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Kenishsa Martinez dove to the floor in front of the opposing student section and saved a served ball sent over by McAllen Memorial.

The play looked somewhat awkward and students starting getting loud, wanting some type of double-hit or carry called and they hollered and taunted throughout the play.

Martinez got the ball back on a set and drilled a shot that Memorial players could only look at. As Martinez rotated to her next position she took a quick glance over her shoulder as if to say, “Shhhhh.”

She didn’t need to utter a word.

On the next play, after another Martinez monstrous kill that was part of an 8-0 Sharyland run, the hush was deafening. The defending District 31-5A champs used that run as part of a 25-17, 25-17, 25-18 sweep.

McAllen Memorial had just put up five straight points to give the Mustangs 13-12 advantage. It didn’t last long.

The battle between arguably the Valley’s two most powerful teams didn’t have a chance to live up to the hype. Memorial not only played without star hitter Amare Hernandez but all-everything standout Madisyn Sosa was injured during the first set and, despite returning for the second set, was clearly not at 100% and middle blocker Karly Bazan also looked shaken up during a play late in the first set and did not return to the court.

Sharyland High’s Valeria Hernandez (13) and Kenisha Martinez (8) defend the net in a game against McAllen Memorial at Sharyland High School on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“It was a really big game for us since they came off a big win against McHi. That helped us keep the motivation up and fighting,” said Martinez, who registered her 200th career ace earlier this season and served an ace on match point. “I was trying to ace them out at the end and start on my next (100).”

The win is the 28th straight for Sharyland. Not counting the Sweet 16 loss in the state playoffs last year, the previous loss came at the hands of Memorial last year, ending the Rattlers’ then 30-match win streak.

“We knew their goal was to shut down Kenisha, that’s what everybody focuses on,” Sharyland High head coach Raul Castillo said. “I told the girls we have got to hit from other areas, try the middle, try the line and go fast. Sure enough when we ran fast they had no block or one block and we were getting through. “

Martinez, the Volleyball Player of the Year, had 12 kills and three aces to lead the Rattlers while Kassandra De La Garza tied her teammate with 12 kills, almost taking turns blasting one down the line and the next with a harsh cut, and added 14 assists. Kaitlin Rodriguez had 23 assists, Faith Arevalo added three of Sharyland’s 12 aces and Ashlyn Garcia contributed seven kills.

“I didn’t know if there was someplace to go but every time I saw the line, I went there,” said the lefty De La Garza. “Kenisha would call it out to me and sometimes I saw there was another spot from the outside that that’s hard to see sometimes being a lefty.”

Sharyland High head coach Raul Castillo watches a play against McAllen Memorial on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected]).

“Kassandra played very smart today going line, then cross court,” Castillo said. “She went through all her shots, crosses, tips, rolls … everything.”

Leah Garcia, taking up most of the missing Mustang artillery, had a team-high 10 kills for McAllen Memorial and Sosa finished with six kills. Gaby Torres had 114 assists and six digs and Juliet Treviño added 10 digs.

The win improved Sharyland to 29-1 overall and 4-0 in a top-heavy District 31-5A. Memorial dropped to 20-13 overall and 3-1 in district. The Mustangs have another big game Saturday against Sharyland Pioneer, which defeated McAllen High in four sets Tuesday. The Diamondbacks are also 4-0 in the district and McHi is now 2-2.

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