HARLINGEN — The Harlingen Lady Cardinals were one pretty hot team heading into Saturday’s match against Brownsville Rivera.
It all started a week ago when they beat San Benito in a five-game thriller. They followed that up with a 3-0 sweep over Harlingen South this past Tuesday to position themselves into a two-way tie for third place in District 32-6A.
A win over the Lady Raiders could have been their third in a row and it would have put the Lady Red Birds into a tie for second place in the league.
Could have, should have, would have. Rivera wasn’t having any part of that as they swept the Lady Cards 25-23, 25-19, 25-23 to improve to 7-3 in conference play and remain in second place all by their lonesome.
Although the match ended in a straight-set victory for Rivera, the Lady Cardinals (5-4 in district) gave it all they had every step of the way.
In the end, however, the Lady Raiders’ hardwood-denting striker trio of Victoria Zuniga, Mayra Martinez and Litzy Medina was simply too much to overcome.
After the match, Lady Raiders head coach Liz Guerra was relieved her team walked away with the win.
“The girls pulled it out, they hustled and they didn’t give up and that’s awesome,” she said. “Harlingen played a great game. They were picking up a lot of balls we were hitting, they were hitting well and they got us in some spots where they got us in between. But our girls adjusted, picked things up and I’m really proud of they way they played. Luckily we came out with a win.”
In Game 1, the Lady Raiders came out smoking as back-to-back kills by Zuniga helped Rivera take an early 5-0 lead.
However, the Lady Cards fought back and tied things up at 9-9 behind their own powerful hitting trio of Taegan Dickey, Yazmine Martinez and Brianna Ramos.
The remainder of the set was a back-and-forth battle that included plenty of hard hitting, thrilling rallies and, unfortunately for the Lady Cards, a few untimely mistakes that ultimately helped the Lady Raiders take it 25-23.
In the second set, the Lady Cardinals tried to adjust and tie things up, but Rivera was too strong down the stretch.
Despite being in an 0-2 hole, Harlingen came out in Game 3 with plenty of energy and continued to fight.
As in the first set, the Lady Cards fell behind but rallied to tie the game up at 9-9, 15-15 and again at 18-18 before finally taking a 19-18 advantage.
However, the Lady Raiders always had an answer for everything the Lady Cards threw at them and would not be denied.
With the loss, the Lady Cards are now tied for fourth place with San Benito, who beat Weslaco East on Saturday.
Rivera: The Lady Raiders are at home on Tuesday against San Benito.
Harlingen: The Lady Cards are at Weslaco High on Tuesday.