McAllen Memorial defeats Brownsville Pace on the road to advance

BROWNSVILLE — District 32-5A’s best chance at playoff glory against the mighty District 31-5A was Brownsville Pace.

The Vikings took a set against McAllen Memorial, but it was the Mustangs’ night. McAllen Memorial won the bi-district meeting 25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 25-17 on Tuesday night at Brownsville Pace.

It was always going to be a battle for the District 32-5A champs despite playing against a fourth seed. The Vikings were aware of the Mustangs’ talent, especially outside hitter and Texas A&M commit Amare Hernandez.

Hernandez was unstoppable at times, the senior’s explosive kills too much for Pace to handle. Hernandez finished with 21 kills, including some key ones down the stretch to win the fourth set.

“We definitely needed that win to boost our confidence,” Hernandez said. “Pace is a great team, and we were lucky to play them.”

Hernandez said she could have had a better game, especially with her serve/receive, but she was happy her teammates had her back.

Hernandez did not have to constantly attack because outside hitters Madisyn Sosa and Ana Davila were constant threats. Sosa had eight kills, and Davila finished with 10 kills.

McAllen Memorial Lady Mustang Ana Davila (10) spikes the ball Tuesday evening against Pace Lady Vikings in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

“It was a good battle, and the girls came together at the end,” McAllen Memorial head coach Ashley Doffing said. “It showed them that they needed to lean on each 0ther. I am proud of them.”

Defensively, McAllen Memorial was strong at the net against Brownsville Pace standout Andie Lozano-Lomeli. The Mustangs doubled her at the net, forcing other players to become involved. Doffing said it was good her team played against Lozano-Lomeli’s height and ability before going up north.

McAllen Memorial Lady Mustangs block the ball Tuesday evening against Pace Lady Viking in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

“Memorial (has) a really good defense,” Lozano-Lomeli said. “They had a good double block up. We found our way around it on a couple of plays, but overall they have a great defense and should do well.”

Lozano-Lomeli was proud of the team’s performance and her time in the Vikings’ program.

Pace Lady Viking Andie Lozano-Lomeli (7) prepares to spike the ball Tuesday evening against McAllen Memorial Lady Mustangs at Pace High School gymnasium in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The defensive pressure left open chances for Lozano-Lomeli’s teammates, and they stepped up. Freshman Sophia Saiz was terrific and dropped 22 kills. Fellow freshman Sophia Bojorquez, the shortest player on the court, had one of the best serves Tuesday night and helped bring the Vikings back during the second set.

Pace Lady Viking Sophia Saiz (17) spikes the ball Tuesday evening against McAllen Memorial Lady Mustangs at Pace High School gymnasium in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The pair was pivotal along with Lozano-Lomeli to capture the third set and compete during the first two sets, but the Mustangs went to Hernandez late in the sets to win the match.

McAllen Memorial moves on to face Gregory-Portland in the area round.

“I think they are going to continue to have to play together,” Doffing said. “Because, swinging away, our offense is going to help us stay alive, and I think our defense kind of worked together today, so I think that is good.”