Volleyball stars shine at showcase

West's Karina Salinas leaps as she anticipates a hit at the net against East during an All-Star volleyball game at McAllen Memorial High School on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — On a day when the senior high school volleyball stars from across the Rio Grande Valley shined bright, it was only fitting that one of the most brilliant of those stars ended the day with her patented modus operandi, a kill.

McAllen High senior Lexi Gonzalez helped lead the three-game sweep by the Class 6A West All Stars with an exclamation point, blasting away a kill that ended the match, concluded the day and wrapped up her illustrious career Sunday, at the 18th annual RGV Volleyball Showcase at McAllen Memorial High School.

“My career with McHi under the leadership of coach (Paula) Dodge has been one of the most incredible experiences of my lifetime,” Gonzalez said.

“She is so much more than a coach; she is a mentor to us all. There is no coach that is more loving and caring of her players and pushes us to believe in ourselves.”

Gonzalez, who set the McHi school record for kills in a season and in a career this year, was the lone All-State player chosen by the Texas Girls Coaches Association after leading the Bulldogs to a 46-3 record and to the Class 6A Region IV semifinals, also known as the “Sweet 16.”

“When I went up for the final kill of the game today, it really sealed my love for the game and the treasured memories I will take with me forever.”

More than 80 seniors played what will more than likely be their final high school game in front of a large and, at times, raucous crowd at McAllen Memorial. The Class 1-4A East All Stars opened the day by falling behind by two sets before winning the final three. The Class 5A West stars, led by four players from Mission Veterans and four from PSJA Southwest, captured a three-set sweep, as did the Class 6A West stars, to end the day.

The Tip of Texas Chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Officials coordinates the event each year and chapter president and event founder Mario Reyna, who also was the event announcer, said the primary purpose of the games is to “recognize senior volleyball all stars from the Rio Grande Valley, but the secondary purpose is for the RGV volleyball community to observe that officials care about the players.

“We are usually seen as the bad guys — we are hopeful our involvement in this game might change some perception about officials.”

Reyna added that to see the excitement and fun the girls show in their respective matches alone is worth the time to coordinate the event.

“To witness the transformation of girls competing against each other during the regular season and then bonding with each other as teammates exemplifies the spirit of sports,” he said.