By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
A week can make a huge difference. At the Poundfest Tournament in McAllen two weeks ago, the Port Isabel High Lady Tarpon volleyball team won exactly two matches out of nine and did not come close to the championship bracket of the event. Last weekend they won twice as many matches at their own Volley at the Beach tournament. The fourth and final win got them the third-place trophy for the event.
The third place match was played against Harlingen South and Port Isabel won it 25-23, 15-25, 16-14.
The Lady Tarpons got into the championship bracket as the No. 7 (of 8) seed by winning two of three matches in pool play on Thursday. In their first match in bracket play on Saturday the team got past PSJA Southwest, 25-23, 21-25, 15-11. That win put them in the tournament semi-finals against Austin Ann Richards, who got the win in straight sets, 25-14, 25-14.
“We did a much better job on our service game today,” head Lady Tarpons coach Julie Breedlove said after the match. “They’re getting a little more aggressive at that. And they’re starting to come out of their shells. They’re not afraid to try for things, not afraid to go for things. The confidence is getting there.”
The deciding set against Harlingen South was close until the Lady Hawks took a 13-9 lead and appeared ready to close out the match. P.I. tied the game at 14, then Natalie Salinas, who had served an ace to pull the home team within one at 13-14, served out the match. The Lady Tarpons scored seven of the last eight points and Simone Harry got the final point on a hit that was misplayed by South and that was a final, 16-14, 2-1.
“Yeah, it was an incredible win,” Amaya Lampkin said afterwards. “I think we had more team collaboration … more determination. And we worked together as a team, which is really, really awesome!”
“We were down in the end but our coach built us up and we finally came back,” sophomore Lady Tarpon Madison Bickerton said. “I mean it was at the point … it was, what, 14 and 13, 15. I don’t know, something like that – Oh, 13-9, of course! We came back and believed we could win and we achieved it, yes sir!”
“Everybody has a smile on their face,” junior team member Simone Harry told the Press. “They all know if we can hang with a 6A (Harlingen South) and do as well as we did – not even that we beat them but the fact that we were staying with them, getting the blocks, getting their tips, picking up their hits. It just really helped everybody realize that we can do this.”
“We’ve really been working with the girls, really working on the defense part of it, really trying to get the hitters involved,” Coach Breedlove said. “And they’re starting to come out of their shells. They’re not afraid to try things, not afraid to go for things.”
The Lady Tarpons entertained Brownsville Pace at Tarpon Gym on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and the Lady Vikings got the better end of the deal. They took a four-set decision over P.I., 22-25, 25-12, 25-18, 25-13. The second set was not close as the Lady Tarpons took a 12-1 lead and won by 13. Pace led 17-3 in the fourth and deciding set before P.I. fought back.
“We played strong in those first three games and, the second game, we really came out and put some heat on them,” Breedlove said afterwards. “But we’ve got to keep up that intensity and we didn’t keep that intensity going.”
The Lady Tarpons earned compliments from Pace third-year coach, Gavin Rudder. “They’ve got some good servers,” Rudder said. “They took us off our serve-receive and had us giving bad passes, and it was hard to put a ball away.”
Next up for Port Isabel is a match with Harlingen this Saturday morning at Tarpon Gym. The varsity match will start at 11 a.m. and will be preceded by the 9th-grade Dark and JV Light at 10 a.m.
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