They almost blew all the momentum gained earlier in the week, but after losing the first two sets against Econ Saturday, the Lady Coogs gutted out a 5-set comeback win with a 15-9 closer on the road,
Fresh off a super performance Tuesday in a sweep of long-time nemesis Harlingen South, North was bested by another old rival 25-16 in each of the first two sets, and the undefeated league record was in doubt.
But led by Aleena Cubriel (15 kills), the Lady Coogs (7-0) fought back, taking control to finish a memorable week that left them all alone in first place atop District 31-5A, with a two-game lead over South. Econ is third with a 4-3 mark at the halfway point, with EHS at 3-4 amid a pack of contenders for a playoff spot.
Tuesday's triumph over South ended a long history of futility against the perennial champion Lady Hawks. The Lady Coogs faced down South and its vocal fans with a sweep, making it all the sweeter.
"It was tough, I have been trying to beat them since sophomore year," said senior hitter Cubriel. "We got close that year, took them to five. But this year we feel is our year."
North took control early and never let up, overcoming service problems (especially in Game Two) to put the Lady Hawks down. The squad got some nice contributions from newcomers like Danielle Trevino, a former hitter now working as a setter. Every time South threatened, the Lady Coogs had the answers, delivered with calm and cool under pressure.
"We played some tough teams early and it has prepared us for this," said Coach Adrian Cavazos. "Today we responded well when they got it going against us, when in the past we might have folded. We might have found a way to lose but this year we were determined to beat them."
The crowd was loud from the beginning, as North took a 10-5 lead to set the tone. "Jumpin' Jessica" Martinez scored twice off failed blocks and Megan Helle placed a left-handed tap down for an 18-13 advantage. The home girls led 22-21 after Cubriel's monster kill but the Lady Hawks rallied into a 26-25 lead. Sophomore Tracy Shumpert came up with a block to tie it and South faltered with some unforced errors in a 29-27 North win.
And that is the difference this season, as North is making plays in rhythm and South is not. The Lady Coogs never trailed in Game Two, winning 25-14 despite poor service. Senior Juliannah Lopez hit the net a few times during the game but later rebounded with a sharp ace and a running save.
"This year we have a better bond, even though there are a lot of new girls," said Lopez, who has solidified her play steadily this season. "When someone messes up we just get behind them and pick them up. That gets us through the tough points in a match."
Game Three would be a back-and-forth affair with the teams churning at a playoff pitch. North led early but the Lady Hawks finally began to serve and receive with skill, taking control midway through. Their last lead was 19-18, after Trevino had hit the deck to redirect a shot, leading to a Cubriel slam.
Allison Brandt, another of the new faces doing the job in 2011, tied it at 19 with a kill and again South broke down, giving North the opening. The Lady Coogs were smooth down the stretch with their foe scrambling to keep up. It ended 25-20, and the girls erupted with delight, and tears.
"In my 14 years at North, this is the first time we have beaten Harlingen South," Cavazos said. "So, this is pretty special for us."