It’s only summer … but it still matters. As North and EHS met Wednesday at South Middle School, there were giggles, hugs and smiles, a generally congenial atmosphere between long-time rivals. The Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department summer league season kicked off Monday, and on night two, though the mood was friendly, each team was fast at work.

The squads are figuring out who is going to fill holes left by graduation, a task accentuated for EHS by the fact that former star setter Jenetta Sanchez sat off to the side. She was waiting for her paperwork to go through as a summer coach, and in August will say goodbye to the Valley, headed for Baylor University in Waco. Also gone are big hitters Yadi Salinas and Lisa Lancaster, leaving the Lady Bobcats a bit green up front.

But remaining in the fold are some promising new stars like Sarina Rios, primed for a big senior year, and Beckah Rodriguez, the all-sport star who is improving in volley each season. Throw in returning all-district backliner Alyssa Perez and gritty senior Andrea Solis, and EHS has the core to compete once again.

Their chances at a district title may rest on a new setter, Alice Martinez, and some help in the middle from Roylinda Guerra. The former is tiny but smart, and she will spend the summer learning, to keep the program’s fine tradition rolling. The latter is an imposing physical presence who battled a huge North front Wednesday and came away with a handful of sweet blocks.

That Lady Coog line is plenty tall, with a couple of new faces joining returning basher Brandy Garcia, who hit hard and with ease in the team’s 2-0 win over the Lady ‘Cats. Keep an eye on Christy Brandt, a 6-footer who underwent heart surgery last year but is healthy in 2009. She has great length and when the ball is there, she can hammer it, as she did 10 times Wednesday.

North will need her to keep that up as the season nears, with seniors Julissa Ramirez and Viri Santibanez having graduated, and the Lady Coogs also look to integrate a serious leaper, Jessica Martinez, into the mix.

Like EHS, North must replace a super setter, Anyssa Avila, and there are a number of kids auditioning for the role, including Juliana Lopez and Olivia Sanchez. Also looking for varsity playing time is Abby Kotsur, younger sister of veteran Jennifer Kotsur of past years. This new group will use the summer as a laboratory, as the unit searches for continuity.

Destiny Rodriguez, one of the returning veterans from last year’s playoff team, along with outstanding libero Laura Torres, noted that the new faces have the potential to make the team even better this year.

“I can already tell that this team is going to gel better than we did last year,” said Rodriguez, who is coming off a great soccer season into summer volleyball.

NOTES: North took Game One 20-19 with Garcia scoring five times and Brandt contributing two ringing kills and a block-score midway through. Rios dominated the net early in Game Two but the Lady Bobcats blew a lead with Brandt cranking a series of winners and Garcia finishing strong for the 20-11 victory.

In other prep news, North’s Iliana Hinojosa was picked for the All-Valley softball team after an outstanding junior year. The hard-throwing pitcher was a second-team selection for the Lady Cougars.