There are very few words that immediately come to mind following Sharyland Pioneer’s quick three-set victory over McAllen Memorial on Saturday.
Flawless, however, definitely reaches out.
The Diamondbacks’ play was impeccable in every aspect of the game as they claimed a 25-8, 25-22, 25-20 over the Mustangs to remain unbeaten in District 31-5A at 5-0, tied with Sharyland High atop the district standings as the only two remaining unbeaten teams. They will face each other at noon Saturday, Sept, 23 at Pioneer. The Diamondbacks are 26-3 overall and Sharyland is 29-1. Memorial dropped to 3-2 in district and 20-14 overall.
The match, expected by many to possibly go on for two hours or more and five sets, wasn’t close as Pioneer got contributions from every player who touched the floor, led by sophomore six-rotation standout Aleena Zuniga running the offense and reliably consistent senior Tera Schumacher blocking and putting kills away. The first set took 16 minutes and the entire match just took over one hour.
Schumacher tallied a match-best 14 kills to go with 14 assists and nine digs while Zuniga had 16 assists, 16 digs and six kills. But the numbers were spread throughout the Diamondbacks. Itzel Hernandez had six kills, Scarlet Verjel added five, Hailey Botello had 31 digs, 2 kills and one block, libero Florencia Curiel added 14 digs and one of nine Diamondbacks aces, Izabella Cano contributed eight digs, two kills and a team-high five aces, including one to close out the second set. Alexie Martinez also had three kills, finishing the match with an ace.
Maybe the only flaw was five service errors, one by each Pioneer player during the first set’s first five side outs. However, after the fifth one, Pioneer held a 21-7 lead.
“We came out and the girls were very focused,” Pioneer head coach Laura Cavazos said. “They wanted to play their best game and I think short of a couple hiccups they played really well. It was important at the net to know where the holes are and where to put the ball. We did a good job with that. Tera and Aleena need to be able to count on anyone in the front row and I think they have confidence in their hitters.”
The Diamondbacks are getting larger and more key contributions from seemingly their whole lineup. Freshman middle Hernandez and sophomore middle Verjel not only were key contributors offensively, but were a double nuisance at the net, getting their hands on multiple attack attempts.
“They did a great job of putting the ball away early in the first set and getting touches all day on the block.”
McAllen Memorial played without hard-hitting and hard-serving Madisyn Sosa, who was injured Tuesday at Sharyland High. Memorial’s Amare Hernandez tried to bring her team back on multiple occasions, blasting a series of kills to keep the Mustangs close in the final two sets. Pioneer wasn’t surprised by her immense attacks, but they were prepared.
“We had to make sure we ran our defense around her and closed the block and make sure there were no splits,” Zuniga said. “We talk a lot on the court and we make sure when someone’s not having such a good day we bring them up. My connection with Tera was really good today and I would tell her where to hit. They kept leaving the deep corner open the whole time and we would talk about it.”
Memorial returns to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Valley View. Pioneer also plays at 7 p.m. Tuesday at PSJA Memorial.