Lady Chargers clinch outright 32-5A title in comeback battle with Lady Vikings

Brownsville Veterans Memorial coach Lisa Mares asked her team during their match with Brownsville Pace, “Do you want to share it, or do you want it for yourself?”

She was talking about the District 32-5A championship, of which the Lady Chargers had already claimed at least a share before the Saturday match. A win over the Lady Vikings would clinch the title outright.

Pace didn’t make it easy, but Brownsville Veterans pulled off the comeback 23-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 15-12 victory to improve to 13-0 in district, out of reach with one game remaining in the regular season.

“We clinched the title, and it’s a great feeling. Very intense. It’s great to be in this kind of an atmosphere, getting ready for playoffs,” BVM coach Lisa Mares said. “Pace did a heck of a job taking us to five sets, blocking and digging well. Made some switches, had some adjustments and it worked out in our favor. The girls gave it their all. It’s really exciting.”

Pace senior outside hitter Ashley Gonzalez did well to rebound from early hitting struggles to anchor Pace’s first-set win. The Lady Vikings trailed 16-10 following consecutive attack errors, prompting coach Daya Venegas to put Mariza Tijerina in for Gonzalez for one rally. The move immediately paid off as Tijerina notched a kill that sparked a five-point run, putting Gonzalez and Pace in position to close out the set strong.

Brownsville Veterans rallied during the second as several “supporting” Lady Chargers had huge performances. Montserrat De Los Santos made an impact at every hitting position and at the service line. Gladis Espinoza was efficient swinging from the outside down the stretch and put down the final kill to tie the match.

“Some of my hitters were off in the beginning, and that kind of affected us. But other girls stepped up,” Mares said. “Throughout the season, I’ve had eight players injured. It’s been the worst year for injuries. Different lineups all the time, going through that adversity, has really helped us, and this team has come together.”

The third set started like the others, with teams exchanging points and finding themselves tied often. Pace managed to create some cushion, opening a three-point advantage several times during the frame as middle blockers Andie Lozano-Lomeli and Luz Martinez led an impressive block to give Brownsville Veterans trouble.

The Lady Chargers erased the lead four times, fighting back with strong serving and great back-row defense from Alexa Torres. Middle blockers Elise Fourt and Carrington Lane, and outside hitter Gracia Avila were solid at the net as BVM battled.

But the Lady Vikings held the lead when it mattered. Setter Dyllan Lozano-Lomeli recorded two consecutive aces to close the set and go up 2-1. She was Pace’s top server throughout the match.

Fourt was dynamic to lead the Lady Chargers to victory in the fourth, slamming down kills around and off Pace’s tough block to put her team up by as many as seven points — the largest deficit of the match.

Good serving from Pace libero Bryanna Narvaez — who had a stellar game leading the back-row defense — and booming kills from Lozano-Lomeli brought the Lady Vikings all the way back to trailing 23-22. Fourt sliced a kill inside the 10-foot line to secure the win and force a fifth set.

Brownsville Veterans’ defense was tremendous in the clincher, led by Fourt and De Los Santos at the net and Andrea Chapa in the back row. Chapa took over at libero after the third set and brought the passing efficiency up, helping the comeback victory. She was a standout at the service line throughout the match. De Los Santos had two huge blocks to tie and take the lead in the fifth.

“We knew we had to come here and win district. Even though we beat them in the first round, we knew we had to play hard because they were coming at us the same way,” De Los Santos said. “I had to push myself to be my best to help the team win, and we won and I feel great about it.”

Pace outside hitter Natalisha Torres played extremely well and was particularly dangerous with her line shot. The Lozano-Lomeli sisters, Martinez’s consistency on the block and Gonzalez’s attack gave Pace a chance during the fifth set, but the comeback fell short. The Lady Vikings are now 10-3 in district, tied for second with Edcouch-Elsa.

“It was a good game, it was just the simple mistakes at the end. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls,” Venegas said. “Being here for only three months and seeing the improvement in these girls, that means a lot. They kept fighting. They’ve been working hard.”

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