UTRGV sweeps Chicago State on Senior Night

EDINBURG — The UTRGV volleyball team sent its seniors out in proper fashion Saturday as the Vaqueros celebrated Senior Night with a sweep of Chicago State 25-17, 25-19, 25-13 at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.

Playing its last home game of the season, UTRGV honored its five seniors — former McAllen Memorial standout Draik Banks, Julia Moctezuma, Talita Oliveira, Paulina Ramirez and Barbara Silva.

Silva, a four-year starter for UTRGV, was brought to tears this morning and the tears returned after Vaqueros rode an emotional wave to a victory.

“I woke up crying,” Silva said with a laugh after the win. “I cried a lot today already. I was very emotional at the beginning of the game. I had to try not to cry during the game because it’s been a great journey for me, these four years. I can only say thank you to everyone involved, teammates, coaching staff, the staff that works here, every home game, all the support we got from the community. It was a great game for me just visualizing all that.”

UTRGV head coach Todd Lowery said his team handled the emotions of Senior Night well and bounced back from Thursday night’s loss.

“I think the girls all feel it and they know what the group of seniors mean. I think this group is hungry to win and they’ve been up and down figuring out how we’re going to do that,” he said.

UTRGV stormed out to a 10-2 lead in the opening set thanks to the play of Banks and Victoire Nama, which set up the senior Oliveira to end the set with a kill for a 25-17 win.

The Vaqueros were trailing 6-5 during the second before Sarah Cruz sparked a 4-0 run as UTRGV went on to take it 25-19. It was all UTRGV in the third and final set as a Cruz kill, one of her game-high 13, ended the match.

Cruz, a sophomore, said it was important to the team to send the seniors out on a winning note, and they delivered with a sweep.

“We had a really interesting and very important talk before the game and we got mentally in the game before it started, so I feel like it was a pleasure to win this game for our seniors because they did so much in their four years,” Cruz said.

Silva finished with 11 kills and two digs, Debora Nazario accumulated 32 assists and Samaret Caraballo led UTRGV with 16 digs and four serving aces.

The UTRGV victory locks the Vaqueros (14-16, 8-8) into the No. 4-seed in this week’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament, which runs Thursday through Sunday at Lockhart Arena in Utah. UTRGV will open the tournament against host Utah Valley at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“Two more days here of practice, then let’s see if we can go make some noise in the conference tournament,” Lowery said.

bramos@themonitor.com