BY GREG LUCA | STAFF WRITER
EDCOUCH — During the third and fourth sets, Edcouch-Elsa’s Samantha Martinez watched from the bench as her team rallied to tie up Edinburg High.
Then, it was her time.
Martinez, one of Edcouch-Elsa’s senior leaders, delivered two kills and made key sets in her return to the court, helping the Lady Yellowjackets take the finial game and complete an 18-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-23, 15-11 comeback on Tuesday at Edcouch-Elsa.
“When I went back in, I knew I needed to step it up,” Martinez said. “I had to mentally get myself together, and push myself, and help my team get the win.”
Entering the night as Edcouch-Elsa’s leader in kills, aces and assists, Martinez struggled early on.
After two sets she was benched for the third and fourth games by coach Ofelia Griffith, who said she expected more from Martinez.
“Some of the mistakes were just unnecessary,” Griffith said. “Those were mistakes that should not be made not only by a senior player, but by any player.”
Martinez said she took the time to reflect on her errors and mentally get herself together.
Coming in for the fifth game with fresh legs and a clear head, Martinez finished the night with seven kills, 14 assists and seven digs.
“You talk about two games sitting on that bench, I had hoped she was looking and had picked herself up enough to get in there and do what she needed to do,” Griffith said. “And she did.”
Griffith credited underclassmen Alinah Rodriguez (12 assists) and Ashley Galarza for filling the void while Martinez was on the bench, part of a full team effort for the Lady Yellowjackets.
Cassidy Martinez led the team with 17 kills, while Ale Martinez had 12. Maddie Acevedo, Bianca Cardenas and Paloma Ibarra also had at least six kills each. Acevedo led Edcouch-Elsa with 31 digs.
“The team worked really hard, and we all came together to get the win,” Samantha Martinez said. “It felt really good knowing that the team had a lot of heart.”
Edinburg High took the first two sets behind a balanced attack and strong defensive play. For the match, Marissa Arce had 15 kills, Amber Reyes had 14, Tianna Howard had 11, and Dezi Marmolejo had 10.
Libero Elizabeth Olivarez made diving digs again and again in the first two sets, finishing with 50 overall. Marmolejo was also key on defense with 35 digs.
Still, Edcouch-Elsa didn’t fold, regrouping between sets.
“We pumped each other up, we told each other what we need to fix, and we told each other not to give up,” Cassidy Martinez said. “If we gave up, we were going to go down. So we tried to give as much as you can.”
Defense was key for both teams on Tuesday, as they exchanged long rallies for much of the match.
In a game between two teams that finished atop their respective districts last season, Edcouch-Elsa came out ahead of an Edinburg High group that plays two sophomores and a freshman and is still working things out.
“I like the way (Edcouch-Elsa) was playing defense — they weren’t giving up on plays at all,” Edinburg High coach Deanna Dominguez said. “There are still some things that we’re working out on our side, obviously, because we should be able to finish. Definitely, on our part, lack of finish.”