Mission Veterans Memorial volleyball head coach Diana Lerma was on the bus with her team on Tuesday enroute to Valley View to play their second District 32-4A match of the season when she found out that the Lady Patriots were ranked No. 1 in the state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
“This is a first, we’re excited and it got the girls all pumped before the game,” said Lerma. “We always have big goals to try to achieve and break school records because we have a lot of tradition here. Going to Corpus Christi and getting first at that tournament was a huge accomplishment, then at our own tournament we took first and then the Laredo tournament. We’ve been going through good competition from Corpus to Laredo with teams that we will be facing in the playoffs so it was exciting to find out. In the past nobody heard of the Lady Patriots, but now we have a big target painted on our backs.”
Mission Veterans is ranked ahead of Canyon Randall and is the only Valley team in the Top 20.
After the news, the Lady Patriots went on to defeat Valley View to remain undefeated this season with a 22-0 overall record and improved to 2-0 in district play. The bulk of Mission Veterans’ victories were achieved at the Corpus Christi, Laredo and Mission tournaments. They won all three.
“It’s exciting, this team’s done a lot of good things,” said Mission Veterans Athletic Coordinator David Gilpin. “They’ve been to three tournaments this year, they’re undefeated right now, and we were really excited about the team coming into the year because they played in two separate summer leagues and other tournaments.”
“At 22-0, that in itself is an outstanding accomplishment,” added Gilpin. “It’s been a remarkable year by our coaching staff and our girls, and it’s just something that we are ecstatic about right now. There’s plenty of talent in the Valley, but sometimes it’s spread out and if you’ve got a really special team like this group of girls, they need to see the best competition they can and that’s what our coaches try to do, and prepare them for the playoffs with that type of competition in these tournaments.”
The Lady Patriots’ early season success is due to the hard work and sacrifices the team made during the summer by participating in summer leagues and tournaments.
“It’s amazing all that hard work we went through all summer has paid off,” said Lady Patriots senior middle hitter Shania Gilpin. “It was a lot of work to get there, but it’s going to be even tougher to stay in this position. Now that we’re No. 1, people are out to get us from everywhere. It’s exciting.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that spending everyday all summer together from being outside working out to going to the gym and playing volleyball together has paid off,” she added. “I couldn’t be any happier with the team.”
Mission Veterans seems to have come of age this season and has been billed as a “dream team” by coach Lerma, who has won eight district titles in the 12 years that the school has existed.
“Last year we were babies,” said Lerma. “This year the unity within the team has come together a lot quicker than it did last year. There was a hesitation from the upperclassmen to the little ones, and now the little ones are taking the role as leaders and that has had an impact on the team. They see each other as a teammate that’s going to help them fulfill their goals.”
That goal is to reach the state tournament in November.
“We finally have our connection, there’s no problems,” said Gilpin, who won or shared MVP awards at the three Lady Patriots tournament victories. “We have a good chemistry. Every single one of us knows our part and knows exactly what we have to do. We’re using the season to get ready for playoffs, we’re excited. Our goal is to go to state. That’s what we’re looking forward to, so we’re taking every single one of our district games as serious as we can.”
Among the Lady Patriots that have helped achieve their current No. 1 status is Gabby Lerma, Valeria Osorio, Kassy López, Adela Parras, D.D. Ibarra, Isela Rodríguez, Laura Cantú, Mariah González and Daisy Reyna.
Mission Veterans will take another step closer to reaching the state tournament and to claim their ninth district title on Saturday, Sept. 7, when they host district rival Edcouch-Elsa at 1 p.m.
“That’s one of our rivals,” said Lerma. “We got to see them in Laredo. They were upset by the Del Rio Queens and we ended up playing the Queens for the championship and we took them in two. Edcouch-Elsa is our rival school and the excitement and anticipation for Saturday to meet each other at the net, well that’s going to be something.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.