When Mariella Gonzales donned her white and purple jersey before her team’s historic regional quarterfinal match against London, she had no idea it would be the last time she’d ever wear the No. 3 for the Skidmore-Tynan volleyball program.

The senior accounted for nearly 65% of her team’s kills in the match, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Lady Cats’ history-making season alive.

London ended Skidmore’s run in the third round, beating the Lady Cats in four sets at Owl Gym in Odem.

“I’m a little sad, but overall, I’m just proud of my team,” Gonzales said after the match with tears still streaming down her cheek following the team’s emotional meeting in the locker room. “Everybody doubted us and no one thought we would make it this far to make history.”

The team made history by advancing past the area round of the postseason for the first time in at least 30 years, winning bi-district and area titles en route to the berth in the regional quarterfinals.

“I feel honored, but I couldn’t have done it without the team,” said Gonzales about what it meant to her to be a part of the historic run. “Volleyball is a team effort and I couldn’t have done it without my team.”

Lady Cat coach Holly Vasquez said the run through the playoffs will have a lasting impact on the program.

“I think it left a big mark,” she said. “We have underclassmen and I think it has showed them what they are capable of.

“I think it’s a good building block for our younger girls.”

She said she reminded the girls afterward to cherish the memories of what they did this year.

“Of course they’re upset and devastated, but I told them they have to realize what they accomplished and what they did.”

London’s non-stop offensive barrage and stout defense was just too much for the Lady Cats.

The Lady Pirates rolled to a 25-13 win in the opening set of the match, racking up more than half of its points on kills while limiting Skidmore to just four kills against nine hitting errors for a hitting percentage of minus-.139.

Skidmore bettered its hitting percentage to the positive side in the second set and led 16-10 at one point, but London won 15 of the final 18 points to claim a 25-19 win.

The Lady Cats displayed some fight in the third set, holding off a rally from London and winning the set 25-21 to extend the match into a fourth set.

“I think that really kind of got them back into it and they got to thinking, ‘We can do it,’” said Vasquez of the third-set victory.

“I think that did light a little fire under them.”

London snuffed that fire out in the fourth set, though, rolling to a 25-10 win in a set that saw Skidmore recorded just two kills against five hitting errors.

For the match, the Lady Cats had 28 kills and 28 hitting errors to record a team hitting percentage of .000.

Gonzales had 18 of those 28 kills in her final match.

“It’s just a good feeling to know that, while we lost, we played hard and didn’t give up,” she said.

“It meant a lot. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a Lady Cat.”

She also added three solo blocks, one block assist and two digs.

Jenna Vasquez recorded five kills to go with 16 digs, one ace and one block assist. Mailey Hardin added two kills, 24 assists, one ace and three digs. Neddia Gonzales had two kills, two solo blocks and 12 digs.

Brandi Cash had the team’s other kill.

Samantha Gutierrez, in her last match as a Lady Cat, led the team in digs with 17 to go with one ace.

Celeste Huerta had five digs for the Lady Cats in her last match.

“They are all going to be hard to replace just because I think the chemistry with the team was really good with all these girls,” Coach Vasquez said about the senior group, which also included Eddika Hernandez.

“I think that made a big difference.”

The Lady Cats finished the season with a mark of 30-10.

“The underclassmen are really hungry. They see that we were this close,” the coach said.

“I think it really kind of put in perspective that they can compete with some of the schools that have always been beating us. I think it was good for us.”


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Kevin J. Keller is the content director for Coastal Bend Publishing and the editor of the Beeville Bee-Picayune. He can be reached by email at sports@mysoutex.com or by phone at 361-343-5223, or you can follow him on Twitter @beepicsports.