District 32-5A volleyball set for zone play

Creating fall sports schedules hasn’t been an easy task due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the District 32-5A volleyball coaches got one step closer after the latest district executive committee meeting.

The district decided to split into two zones to complete the 2020 season. Zone A will feature Donna High, Edcouch-Elsa, Mercedes and Weslaco East. Brownsville Lopez, Brownsville Pace, Brownsville Porter and Brownsville Veterans Memorial will make up Zone B.

“(Zoning is) just the best idea right now to proceed cautiously and guarantee the opportunity for these girls to play … it’s less travel and it keeps us safe, which is what we want for the players,” Pace coach Pamela McCumber said. “Our first priority is the safety of the girls and just giving them the opportunity to at least get in some games so that they’re not discouraged with the whole idea that athletics might not happen.”

The district season is set to start Oct. 24, and teams will play opponents in their zone twice. On Nov. 14, the first-place teams from each zone will battle with the No. 1 playoff seed and District 32-5A championship on the line.

That same day, the second-place Zone A team will face the third-place Zone B team, and vice versa. The winners of those games will play Nov. 16 to determine the third and fourth seeds. The district certification deadline is Nov. 17 for Class 5A and 6A.

With a reduced district schedule, the 32-5A volleyball teams have time to play non-district contests, of which McCumber and Brownsville Veterans coach Lisa Mares said they’ll be taking advantage. Both teams have matches against 6A BISD schools Hanna and Rivera penciled in. Mares said she has Harlingen High, Harlingen South and San Benito scheduled, too, to get her team ready for what she believes will be a competitive district slate.

“I was hoping for playing everyone one time, but I totally understand (the zoning decision), trying to limit the travel and stay safe and take necessary precautions. As long as the girls get to play, we’ll take it,” Mares said. “I think it’s going to be very competitive. It’s a matter of who’s doing the work right now, and that’s what I tell the girls during athletics. It’s going to be a very short season, and they need to put in the extra work by themselves, especially if you want to get the playing time because we don’t have a long preseason to figure things out.”

McCumber also acknowledged the importance of athletes being motivated and disciplined as they train at home, and she believes her Lady Vikings are doing a good job of getting ready for the unusual season.

“I think that all the teams going into this zone will come out playing strong because they miss being on the court, so there will be a lot of competitiveness,” McCumber said. “Since the pandemic hit and we went virtual … we have a great group of girls that have literally done every workout session we’ve had. It falls on the athletes because we can’t be face to face, and they’ve showed up and they have the right mindset. They want this season to happen.”