The watchword was about the future Tuesday night as the Lady SaberCats wrapped the regular season with a straight-sets victory at Econ. Soon it would be playoff time with a re-re-rematch against a San Benito squad that has had the home girls’ number in 2017, but the Lady Sabes are more than ready for this week’s bi-district test.
“Yes, we have seen a lot of them already,” said Coach Celi Ortega, whose deep roster has made strides of improvement week by week, paying off in a sharp 12-2 record in District 31-6A and a solid second place finish behind P-SJ-A Memorial. “Each time we played them it came down to the wire, two points and no more than that, we made some mistakes but I think we will be ready to correct those mistakes and have a good chance of advancing.”
Senior smacker Bianca Cortez agrees, noting that Vela (24-15 overall) has come a long way since a rough start to the non-district year.
“We’re not the same team from back then, not at all,” said Cortez, who along with underclass star Glenys Maldonado gives the team some serious firepower up front. “I had a feeling we could be pretty good even then, though we did come into the season with some rebuilding to do. We did that early on and we just kept getting better, playing together, and now I would say that as a whole, this is a really good team with a lot of strengths.”
One of the strong points, besides the hitting of the two aforementioned leaders, is a bench full of kids who when called upon will come in and make a difference. Ortega looked around the court before the Econ game and commented on several of the lesser known Lady Sabes.
“Take Cordon for instance, she comes in and does something to help us,” she noted, of the athletic Julia Cordon. “Victoria Cavazos has shown some strong defense and every now and then she will really hit one hard. So we have numbers, and any of those girls, when they get in, they’re doing good things for us, and that really helps.”
Ortega said that other hitters have stepped up at times to provide a spark, such as Miranda Negron and Jackie Calvillo, and the latter was very effective in Tuesday’s finale, in particular. The coach can count on Em Espinoza to provide senior leadership at setter, with any number of second-line kids waiting for their chance to pitch in.
Cortez suggests that the playoff game will be a matter of just keeping the strong roll going. San Benito is 26-10 for the year, third in 32-6A.
“When we played them, it was our own mistakes which killed us,” she explained. “All the games were close and as I said, we’re a different team now than we were then, and I think we’re going to come out and do well.”
The season comes to a close for the Lady Jags of Cristina Soto, and despite a winless mark in district, the girls in orange have never let their spirits sag too much. Before taking on Vela at home, the team’s pre-tap cheer was loud as can be, and they hustled and fought through the home defeat.
“We have a lot of girls coming back, and we expect to be much improved,” Soto said. “This year has been tough at times but the good thing is, the players have never lost their enthusiasm. I believe that this season will act as a learning experience for them, and next year we definitely plan on improving, quite a bit.”
EHS IN AGAINST LOS FRESNOS; NORTH HANGS TOUGH
The Lady Bobcats came home 11-3, 19-13 after finishing the season with a win against Pharr North and now turns their attention to the playoffs. The opponent is Los Fresnos (26-11), and it is a fine Lady Falcon team, if a notch below its recent dominance in the region. After having lost to Los Fresnos late in the non-district slate, EHS now get a shot at redemption, just like Vela against San Benito.
North played for its life Tuesday, matching up against a P-SJ-A contingent that stood one game ahead in the standings heading into the finale. The Lady Cougars came up with a clutch road triumph to forge a tie for the final playoff spot, leading to Friday’s play-in match against the sagging Lady Bears, losers of four straight.
North advanced with a clutch win and prepared to take on 32-6A champ Brownsville Rivera Monday on the road. In fact, all three city teams were away from home for the bi-district round with EHS at Los Fresnos and Vela at San Benito.