By EDWARD SEVERN, Special to RGVSports.com
HARLINGEN — An emotional Harlingen High Lady Cardinals squad swept the Harlingen South Lady Hawks in a District 32-6A match Saturday.
The Lady Cardinals dedicated their 25-20, 25-11, 25-20 victory to Christopher Angel Perales, a student and basketball player who was tragically shot to death Wednesday. The loss deeply impacted the community as well as the volleyball team, which was connected to Perales in various ways.
“It feels great, and I want it to be really known and I think it is obvious that we did it in memory of Christopher Angel Perales,” Harlingen High coach Joslynn Torres said. “His sister plays for our JV. After our loss versus Rivera, of course, you know, that one stung, and then Wednesday we got the news about Chris. We were really trying to regroup after losing our friend.”
The Lady Hawks and Lady Cardinals battled during the first set, trading points. Juli Bryant got going early for the Lady Cardinals. Bryant’s explosive kills helped her team grab control of the set 18-13 after the early flurries from both teams. South responded with some nice hitting from Sonia Corona, cutting the Harlingen High lead to 20-18.
Casey Vidal then started to heat up for the Lady Cardinals. A couple of points from Vidal and a bad serve by the Lady Hawks gave the set to Harlingen High 25-20.
“Casey Vidal was actually one of the ones I was worried about today, because she said maybe five words all week because that was one of her best friends that passed away Wednesday night,” Torres said. “We had to roll with the punches in practice (Friday), and I was hoping for the best. The message to (Vidal on Saturday) was, ‘Hey, do this for him,’ and she did amazing. I love her, she is my biggest fighter on the team and I am really proud of her.”
Harlingen South grabbed a quick lead in the second set with some great serving from Kamryn Castillo. Kylie Fonseca, Kaylie Dickens and Patricia Garza hustled and played hard throughout match. They chipped in defensively and provided the occasional point.
Juliana Valdez is the setter for the Lady Cardinals. Valdez was putting it on the money for her teammates, and she found Bryant early in the second to regain the lead. Bryant battled around the net with South freshman Malloree Mireles, who held her own and at times came out with the point.
“Malloree is a big part of our lineup,” Harlingen South coach Lizzette Esparza said. “She puts a big block for us, she has a strong arm at the net, she is doing great things and we look forward to having her the next three years.”
Vidal and Harlingen High opened it up during the second set. The set was close at 12-9 until Vidal took over, as she and teammate Aaliyah Garza went off with Bryant on the bench. It did not matter where Vidal was on the court, Valdez found her. The combination was lethal in the 25-11 set victory.
Harlingen High libero Elena Anguinaga grabbed an ace and forced some awkward returns as the Lady Cardinals carried the momentum into the third set. South sparred with the Cardinals again, not making it easy, and took a 15-13 lead in the third set. Dickens, Mireles and Corona all scored points.
It was always going to be Vidal’s day, though. Two big kills from Vidal tied the match at 15 and sparked a 10-0 run for the Lady Cardinals. The Lady Hawks never gave up and battled back, but a bad serve ended the match 25-20.
“Everything we all did was for Angel, everything was for him,” Vidal said. “We came out here to fight for him. He would have been here watching us perform and cheering for us. Everything was for him.”
Said Torres, “It feels great there was a battle of emotions today. If you can get through this in our crosstown rival’s gym you can get through anything, and so they really took pride and believed in that and did well.”
Both teams have a lot to play for in the latter end of district play. Harlingen High is in a battle for the district title, and Harlingen South is battling for a playoff place.
“We have to go back and get to work as far cleaning up errors, cleaning up our side of the court. I think that kind of got the best of us today. We had a lot of errors (and) missed serves,” Esparza said.