BROWNSVILLE — Los Fresnos coach Anissa Lucio said the Lady Falcons came very close to picking up that signature win over a top team through their tough non-district season.

On Tuesday, Los Fresnos put a complete match together to make that happen, picking up a 25-19, 26-24, 25-20 victory over defending District 32-6A champion Brownsville Rivera. The Lady Falcons (15-11) improved to 3-0 in district season and sit atop the standings with Harlingen High.

“It feels amazing. I think we were long overdue for a big-time win like this. We’ve been really close … and it’s been coming,” Lucio said. “Rivera’s a great team, we have so much respect for them and this was just a big win for us, so I’m proud of them.”

Los Fresnos boasts one of the tallest, if not the tallest, front rows in the East Valley, and the Lady Falcons wasted no time getting their big block going. Dakota Martinez, Savannah Smith, Olivia Parra and Shiloh Jones showed their dominance at the net and put pressure on Rivera’s hitters throughout the contest.

“It’s very exciting to get all those blocks and hits so we can get that win. Our back row can trust in (the block), and we work really well together,” Martinez said.

The Lady Raiders took control of the first set initially as solid defense against Los Fresnos’ plethora of hitters by libero Richelle Guerra helped setter Clarissa Olivares and outside hitter Kenya Ibarra connect for points.

Martinez and Jones hit well from the middle and opposite pins, respectively, to get the Lady Falcons on a run to their first lead at 6-5. The teams swapped points as both defenses showed hustle and covered the court well to pick up hard swings.

Los Fresnos’ consistent block caused the Lady Raiders to commit an excess of attack errors, sending hits long and out when trying to work around the block. The Lady Falcons took advantage of tips and off-speed hits, improving the passing efficiency, which led to booming kills by Martinez and Parra to create a 19-13 lead. Los Fresnos held off a Rivera comeback attempt late in the opening set to take the 1-0 advantage.

“It feels very good. They were just thinking about Harlingen, they didn’t think about us, and we wanted to prove a point that we’re just as good as them. We’ve continued to practice and improve on our performance, and work as a team,” Martinez said.

The Lady Falcons jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the second set with a nice shot down the line from Jones and solid back-row defense anchored by libero Caydence Castillo. Setter Jenna Rios did a great job mixing up her hitters and finding time to send over a second-touch tip for points. Smart decisions by outside hitter Mia Brown and hard swings from the variety of hitters put Los Fresnos up 20-11.

Emily Morales and Kimberly Chavez brought Rivera all the way back to trailing 21-20. Morales matched Ibarra as an impactful hitter for the Lady Raiders, and Chavez got her block going to force some Los Fresnos attack errors.

Stellar defense by Castillo and Cory Reyes ended Rivera’s run and got Los Fresnos to set point at 24-20. The Lady Raiders again came storming back, killing off four set points to tie at 24 on a rocket off the block by Ibarra. After another hit sent too long, Martinez put down a kill to clinch the second set for Los Fresnos.

“The biggest thing was to know that we control the controllable. That’s what we’ve been battling, and now we’re at the point where we know we can stay in control of ourselves mentally,” Lucio said. “We have some young girls … and they’re growing and learning. They’re really starting to pick it up, and I think we’re peaking at the right time.”

The rallies in Set 3 were top notch as both teams pushed toward different goals, battling to an 11-11 tie. Guerra, Darlyng Longoria and Ashlyn Tapia relentlessly covered the court and delivered on-point passes to the hard-working Olivares to help Rivera go up 16-11.

Determined to finish the match strong, Los Fresnos came fighting back. Tough serving by Castillo and solid blocking by Martinez and Jones got the Lady Falcons on a run to a 20-17 lead. With the sweep in sight, Brown and Parra, who hit and passed well in the back row as well, helped Los Fresnos put the match away.

Ibarra and Alondra Garza helped Rivera make another comeback attempt, trimming the deficit to 21-20, but ball control errors and miscommunication, which were issues throughout the night, held the Lady Raiders back. Rivera (20-10) fell to 1-2 in district.

“They’re playing like they’re afraid to lose,” Rivera coach Mary Elizabeth Avelar-Guerra said. “When they’re playing together, they’re talking, they’re awesome. But then they just fall apart. We’re not losing because we’re not better. We’re losing because we’re not finishing the game. … I told them it’s their choice, they’re either going to roll over or step up.”

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