Say what one might about the Lady Cougars, that it’s been a rough and uneven campaign with setbacks and obstacles alongside occasional glimpses of success. But the bottom line is this: after five games in district, North is 3-2 and if the season ended tomorrow, would be in the playoffs.
So one has to hand it to Coach Adrian Cavazos, who has weathered the storm of 2017 well enough to be able to pilot his club into contention. The Lady Coogs are sporting some new faces in the rotation these days, and each of them had some shining moments in Tuesday’s shutout win at Econ.
With setter Amanda Cavazos down with an injury, Jessica Dreyer has stepped in to provide a steady hand. The younger sister of Amber – a program veteran – was solid against the Lady Jags as was newcomer Evana Ramos, a bouncy freshman with very strong upside for the future.
Appearing more and more up front is rugged soccer defender Cortney Ortiz and she held her own Tuesday as North swept through a winless opponent with consistent effort and execution. Another frontliner of recent emergence is Jo Jo Burrows, a strongly built and athletic option who shows potential at the net.
In essence, it’s a mix of the old and the new as the Lady Coogs attempt to defy the odds and fight for a spot in the postseason. Amber Dreyer and Natalie Rodriguez are proven commodities, the former as a hitter of prowess and the latter as, well, as a fiery competitor who will do whatever it takes to contribute. Rodriguez, in softball as well as volleyball, has that It Factor as a winner who generally wants it more than the opponent does.
“Girls like Jessica, some others, they’re getting better at the right time, just as district has started,” commented Cavazos, whose club did lose at home to EHS Saturday to fall to 3-2. “We are keeping ourselves in games with the ability to serve, being aggressive on offense and keeping the other team off balance, this helps us too.”
The coach noted that though his crew is a work in progress, and it has some size deficiency at the twines, he is pleased with the way the Lady Coogs have started the 31-6A slog.
“We’re even starting to execute some plays, like the C-Slide, and that shows the girls are learning and progressing,” he explained. “We’re not as big as many teams so we have to work around that, we’re not going to go head to head at the net, and we know that.”
Everyone is contributing for the squad lately, including Brandi Garcia, who served up an early pair of aces in the first set against Econ, and Brittany Keller, who will always hustle and give it 110 percent. Burrows turned in some strong defensive play to help North clinch a 25-12 victory, Andrea Saenz pumping in a few jump serves and a terrific late-set dig.
Ramos is also a jumper on the serves and fearless approaching the net despite her relative lack of height. In the second set Econ led through the first stretch and was up 17-15 until a Saenz dig and an Amber Dreyer slammer turned the tide. Ortiz won at net, followed by another Dreyer spike and the 25-19 decision was clinched via a tough diagonal slice over net from the tricky Rodriguez.
Jess Dreyer set up Keller early in the final set, the Lady Coogs out-quicking the taller Lady Jags. Dreyer fed her teammates perfectly from there, getting Keller another scoring lick. Ortiz scored off the block and then hit a deep bomb that ticked the line in back. Ramos jump-served a bullet for a 16-13 advantage and then set Rodriguez well for a kill. The leaping Ramos was very impressive as the match wore on, and one can see why she has broken into the picture as of late. Amber Dreyer ended the 25-21 third set – the Lady Jags rallied well behind Norma Castillo up front – and North had made short work of a city rival.
It’s a long way forward for the district chase, but North, after being counted out by many observers after a sluggish non-district performance, is starting to find the range. The word now is that teams had better not sleep on the Lady Coogs, because they are starting to come together and believe they can make some noise in the coming weeks.