In fact, the team’s motto is, “We don’t get ready, we stay ready.”
It’s an appropriate motto, considering the losses to graduation they had this past year have many people in the volleyball stratosphere wondering how they can remain — or even come close —to what they’ve done in recent years. Jackie Howell, Katie Gerlach and Valerie de le Fuente led the Patriots to four straight undefeated district titles and to a ranking as high as No. 4 in the state’s Class 5A poll. Each player has surpassed either more than either 1,000 assists or 1,000 kills.
“Everybody’s thinking we won’t have anything like we had,” Veterans head coach Diana Lerma said. “Our mentality, though, is to break records and do better than last year and that’s hard, especially when you’ve had perfection (in district) for four straight years. But, there’s always somewhere you can get better.”
Seniors Ronnie Cantu, Bella Dominguez and Kassandra Lerma have already targeted keeping the undefeated district streak alive and making a deeper run into the playoffs as goals for this season.
“Nobody works harder than we do,” Lerma said. “Those three girls are in the same situation as Jackie and the other girls were in and they have big expectations. They are keeping that mentality going.”
As always, the Patriots have a schedule that ranks among one of the toughest in the area. They open the season at home Tuesday with defending District 30-6A champions McAllen Memorial, which also went undefeated in district last season and was ranked by the Texas Girls Coaches Association in the state in Class 6A and is a perennial power.
“We love playing Memorial,” Lerma said. “I need to play the best so we can prepare for things like the Adidas John Turner Tournament — when we get there it’s like being in the Valley of the Giants.
“But nobody has told me or us that we can’t jump.”
Veterans went 5-3 last year in the tournament and Lerma said those losses came against teams that are regular state contenders and even though they lost those matches, they were more than just competitive.
“Next year I’m losing eight seniors, so I’m sure people will think we have nothing again the following year,” Lerma said. “But we always have something. We’ve trained these girls to believe and follow the process since they were young. They know the tradition here and they work to keep it going.”
Tryouts and practices for high schools began Thursday, and on Saturday teams will be all over the Valley, scrimmaging and preparing for their opening day. Most teams have regular-season games or tournaments either Tuesday or later in the week. The largest of those tournaments locally begin Thursday with the 14th annual Poundfest Tournament in McAllen.
Twenty four teams are scheduled to participate in the three-day tournament with pool play beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday. Games will be played at McAllen High, McAllen Memorial and McAllen Rowe. The following teams will be playing: Brownsville Hanna, Brownsville Pace, Brownsville Porter, Brownsville Rivera, Brownsville Veterans, Edinburg Economedes, Edinburg North, Edinburg Vela, Harlingen High, La Feria, Laredo Cigarroa, Los Fresnos, McAllen High, McAllen High JV, McAllen Memorial, McAllen Memorial JV, McAllen Rowe, Port Isabel, PSJA High, PSJA Memorial, PSJA North, Sharyland High, Weslaco High and Weslaco East.