Because the regular season gets under way literally as the summer comes to a close, the summer volleyball season is a very important training ground. Lineup and strategy tweaks taking place in June will show fruit or not soon enough by August. New faces audition for the roles in the rotation and they’ve got a four-week window to show what they can do.

The city schools have been highly competitive in recent years and last season was no exception, with two making the playoffs and one coming within an eyelash. So far this month, the trio has been right at the top of the charts, and Monday they were in action at South Junior High. Finding room at the facility has been dicey as the school parking lot is being resurfaced for the first time in what seems like forever. For EHS, North, and Econ, however, the road to 2010 will probably be a whole lot smoother.

The Lady Cougars have a formidable one-two punch up front with returning vets Jessica Martinez and Christy Brandt but will have to find a replacement for All-Star libero Laura Torres, who graduated. They have played well so far this summer and led Harlingen South early before losing Monday.

Meanwhile, Econ hopes to duplicate last year’s playoff appearance and is developing the routine in June minus soph-to-be Leigha Brown, who is traveling extensively right now. Star hitter Kayla Silva also sat out Monday’s match against Weslaco East but the remaining kids did a good job.

Returners Lexi Barreira and Kayla Longoria are running the show for the Lady Jags, and they both say that with two key contributors on the sidelines, the chance for other girls to step up has presented itself.

“We are definitely going to be counting on those two, but right now, we’re going with what we have and I think it’s been good for us,” said Longoria, a hard-nosed backliner who is stepping in to the libero role manned by Val Perez in the past.

And then there’s EHS, which has some outstanding and seasoned team members to call upon, such as Beckah Rodriguez, Bri Palacios, and steady setter Alice Martinez. The holes in the put-together at this juncture are in back (libero Alyssa Perez graduated) and hitter (Sarina Rios is done as well), but the roster is full of solid youngsters looking to make their mark. Softball pals Anissa Gonzalez and Tori DeLeon appear to be set to become prominent Lady ‘Cats along with a third diamond star, Myranda Hinojosa.

For now, the games are rolling at South three times a week, with the city teams seeking new combinations and momentum heading into the coming season.

NOTES: The Edinburg boys continue to dominate the summer league, as they scored a 55-44 victory over McAllen High Wednesday night. Countering the Bulldog height advantage inside with their patented run-and-shoot attack, the Bobcats rebounded from a 19-11 deficit with nine in a row midway through the second period, led by great defense and a three-pointer from Aaron Olvera.

Cord Arriola led a sharp charge after halftime and EHS kept the lead throughout, with clutch free throws from Stevie Guerrero and a bucket from Phillip De la Rosa icing it after McAllen had climbed to within three at 45-42.