Holy Cross wins first title in 7-year history; Harlandale takes fourth
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Fox Tech, Harlandale, Holy Cross, Lanier, McCollum, Providence, Sam Houston, South San.
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Holy Cross’ Harlandale ISD Tournament championship Saturday was a new pinnacle in the seven-year history of the program.
Traditionally an all-boys school, Holy Cross opened its doors to girls seven years ago. To this point, the Knights’ softball team has set the standard for girls-sports excellence. With four straight-sets victories in the two-day tournament – including a 25-15, 25-21 win over Holmes in the title match – the Knights served notice they’re ready to share the glory.
“It helps a lot,” Knights senior captain Megan Hernandez said. “All the time, teams underestimate us. It shows we can play. Other people don’t expect much of us, they want to get us out quick.”
Sophomore Henrianna Ibarra added, “We’ve been working hard all summer. That helped us. Some teams don’t work that hard in the summer. Last year, we came so far. We can get even better this year.”
Holy Cross (5-1) began the season as a bit of a question mark, having graduated 2013 leaders Mallory Ozuna and Julia Ibarra, Henrianna’s sister. It was expected that the Knights would develop into a solid team, but not quite this soon.
“Our senior (setter Stella Ramirez) is doing a great job right now,” Holy Cross coach Ruben Calderon said. “She’s getting the ball to the right places at the right time, and that’s really what we needed.”
Harlandale (2-4) finished fourth in the 16-team tournament, falling 25-20, 25-22 to Del Rio (4-2) in Saturday’s third-place match. The young Indians played without two seniors, Erika Arredondo and Alicia Garcia, and a sophomore (Brittnie Cisneros) who is lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“Brittnie was one of our subs, who stepped in and started for (Erika),” Harlandale coach Sylvia Cardenas said. “They’re making mental errors when it counts the most. That’s where our lack of experience comes in. Right now, we’re not there.”
The Knights handed Holmes (5-1) its first loss, controlling the match throughout.
With strong defense, Holy Cross established a 16-7 lead in Game 1. After the Huskies closed to 20-15, Ibarra put it away with a five-point service run which included a kill from her and two from Victoria Gonzalez.
“We rely on our defense a lot,” Hernandez said. “We rely on our teammates being there (in position). We really work hard in practice, so when a team (makes a run), we stay strong.”
Another Ibarra kill, on an outside set from Ramirez (16 assists), provided the Knights with a 16-10 lead in Game 2. Holy Cross had a bit of a lapse and Holmes was within 20-18. Two kills in a three-point stretch from Ibarra put the Knights at match point, leading 24-21.
Gonzalez came up with a dig on the long final point, but it was a heroic dig by Ramirez as she headed toward the back line that sealed the deal. Daisy Flores led the Knights with 24 digs.
“We’re not very tall,” Calderon said. “We have no one taller than 5-foot-8. To even have a chance, we have to not let the ball hit the court. That last point was phenomenal. That was an excellent play”
On the tournament’s opening day, Holy Cross swept Medina Valley and Stevens, the consolation bracket champions.
Holy Cross defeated the Indians 25-18, 25-15 in the semifinals. Harlandale won both of its matches on Thursday, defeating Providence (4-2) 25-18, 25-22 and Eagle Pass 25-15, 27-25.
“I know they’re young and I have to be patient,” Cardenas said. “That’s what these matches are for – to work through the kinks.”
The Bobcats (3-2) put together a big day, winning two early matches to reach the consolation championship match. There, Stevens downed South San 25-13, 26-24.
South San advanced with wins over Eagle Pass (25-13, 25-19) and St. Anthony (25-17, 25-17).
The Hurricanes (5-2) defeated rival Brackenridge 26-24, 25-18 in the consolation third-place match after struggling against Lanier earlier Saturday.
“We did OK,” Sam Houston coach Courtney Davis said. “We just didn’t play up to the best of our ability.”
After losing their first two matches of its season Friday, Sam Houston held off Lanier for a 25-19, 18-25, 25-21.
“They took it as an eye opener,” Davis said of the losses.
Sam Houston only has four seniors on its roster, including Dajah Thomas, who hasn’t played volleyball since her freshman year. The leaders so far have been senior middle blocker Karisma Mitchell (6-1) and junior setter Rita Davis. Senior Tiaria Mackey should make bigger contributions as she recovers from an ACL injury.
“They don’t give up when the game gets tight,” Davis said. “They can be good if everybody pulls together.”
MORE TO COME