In the volley world, they’ve gotten used to it by now, knowing that while the rest of the universe is still sleeping in and playing video games – and though school is not starting for many weeks – the season is off and running.
Indeed, the city squads have now planted their flag at numerous tournaments, reached double figures in total games contested, and are rounding the last turn into district play, here before we know it. All before the first day of class.
At any rate, the lessons have already begun for netting units, the latest examination having come last weekend in Mission, where the entire Edinburg contingent was in the mix. The results were interesting as Vela (9-6 overall) plowed through a number of wins before being beaten by United South and San Benito, EHS had a distressing run with a 1-3 ledger, and Econ came of age a bit with two victories Saturday to clinch a bracket edge.
That leaves North, a squad with a new coach, many new faces, and some real potential for the near future. After eons of steady excellence under Adrian Cavazos, the reins have been passed to long-time assistant Raul McCallum, and in his new guise, Coach Mac has changed very little. Still cerebral and always with clipboard in hand, he is doing the same sort of painstaking teaching he has been known for in volley and soccer. Only now he is the man, and the kids seem to be responding.
The Lady Cougars are off to a solid 8-6 beginning, claiming success at Mission in half their tries. They nearly had three of four, but a three-set thriller against Brownsville Vets revealed the items McCallum and staff will need to shore up for the long haul.
So far the attack is sort of a back-to-front affair paced by bouncy sophomore Evana Ramos, who can jump to the moon on the serve and deliver a slicing, dangerous back-row bullet with pleasant regularity. She is a real prospect, joining with established veterans Nat Rodriguez and setter Jess Dreyer to give McCallum some experience to go with the array of unfamiliar options.
Rodriguez, set to play softball at Texas A&M-Kingsville next year, is a gutty competitor who can get hot on the hits, while Dreyer is a consistent fire-starter. Once the Lady Coogs get into more netward offense, the complement of Ramos’ blazing sends will make the offense multi-dimensional.
In the middle there are a number of kids with good size, few with much varsity experience. Jevanah Burrows is a tall and agile girl with long arms and rugged Cortney Ortiz, the most seasoned of the frontline group, will definitely contribute. Jackie Soto is strong of build and teammate Gianna Arganbright, at nearly 6-foot, might get some time as well.
While Drina Garza is not a giant out there she showed deftness at the net during the tournament, while Davida de Leon, a part-timer last season, had some promising moments at key times. The wild card may be Brandi Garcia, who has a strong service game and exhibited potential on offense.
Right now, McCallum says he is working to get a starting lineup intact, and adds that he thinks that in time, his club could be tough.
“We’re pretty good, I think,” he said during the weekend of work. “We just have to see who is going to move ahead into the lineup.”
Rodriguez, the team leader, commented that the girls have adapted well to the program’s tectonic plate shift.
“Coach Mac knows what he’s doing, he does his job and is good with the details and tweaks,” she said. “We played a lot together this summer and did pretty well, so I don’t see why we can’t compete in district. We have a lot of new players but also some people who have been around. We’re fired up, I like the group and how we get along.”
With EHS, the early going has been somewhat rough, as indicated by losses at Mission to Pharr North, Corpus Christi Vets, and P-SJ-A. The lone triumph was a nostalgic one, against a Lyford crew coached by former Lady Bobcat standout Lisa Lancaster.
Aside from setter Renee Ponce, it’s difficult to get a good read on Coach Deanna Dominguez’ latest edition, such are the holes in the fence, experience-wise. Vianney Trevino at libero and Kristen Salinas were with the team last season and their development will be vital; Salinas in particular should be a leading light in 2018.
Of the unfamiliar gals, Hannah Vega was an active hitter from the left side in the tourney, while Bryhane Salinas brings size and toughness up front. Other newbies fighting for time include Celeste Villar on the net, plus Arely Garza (versatile) and Yudith Salazar outside.
For now, Ponce, in the same leadership role as Rodriguez of North, will make sure her teammates hustle and keep the spirit up. And one notes that Dominguez, known for a decade as an expert at making a lot out of a little, is adept at doing what needs to be done to reach, teach, preach and succeed. Do not count out this young but talented team, says here.