They’ve been taking some lumps lately, admittedly, but Coach Deanna Dominguez is hoping that this trial by fire will eventually pay off for her girls.

EHS hosted Harlingen Tuesday and was swept by the Lady Cardinals, who hit well and covered ground, blocked with consistency, and surged when they had to. The Lady Bobcats, bobbing and weaving through a recent dry stretch including losses to Sharyland and Brownsville Vets, were undaunted in fighting through it. Dominguez said that the rough patch will continue until district starts – EHS went on to play at Rowe Saturday – but she thinks the future will be brighter.

“We are dealing with adversity these days, playing a real tough strength of schedule,” she explained before Tuesday’s match. “Sometimes I wonder if getting beaten by better teams will work against our self-esteem. But I have always found that if you do go against the top teams, and not get down after losing, it will help you in the end. It just makes you better.”

The Lady ‘Cats worked against a Harlingen six that has been in the same boat, piecing together an inexperienced group and trying to improve. They did well on the road, taking the first set 25-16 after a late 7-2 run.

EHS started fine as Zarina Rodriguez scored a kill shot and Celeste del Villar made a sharp block that led to a 9-9 tie. Julissah Santa Maria and Bryahne Salinas registered kills but the Lady Cards could not be held off.

Dominguez lauded the play of Santa Maria, who is healthy after a spate of injuries.

“She is very athletic and I think Julissah has matured a lot as a player,” she said. “Last season during the playoffs she had a great game against Harlingen South and she has great potential going forward.”

The Lady ‘Cats dug themselves a hole in set two, but Santa Maria hit for a winner off a pass from Kristen Salinas, and the scene seemed promising.

But Harlingen continued to pass expertly, leading to a barrage of spikes and a 20-8 advantage. Then EHS rallied with Vianney Trevino at the service line, roaring to eight straight points. Hannah Vega, pressed into duty as libero, was everywhere in the first two sets, and led her team to a narrow 20-16 deficit before the visitor clinched it.

“She has such a high IQ, she reads very well,” said Dominguez of Vega. “Hannah has a positive attitude and she’s very articulate on the court. When she goes to discuss a call with an official as the captain, she knows what she is doing.”

Faced with the possibility of a straight-sets loss at home, EHS came out firing. Bryhane Salinas scored for an early lead and Kristen Salinas toed the line to serve seven straight successful points. They led 10-3 after a Vega dig produced a kill from Rodriguez, but again, here came Harlingen. The Lady Cards tied it at 11 despite a diving save from Santa Maria and after a last lead of 13-12, the home girls faded.

A 13-3 finishing run from Harlingen capped the evening, and the Lady Cards filed wearily off the court.

“I know this is tough for them, it’s been a brutal schedule lately,” Dominguez said. “But we need to just hang in there and keep working. We have to grow up fast, to learn how to compete every night, with consistency. I think once we get to district, this team will begin to show that it has evolved, gotten better, and is ready to compete.”