HARLINGEN — It wasn’t always pretty, but a win is a win and the Harlingen Lady Cardinals will take it. Especially when it comes against the crosstown rival Harlingen South Lady Hawks.
On Tuesday, the Lady Red Birds began the second half of District 32-6A play the same way they started it: With a spirited 3-0 victory over South.
With the win, the Lady Cardinals improved to 5-3 in conference play and cemented themselves as legitimate playoff contenders.
“We just went back to basics and reevaluated our purpose,” said Lady Cards head coach Jennifer Martinez after the match. “We’ve been doing a lot of mental training because what we were doing wasn’t working at first, but we’re coming along one game at a time.”
Led by a brutal offensive attack that simply overpowered the inexperienced Lady Green Birds, the Lady Cards easily took the first set of the match 25-14.
Strikers Taegan Dickey, Yazmine Martinez and Brianna Ramos took control early and didn’t let up as the Lady Cards cruised to a 1-0 match lead.
In the second set, the Lady Cards continued to attack and thoroughly outplayed South early on as they took a 10-3 lead.
However, the Lady Hawks showed tremendous resolve despite inconsistent play as they eventually fought their way back to tie the match at 19-19 and then took a 20-19 advantage after a serve by Trisha Lopez fell just in-bounds for the point.
However, with the visiting Lady Hawks supporters going absolutely wild, the Lady Cards calmed down and tied things up again at 20-20.
From there, the remainder of the set was a complete war of wills as the lead changed hands three times before the Lady Cards finally held on to score the final three points and take it 25-23.
But with the Lady Cards holding a commanding 2-0 lead in the match, it was the Lady Hawks who came out in Game 3 with more energy and focus.
Behind some strong hitting by Allyson Benavides and Cameron Del Angel, the Lady Hawks took a 16-11 lead and looked ready to force a fourth set.
But suddenly, it was as if the Lady Cards flipped a switch and the rally began. Behind some powerful hitting by Martinez, the Lady Cards scored five straight points to knot things up at 16-all and then began to pull away.
The Lady Hawks, to their credit, tried to fend off the Lady Cards’ attack. However, it wasn’t enough as Dickey was a force down the stretch and the Lady Cards took the set 25-21 to complete the sweep.
DOWN SOUTH: Despite a whole lot of heart, passion and effort, the Lady Hawks remain winless in district as Tuesday’s loss dropped them to 0-8.
The Lady Hawks are a very youthful team. And while that didn’t seem to matter early in the season during non-district play, it has now in league action.
UP NEXT: The Lady Cardinals end a three-game home stand against Brownsville Rivera at noon on Saturday. The Lady Raiders took the match in the teams’ first meeting in Brownsville on Sept. 13.
The Lady Hawks, meanwhile, conclude a three-game road trip on Saturday at noon against league-leading Los Fresnos.