Never has a scene been more dripping with symbolism. As the Lady Jags prepared to warm up for their home match against Brownsville Pace Tuesday, they came jogging through a spirit circle hosted by the JV girls, who had just finished playing. As they scooted along the far wall in the Econ gym, a barrage of volleyballs started coming their way, from the unsuspecting Pace girls already on the court warming up. Boom, boom, boom...guess who's a target in 2011?
Econ had a super season in 2010, lost a lot of kids of that playoff squad, but will be able to count on Leigha Brown to lead the way, thanks the fates. After sitting out the summer leagues to concentrate on track and field, the lithe and lean junior is back and better than ever, as she led the Lady Jags to a sweep of the Viqueens with her usual array of rocket kills and leaping blocks.
As the preseason continues, the Orange is exceedingly glad to have Big No. 2 back in the middle. They got a lot of work done without her, mixing combinations of newcomers and experimenting with different lineups. But the prospect of a Brown Out for 2011 was practically unthinkable. She joined the fray a bit late but is hitting her stride on schedule.
The 6-foot junior reported having enjoyed a very successful track season this summer, complete with three medals at the state meet, and is now ready to take on volleyball as the team's undoubted leader.
"I will still be working out for track, though I have taken August off," said Brown, who has gotten stronger since last campaign and noticeably more comfortable with the media as well. "I will practice with the cross country team all week but just not run the meets. But it's good to be back with the volleyball team, we have a lot of work to do."
Brown, who showed some new wrinkles Tuesday, including clever directional blocks and defensive stops from further back to avoid net violations, said that she thinks with time the Lady Jags will develop into a team to be reckoned with.
"Yes, I think it is attainable, making the playoffs," she noted. "We just need to get to practicing, and we have a lot of new people so the timing isn't totally there yet. We can rebuild quickly and be a challenger for the playoffs."
With LB back in the middle and setter Yvette Garza returning from an injury, the club has a potentially devastating combination. Brown notes that she and Garza are working on their connection and that the latter has been coming through with some "real bullets" from the service line in 2011.
Other prominent contributors to the effort include Kenia Gonzalez outside plus frontliner Anyssa Martinez, a lefty who put in some quality time against Pace with usual mid Deissy Sauceda unable to compete.
Gutty libero Lauren Tijerina is ready to step into the shoes of graduated Kayla Longoria while veteran Stephanie Escobedo knows her way around the floor. Sophomore Noemi Garza came on in relief of Brown midway through Game Two and provided some solid play, auguring well for the future.
For now, though, it's Brown in town again, and the Lady Jags, off to a competitive start thus far, are a far different club with the long-legged swatter on the wood. She knows that the team expects a lot from her, but has never backed down from a challenge and isn't about to start now. Everyone will be gunning for Econ, thinking that they are facing a one-girl team. Their mistake.
"I know they are relying on me a lot, but I can take it," she said. "My teammates do look to me to do my part and that's the way it should be. I think with some hard work in practice we can all come together, working as a team to win."
NOTES: Over the weekend, all three city teams were in action at the Poundfest in McAllen. EHS (9-6) made it to the third-place game in the Gold Bracket after a great weekend of work, losing to McAllen Memorial in the finals. North (12-6) advanced to the consolation final of the top bracket before dropping out versus San Benito. Econ (11-6) defeated Hanna in the third-place game of the Silver Bracket.
In first-day Poundfest play, North won three times over Donna, Palmview and Santa Rosa, allowing an average of just 12 points per match. The Lady Bobcats beat Rowe, Lincoln and a JV team for a successful start, and the victory over the perennially tough Lady Warriors of Rowe was particularly valuable. Econ beat La Joya and Valley View but dropped a close one to a salty San Benito team in three sets.
Friday EHS kept the momentum going with three more victories while North went 2-1 (losing to Rowe) and the Lady Jags also took two of three, falling short against Los Fresnos.