Lady Tigers top Viqueens

MERCEDES — Led by Mika Vento and fueled by the motivation of ending their playoff drought, the Mercedes Lady Tigers held on to the No. 3 spot in the District 32-5A standings with a four-set win over Pace on Tuesday night, 20-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-9.

“We need to win out so we can get into that third-place spot,” Vento said. “Every little thing (we do) is going to spark that. It’s not just me. If one of the defensive players gets (the ball) up and our setter works really hard, and she gets up and gets that set … We’re all working so hard for each other to get that point and to keep pushing.”

The Lady Tigers started fast in each of the four games, including an 8-2 run to open the first game. Pace took its first lead of the night after a Vento shot hit the net.

Ana Cano punched a pair of service aces, and Lilia Guevara followed that by recording a block of a Vento hit that made it 19-17. The Viqueens went on to win six of the next eight points and the set.

Vivian Lucio and Leslie Soto also delivered in key moments for Pace to help the Viqueens take the first set.

“After we lost the first set, (the coaches) kind of just sat back,” Mercedes coach Stephanie Flores said. “Our leaders, our seniors, just went ahead and just told (the team), ‘Guys, we want this so bad, going into the end of the season to make the playoffs.’”

Mercedes’ Cerina Limas posted a kill that brought the Pace lead down to one during the second game. Vento notched back-to-back kills to give her team the lead at 12-11, and won four of the last points to take the second set and even the match.

The Lady Tigers led 5-1 and 8-2 during the early stages of the third game, before Pace’s Valerie Vera and Renatta Cano helped the visitors get to within striking distance, down 12-10.

But Vento again took over the match, giving her team a five-point edge with a kill and following it with an ace that put Mercedes ahead 22-16 and for good the rest of the way.

Pace’s bid to shake up the playoff picture in the district ultimately fell flat, as the Viqueens were outmatched during the fourth game. Vento again pounded home two straight kills to take an early lead as part of 5-0 run that quickly ballooned to 11-2 and 17-6.

The Lady Tigers relied upon the play of Ayala Ledesma, Cerina Limas and Malaya Vallejo throughout the match, and the trio came up clutch for Mercedes during the fourth game. Flores said Vallejo and Ledesma both made the switch from outside hitter to middle blocker just three days ago to fill in for injured regulars.

“Mika just did great in the middle, from the outside,” Pace coach Pamela McCumber said. “She was good everywhere.”

The Lady Tigers relied upon the play of Ayala Ledesma, Cerina Limas and Malaya Vallejo throughout the match, and the trio came up clutch for Mercedes during the fourth game. Flores said Vallejo and Ledesma both made the switch from outside hitter to middle blocker just three days ago to fill in for injured regulars.

While McCumber was pleased her team’s defensive effort in the first game, Pace was unable to maintain the same intensity for four straight sets.

“We just lost our steam,” McCumber. “We lost (the edge) we needed to win the game.”

Stefan Modrich Total Posts: 158 Stefan Modrich is a 2017 graduate of Arizona State University, where he was the Sports Editor for The State Press, ASU's independent student news publication. He is also a graduate of the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where he completed a foreign language program in 2018. A native of Franklin Park, Illinois, Modrich previously covered high school sports for The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, and Mars Reel Media.