By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel Lady Tarpons volleyball team defeated Hondo in five sets in an area playoff match at West Oso in Corpus Christi Thursday night. They now advance to play Lyford for the right to go on to the regional tournament. The Lyford match is scheduled on Tuesday, Nov. 6 in Harlingen at 7 p.m.
Port Isabel won in five sets, 22-25, 25-11, 25-15, and 17-25, 15-7.
Going in, head P.I. coach George Hamilton thought that his team’s service game would be a key to success. That’s the way it turned out.
Kelcie Swink led the way for the Lady Tarps as she served up 10 aces on the day, keeping Hondo off balance for much of the match.
“I’ve never seen her serve as hard as she did in this match,” Coach Hamilton said. “They were just trying to keep it in. It was probably the best serving she’s done, especially at the end.”
Hamilton was referring to the fifth and deciding set. Port Isabel got the point on a side-out and Swink went back serve one last time with her team leading 9-7. P.I. won the last six points to win the match, with five of those points coming on aces by Swink.
As champions of District 32-3A the Lady Tarpons earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Hondo defeated Ingleside in bi-district last Tuesday. Hamilton thought the bi-district match was an advantage for Hondo, even though his team got in two “tune-up” matches after they ended their district season.
“The girls were really nervous that first set,” Hamilton said. “The whole team played nervous, but when Kate (Bowles) and Helena (Loya) started to get their kills in, it settled the team down. We also got our service game going in the second set.” Loya led the team with 15 kills and Bowles had 14.
The Lady Tarpons could have closed out the match in the fourth set but the Hondo team had other ideas. “I give them credit,” Hamilton said. “They played flawlessly in that fourth set. They played hard and won it.”
With Hondo winning the first and fourth sets, and Port Isabel taking the two in between, it came down to a deciding fifth set. In that final set P.I. won the first two points and Hondo took the next five.
“We called time-out to regroup,” Hamilton said. “We were ahead 9-7 on the side-out when Kelcie went back to serve.”
Gabby Torres had three blocks to lead the team. “She did a great job controlling the net,” Hamilton said. “And Daniela Salinas did a great job as well with 37 assists. She kept them guessing the way she moved the ball around.”
A win against Lyford would send Port Isabel on to the regional tournament.
Read this story in the Nov. 5 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.