HARLINGEN — Things were doubly sweet for the Harlingen Lady Cardinals volleyball team on Saturday.
Not only did they open the District 32-6A season with a straight-set win, they did so over crosstown rival Harlingen South, 25-19, 26-24 and 25-18.
“This was big,” said a smiling Lady Cards head coach Jennifer Martinez as she accepted congratulatory hugs after the match.
“We’ve been kind of in a little slump here so this just gives us a little bit of confidence as we get district play started.”
Although the match ended in a sweep, it couldn’t have been more thrilling as the Lady Hawks did everything in their power to fend off the visiting Lady Red Birds.
After the teams begin with a little back-and-forth sparring to start Game 1, the Lady Hawks found a nice offensive rhythm and took a 13-9 advantage.
However, the Lady Cards battled back behind some solid defense and tied the set at 15-15, forcing Lady Hawks head coach Jennifer Taliancich to call a timeout.
Unfortunately, the brief break did little to stop the Lady Cards’ momentum as Harlingen extended its lead to 21-15 and eventually won the game 25-19 much to the delight of the sizable Lady Cards contingent.
The second set tuned out to be a near mirror image of the first game as the Lady Hawks took a 13-9 lead only to watch it evaporate as Harlingen’s Yazmine Martinez and Brianna Ramos came to life at the net.
But unlike in the opening set, South fought back, tied things up at 22-22 and looked primed to tie the match up at 1-1.
Once again, however, the Lady Cards proved too much and eventually won the game 26-24 with Ramos tipping the ball in for the game winner.
“We managed to stay composed, stay disciplined and they really worked together as a team,” Martinez said. “These girls are just so humble and hungry that they do whatever it takes to get the job done. Thank God because we really needed this win to get us back on track.”
With momentum fully on their side heading into Game 3, the Lady Cards fought their way to a 15-11 lead and never looked back as they took the set 25-18 to seal the victory.
Despite the tough loss, Coach Taliancich remained positive.
“The Cardinals played tough and I was happy with the fact that I had some of my less experienced players step up on the block,” she said. “It’s hard because with these crosstown rivalry games you never know what to expect. Emotions play such a huge role in these games and it’s tougher to get back up when you’re down. But we knew Harlingen was going to be a tough team to beat.”
Meanwhile, despite the victory, Coach Martinez remained grounded.
“It was a big win, but we don’t really celebrate until the end of district,” she said. “Come Monday, we’re going to get back on it, watch film, continue to stay hungry and stay humble because we have a long way to go.”