RAYMONDVILLE — Led by senior libero Estrella Vasquez’s four service aces, the visiting Port Isabel Lady Tarpons defeated the Raymondville Lady Bearkats 25-21, 15-25, 25-23, 25-17 on Tuesday night.
Port Isabel coach Julie Breedlove said Vasquez’s leadership was crucial to the outcome of Tuesday’s match.
“I thought she did a great job of playing defense, staying back and covering her area,” Breedlove said. “When (the game) was really on the line, she got back on the service line and kept the ball in.”
Breedlove felt the key for her team’s successful performance was the vision and patience of setter Whitney Zaloski, who was effective in spreading the ball around to her hitters. Zaloski waited for openings in the Raymondville defense to develop and allowed the Lady Tarpons’ outside hitters to pick their spots when on the attack.
“The biggest thing for us was we started to let (attacking opportunities) come to us,” Breedlove said. “We didn’t force it. We tried to force it a little bit in that second game, but not as much in the third and fourth game.”
Gisel Borjas was pivotal for Port Isabel’s comeback effort during the first game, registering a kill that tied the score at 13 and providing the go-ahead point on the next play.
Raymondville twice surrendered five-point leads during the first and third games. The Lady Bearkats were paced by outside hitter Aliceana Thompson’s 10 kills and two blocks.
Raymondville’s Dominique Dominguez had an ace during the first game and recorded a kill that put the Lady Bearkats ahead 13-6 in the second game. The Lady Bearkats opened up that game 5-1 before the Lady Tarpons responded to tie it at 5 apiece.
Illanie Zamora helped maintain the Lady Bearkats’ lead when she added a kill that brought the score to 15-7. Thompson came up big for Raymondville when she pounded home a kill that gave the Lady Bearkats a game point, and then delivered the game-clincher.
The match swung in Port Isabel’s favor after a tightly contested third game in which the teams were tied six times in the early stages. Raymondville never led by more than a single point in the third game.
Borjas again gave her team the edge by snapping a 12-12 tie with a kill. She delivered an ace that put the Lady Tarpons up 16-12 and further padded the lead at 21-15 with another kill.
Breedlove said aggressive serving has been a point of emphasis for her squad.
“That’s been one of the things our girls have gotten really good at,” Breedlove said. “We really encourage that to try to get the other teams out of their systems.”
Other key contributors for Port Isabel were Madison Ramos (two kills, one block) and Ava Moore, whose kill won the third game for the Lady Tarpons.
In the decisive fourth game, Raymondville led 10-8 before Port Isabel rallied to tie it. With the game even at 12, the Lady Tarpons went on a 10-3 run, punctuated by Vasquez’s fourth ace of the night to widen the lead to three points and Allison Gonzalez’s kill that put Port Isabel in command, up 21-14.
Ultimately, Breedlove said the most important lesson her team learned was to not force the issue when trailing, and the players’ relaxed approach helped them play well from behind and remain even-keeled even as their lead began to grow rapidly in the fourth game.
“We just need to stay within a couple of points and just let it happen,” Breedlove said. “We have a tendency to force things and force hits that aren’t there. But that was the biggest thing, us learning to just let it come.”