose from the depths, helped by a Rios mishit on a dink that could have iced it.
Brown (nine blocks) stuffed Rios with a great leaping play and after another timeout, Lexi Barreiro (18 assists) set Brown up with the game-winner, the fab freshman putting an end to a truly sensational opening brawl.
In Game Two, Rodriguez served an early ace but the Lady Jags put six in a row on the board, with Silva spiking hard into Perez, rusty on the back row after a 6-week layoff due to health issues. Barreiro scored all six from the service line as her unit took the lead. EHS did manage to tie it at 9, the key to the run being a pretty play from Rios, who jumped left and hit backhand right for a clever winner.
But Gaytan put down an attempted pass from Hinojosa that got too close to the net, and Silva hammered one past Perez for a 15-10 advantage. Buoyed by that intimidating play, Silva put three more in the books, fast, and Brown helped out too, with a slicing dagger that no one had a chance for on the bewildered EHS back. It ended 25-14, and the rest was history, as Silva then enjoyed one of the finest games she or anyone else has had all season.
Silva rotated her right shoulder after the Game Three win, and informed the interested parties that the pain was not from all the killer kills she’d sent into the teeth of the enemy defense Tuesday. There were 16, to go with five blocks.
“I actually hurt it last year, and right now it’s kind of sore,” said the mild-mannered junior, who has begun to pay dividends on her awesome athletic potential. Oft-injured and slow to get the hang of the speed of the varsity game, she is now beginning to play All-Valley-type ball. “This year, I like the team we have, it feels good out there to play with this group. The way we played tonight, I wish we could get another shot at South, right now.”
NOTES: The Lady Bobcats recovered nicely, defeating Pharr North in straight sets Saturday, behind 16 kills from Rios, who is holding the team together these days with her spirited effort. North hosted Harlingen South and was blanked by the district leader, while the Lady Jags triumphed over Harlingen on the road, winning two, then losing two before taking the fifth and final try.