August 10, 2023.

That’s the last time Sharyland High lost a volleyball match.

Sharyland’s Kenisha Martinez (8) hits against McAllen High’s Karley Cantu (15) during a game at McAllen High School gymnasium Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Eighty-five days and a state-best 43 consecutive wins later and the Rattlers take that streak into the UIL Class 5A Area Round at 5 p.m. Friday in Kingsville against Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial.

PSJA High, now 37-5 and preparing for its Class 6A Area Round match, was the only team to find winning success against the Rattlers. The Bears defeated the Rattlers in two sets during the McAllen Pound Fest tournament.

Suddenly, that phrase about waking a sleeping giant comes to mind.

The Rattlers, 44-1 overall, rebounded to win Pound Fest and everything in their path since then. They won the Sinton tournament, for the third straight year, and their own Sharyland ISD tournament. They’ve won 22 matches matches against teams that have 25 wins or more and nine of those were against squads with 35-plus wins.

Since the PSJA loss, the Rattlers have rattled off 106 set wins to just nine set losses. Six of those set losses came down the stretch in the District 31-5A race to McAllen High, McAllen Memorial and Sharyland Pioneer.

The Rattlers have only been taken to five sets twice by McHi and McAllen Memorial.

Sharyland’s Ashlyn Garcia (10) at the net against McAllen High’s Karley Cantu (15) during a game at McAllen High School gymnasium Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

‘There was some tough competition and those teams challenged us,” said head coach Raul Castillo, whose team won 30 straight last year and advanced to the Class 5A Sweet 16, along with McAllen Memorial. “We had our ups and downs but the key was to play aggressive and stay focused.”

Early in the season, one of Castillo’s concern was that his Rattlers were coming out of the gate a little slow as in the case of the PSJA loss where they started slow and never recovered. That wasn’t the case in their most recent performance, a three-set sweep over Mercedes in the bi-district round. Sharyland, the two-time District 31-5A champ, took care of business with a 25-5, 25-19, 25-12 victory, setting up Friday’s match.

“The girls were spot on with their serves,” said Castillo, whose team chalked up 11 aces, four from Kassandra De La Garza and three from Ava Garza. “They (Mercedes) were having issues with the serve receive at first and all our girls were serving aggressive and well.”

Kenisha Martinez again led the Rattlers with 13 kills. De La Garza added 11 to go with 19 assists and one block.

Martinez leads the team with 4.4 kills per set and De La Garza follows with 2.6. Martinez’s 520 kills places her 12th in the state in Class 5A. De La Garza and Kaitin Rodriguez are ranked Nos. 66 and 76 in the state in 5A in assists with 606 (5.0/set) and 576 (4.7/set), respectively.

“I’m hoping we’re peaking at the right time,” Castillo said. “They’ve been staying focused on the road, which is so important during the playoffs. I definitely give them credit for that and the way they’ve been playing.”

All four playoff teams from District 31-5A advanced to the second round. Sharyland Pioneer will play Victoria West (6 p.m., Friday at CC Carroll), McAllen High faces Flour Bluff (time, place TBD) and McAllen Memorial plays Gregory-Portland (5:30 p.m. Friday in Alice).