By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
The Port Isabel High Lady Tarpons have won their last four district volleyball matches, and clinched a playoff spot while they were at it. On Tuesday night they went on the road and got Hidalgo in straight sets, 25-22, 29-27, 25-20. Last Saturday, in Rio Grande City, they beat Grulla 3-1 by the scores of 25-17, 22-25, 25-16, 25-19.
The Lady Tarpons remain solidly in third place in District 32-4A behind Zapata and La Feria. Zapata stays undefeated at 12-0 after taking down Progreso in four sets Tuesday night, and La Feria is right behind with an 11-1 district record after beating Rio Hondo, also in four sets.
“Hidalgo gave us a really good game and Coach Benavides, in her first year there, has done a really good job with those girls,” P.I. head coach Julie Breedlove said Wednesday morning. “They hit us a lot so we were able to work on some defensive things … and that was nice, to see the girls pick up a lot of digs.”
One thing that has helped the team in this second half of the district schedule is the play of Breedlove’s two sophomore forwards, Olivia Soliz and Madison Bickerton. “Maddie has been real strong in the last two games – Maddie and Olivia both,” Breedlove told the Press. “They’ve grown into the game. Olivia’s been pretty confident, but Maddie’s confidence the last couple of weeks has really grown. She’s really putting up a fight up there on that front row.”
Breedlove talked about being in close, hard-fought sets, like the second set at Hidalgo, as opposed to those where the team is in front all the way. “It builds a little fight in them. When you have to fight through those things and can come out on top, it really makes a difference in their play sometimes.”
“In the second set (Hidalgo match) they led us pretty much the whole way through. We never could quite find our footing. That’s why we had to go to such a high score to win.”
Even with a playoff spot in the bag the team cannot afford to let down, as Coach Breedlove explained. “I told the kids last night we’ve still got to push and … still go strong, because we want to make that deep run in the playoffs.”
“Since we took that loss to Zapata we’ve really played better each match, and we’re seeing some improvement each game. These girls are starting to show really what they’re capable of.”
In the Grulla match, Maddie Bickerton led the team with 15 kills. Simone Harry had eight kills and Olivia Soliz had six. Harry served up an ace and Soliz had four aces. Sabrina Garza had 14 digs, and Michelle Martinez and Larissa Torres each had 11. Torres recorded 30 assists and Natasha Ramirez had two service aces.
Against Hidalgo, Harry led the team with 12 kills and Bickerton had 11. Alex Martinez had 10 digs, Torres got nine, and Michelle Martinez had eight. Ramirez served seven aces and Soliz two. Soliz also had a block. Torres had 21 assists.
Two matches remain to be played. This Saturday the Lady Tarpons will host Progreso at Tarpon Gym, and next Tuesday will conclude the regular season at La Feria. In the first match with Progreso on Sept. 29, the Lady Tarpons won in four sets. In Port Isabel on Oct. 3, La Feria won in straight sets.
Bi-district playoff matches are scheduled to be played Nov. 2nd and 3rd.
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