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Yaneli Rocha said she and her McHi teammates have some unfinished business on the volleyball court this year after missing the playoffs last season.
After Tuesday’s 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-6 win over Laredo Alexander at the McHi gym, it’s safe to say the Bulldogs are open for business.
McHi head coach Estefania Portillo earned her first win in her Bulldogs coaching debut and McHi used contributions from multiple players, playing especially smart down the stretch in the convincing fifth set. Kayla Salinas found the opening twice on second balls that took Alexander by surprise and Gaby Estringel tipped a ball short to open court during a play that sent the entire Laredo team deep, recovering a Rocha serve. Katherine Williamson put the match away with a kill.
Alexander defeated McHi in last year’s mutual season opener in Laredo, 3-1. Similar to last season, Alexander was once again led by powerful junior middle hitter Andrea Nunez.
The Bulldogs shifted gears during the match, starting out serving extremely aggressive. However, they were more effective later in the match, moving the serve around and floating several short and soft, keeping Alexander off guard and giving the home-standing Bulldogs more opportunities to attack.
“We were trying to be very aggressive with our serves and that’s why our balls went deep, but then mixed it in with some short ones and it gave us some success. It’s something we continue to work on,” Portillo said. “I’m very proud of our serve receive and our passes were really on point. Defensively, the girls were outstanding recovering.”
Rocha not only played big with her serves throughout the match, but also setting the ball and playing opposite fellow lefty Estringel on the right side.
“It feels amazing to start off this way,” said Rocha, a sophomore. “We have a lot of unfinished business from last year, not making it to playoffs and being known as the team that didn’t make it. It really showed us today that we can do it. It’s always team over everything. We noticed their defense was moving short and long, so we went along with it and it helped.”
McHi at times looked to be in midseason form and not just taking the court officially for the first match of the season. The Bulldogs didn’t send a free ball to Alexander until late in the first set. As the two-hour match wore on, middle hitters Isabella Rivera and Karely Cantu came up with with well-placed attacks and several blocks against Nunez and outside hitter Stella Evans.
McHi committed 11 service errors and three aces during first two sets, then twisted those numbers with just six service errors and six aces in the final three sets. Libero Kaylen Ottmers and Rocha led the team in aces.
McHi returns to action Thursday as the Bulldogs host the annual McHi Poundfest volleyball tournament. McHi will play at 9 a.m. against Brownsville Rivera, 11 a.m. against Harlingen South and 1 p.m. against PSJA Memorial, the program Portillo coached the previous five years. See the entire Poundfest schedule at RGVSports.com.