McALLEN — McAllen High blasted past its competition, cruising to a 3-0 record on Day 1 of the 14th Annual Poundfest Tournament on Thursday at McAllen High School.

The yearly tournament draws in some of the premier high school volleyball competition throughout the Valley to kick off the season. This year’s field includes 24 teams from Brownsville to Laredo.

McHi, which hosted two pools as a No. 1 seed as well as McAllen Memorial and McAllen Rowe, rolled to its first win of the season and earned an opportunity to play for a spot in the championship bracket Saturday.

“It’s a great way to start the tournament,” McAllen head coach Paula Dodge said. “(Friday’s) round will be even tougher as we progress. But things are coming together just as they’re supposed to. I get to see a lot of different rotations and different personnel in different areas. Tournament play is great.”

The Bulldogs blitzed most of their competition right out of the gate Thursday, using big early scoring runs to surge past their opponents quickly. In their first match of the morning against Edinburg North, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-0 lead to begin the first set.

The Cougars tried hard to battle back, but couldn’t trim the lead to less than six, before McHi’s Celina Saenz buried the set-clinching kill uncontested in the back right corner of the court, to give her team the 25-18 set win. It was the start of an impressive scoring day for Saenz, as the sophomore outside hitter racked up six kills in two sets against Edinburg North.

The Bulldogs were slow to get started in the second set, but eventually rallied to score eight straight points and never looked back topping the Cougars 25-17 to win the match.

“There are some things we need to work on,” Dodge said. “But there were lots of bright areas and lots of positive things. I see them having a lot of fun and working together very well.”

In an encore performance, McHi torched Weslaco East 25-3 in the opening set and won the last 13 points in a row. In the second, the Bulldogs took advantage of the Wildcats’ inability at times to sustain rallies and accurately return serves. 

They used a 17-3 run to open a big lead and down Weslaco East 25-13 in the second set. McHi’s superior play at the net gave them a stifling defensive advantage up front that no opponents could seem to navigate effectively.

“That’s a big thing that helps out our back row a lot if we can offensively attack from that area and then defensively, make the opponent think twice about what they’re going to do,” Dodge said.

In the third and final match of the afternoon, McHi dominated Brownsville Porter 25-10, 25-12 for a decisive two-set victory. Saenz led the charge for the Bulldogs, tallying 10 kills between both sets.

Her service point streak of 11 straight in the opening set gave her team all the momentum from the start. Also a major contributor for McHi, senior outside hitter Lexi Gonzalez added six kills against Brownsville Porter and recorded 24 total between her team’s three matches.

Dodge and the Bulldogs were thankful for the opportunity to see the Valley’s finest and hone their game while seeking a tournament title.

“We’ll hopefully get some rest tonight and get ourselves ready and focused for the early game (Friday) morning,” Dodge said. “I think it’s a great first tournament. It’s just fun to see everyone back and get started.”

In the other pool hosted at McHi, Los Fresnos topped its group after three victories over Brownsville Pace (25-15, 25-3), Weslaco (25-10, 25-14) and a tough PSJA squad (25-9, 25-19).

McAllen Rowe also defended its home court topping Port Isabel (25-8, 25-3), Harlingen High (25-11, 25-12) and Brownsville Hanna (25-13, 25-23) for three match wins and first place in the pool. Anna Honrubia and Mia Mata led the way offensively for the Warriors, notching 18 kills on the day apiece.

McAllen Memorial made it a trio of McAllen schools to go unbeaten Thursday, besting La Feria (25-9, 25-10), PSJA Memorial (25-10, 25-18) and Laredo Cigarroa (25-6, 25-9) in its own gym too. Seniors setter Sydney Marburger and middle blocker Demy Banks starred for the Mustangs, finishing the afternoon with 27 total assists and 24 total kills, respectively.

Elsewhere in tournament play, Brownsville Rivera secured a 3-0 record with victories against Edinburg Economedes (25-10, 25-18), Sharyland High (21-25, 25-12, 15-7) and the McAllen Memorial JV squad (25-14, 25-21).

Brownsville Veterans rounded out the final pool earning the first place finish out of a three way tie between Edinburg Vela and the McHi JV after defeating Vela (25-22, 25-18) and PSJA North (25-11, 25-12), but falling to the JV Bulldogs (25-22, 21-25, 7-15).

Ties are decided based upon the best set records and if still tied, the best point ratio.

Today, teams will be reseeded with McHi, PSJA High, Brownsville Veterans and Sharyland High in Pool No. 1 at McHi; McAllen Rowe, Edinburg North, Brownsville Rivera and La Feria making up Pool No. 3 at Rowe; and McAllen Memorial, Edinburg Vela, Los Fresnos and Harlingen High rounding out Pool No. 4 at Memorial.

The top eight teams from Pools No. 1, 3 and 4 after today’s action will qualify for the “gold” championship bracket Saturday.