Surely you’ve seen her somewhere during the past three sports seasons at EHS: smiling face, outstanding physique, and impressive skill set. As she starts her swan song for the Lady Bobcat volleyball team (and cross country, later soccer) Beckah Rodriguez is pretty much a household name, an all-around athlete who can do it all.

The only thing missing is senior leadership, and now that the long-legged hitter has reached the 12th grade, that’s next on her list.

“I really want to become that vocal leader this year, that’s my goal,” she said after the Lady ‘Cats (10-2) swept Donna at home Tuesday night. “I think we have the chance to be a very good team and I want to do my part in helping. I have the experience now, and I feel much more confident out on the floor these days. I trained hard this summer and hey, I know this my last year. I want this to be a great one, for the team.”

Rodriguez is indeed more confident in 2010, though she’s been a solid contributor for three seasons already. Against Donna she spurred EHS on in the early going with five straight impact plays, including a soft spike, a hard one, and a scoring block. An impressive sequence for sure.

“We gained a lot during the tournament, it was a long trip but a good one,” she noted, in reference to the unit’s consolation-championship performance at the Sinton Tournament Aug. 19-21. “We had to play three games in one day, and the pool play was crazy! They were whole games, not just to 15. So it was important for us to stay focused even though we were all pretty beat.”

That is the kind of analysis one would expect from a senior leader who’s been around. In the past, Rodriguez was content to let her great leaping ability and superb stamina do the talking, but now that she’s the center of the universe for EHS, it’s time to follow in the footsteps of departed veterans like Alyssa Perez and Andrea Solis.

“I totally keep up with them,” she commented. “The other day Alyssa was here from Laredo…I miss her so, so much! When I saw her, I wanted to cry, I got the chills.”

With Rodriguez manning the mentor role in 2010, the Lady ‘Cats stand a good chance of getting back into the playoffs, where they’ve been in two of her three campaigns. The Donna win was a good example of how they need to play if they want to make it out of the Valley’s toughest league. Rodriguez is firm in the belief that a Week One loss the team suffered could foster the theme of the season for EHS.

“We played really well at the Donna Tournament against Los Fresnos, communication was the key,” she explained. “My mom said that even though it was a really loud crowd, she could hear us talking to one another over the noise. We won the first game, lost the next two, and there was less communication down the stretch. We just have to get to where we can play like we did that first game, and we’ll be good.”

One of the X-factors that will help is Bianca Casas, who has returned to the team after a year’s absence. Rodriguez said that the basketball star is an excellent setter who has gotten back into volleyball shape in a hurry.

“She has been helping us out a lot with setting, and she seems to be right where she was before she left,” said the hitting star. “Having her back is great for us.”

Casas surged early in Game One, and sophomore Myranda Hinojosa came on late to make a few key passes as the Lady ‘Cats won, 25-17. They stayed calm under fire and Donna began to make unforced errors, leading to the victory.

The junior Casas was also on stage as Game Two began, serving eight winners in a row as EHS rallied from a 6-2 deficit to take control. With the Bravettes struggling to locate and get into the mix, EHS looked strong.

When springy junior Anissa Gonzalez bombed one off the face of a Donna backliner, it was 20-14. Then Alice Martinez and libero Torie DeLeon combined to make a key save in back and Hinojosa put the finishing touch on a 25-19 decision with a nifty over-the-shoulder, twister surprise on the second hit.

Still, the Bravettes ran out to another lead, 6-3 facing elimination, but Casas again charged from the service line for a run of points, this time six consecutively. Roylinda Guerra rose for a putdown of a wayward bump and from 16-8, EHS put the foe away.

Beckah-in-waiting Gonzalez came up with another harsh kill and the Lady ‘Cats went to the house, preparing for another road trip, this time to Alice.

Funny that the team was able to come up with a good effort Tuesday, because Monday had marked perhaps the squad’s worst day of practice all year.

Rodriguez said that maybe it was fatigue from the voyage to Sinton, combined with the first day of school and all its stress. Either way, she knows it will be OK.

“This year we have a friendly group, we had a lot of fun bonding on the trip, in the halls at school we are hanging out, we don’t just walk on by,” she said. “This team is together and that will go a long way toward our being successful, we were able to put it together today, have that bad day way behind us.

“I have to miss another cross country meet for this next trip, but it’s worth it. Sometimes you just have to sacrifice…volleyball is super important to me this year. It’s important to all of us. We just have to play the way we did against Los Fresnos.”

NOTES: EHS and North competed at the Alice Tournament over the weekend, with the Lady Coogs defeating Kingsville Academy and Freer to take the title. Christy Brandt, Aleena Cubriel, and Abby Garza made the All-Tourney Team for North. Econ took out Pace to take the consolation championship at the P-SJ-A North Tourney.