Harlingen South hires Rio Hondo’s Esparza to lead volleyball

The Harlingen CISD school board approved the hiring of Lizzette Esparza to be the next coach for the Harlingen South Lady Hawks volleyball program Tuesday.

Esparza spent the past three seasons leading Rio Hondo’s volleyball program and is in her first year as softball coach. That responsibility will keep her from transitioning over to South for some time, but she couldn’t pass up putting her name in the hat to make a longtime goal a reality.

“One of my goals for my career when I graduated college was I wanted to eventually be a coach at my alma mater,” Esparza said. “I grew up a Lady Hawk. I played sports there, I was in the band, I danced one year on the drill team. Going back and teaching in my community was something I always planned for. … The opportunity came about unexpectedly, and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to come home.”

Prior to her three years at Rio Hondo, Esparza spent four years at La Feria and six years at PSJA Memorial. She said it wasn’t easy to tell her softball girls the news about her leaving — though most of them found out via social media before practice — because many of them also played for her in volleyball.

But Esparza assured her team that she’s focused on taking it as far as possible this season before she makes her move. The Lady Bobcats are currently undefeated and eyeing a long playoff run.

“I told them I didn’t want to leave until we finished our season because they are my priority. I’m not just going to get up and leave, but I had to take the chance and to excel in my career,” Esparza said. “They were understanding and happy for me.”

Harlingen South athletic coordinator/football coach Israel Gonzalez said “there was a good, strong field of applicants,” so the decision took a little extra time. Esparza waited three weeks after her interview to get the offer, and she said the good news came with a lot of excitement and relief.

After reviewing all, Gonzalez said Esparza rose to the top of the field due to her leadership and commitment to the community that raised her.

“We feel that we made the right choice to move our volleyball program forward,” Gonzalez said. “Coach Esparza has proven herself as a great coach in several programs. She’s head softball coach and volleyball coach, which is demanding to be head coach in two sports, so I think she proved that she had the capability to lead a big 6A program. Her being a graduate of Harlingen South is another win for us. Anytime we can bring back alumni who are invested in our community, it’s a plus.”

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