Special to McAllen ISD by Nathaniel Mata
Even before students return to their classrooms for another school year, the girls of the hardwood are already in full swing.
This high-paced sport, where speed and skill meet strength and agility, is one of the most popular sports for girls. At McAllen ISD, it’s special. All three high schools are constant playoff participants.
New Memorial coach Ashley Doffing says each level, from freshman to varsity, can take pride in wearing the colors and representing a top-notch program.
“The McAllen schools are great schools to play volleyball in,” Doffing said. “Historically we have always been best in the Valley. So putting on your Mustang jersey, on any team, is something to be proud of.”
Her Mustangs sport a towering blocker in Demy Banks and an award-winning setter in Sydney Marburger, both of which had older sisters play for the ’Stangs.
In fact, all three schools have seen players move on to compete in volleyball at the collegiate level, some even at the Division I level.
Doffing explained why playing volleyball can have such a lasting impact that goes beyond just wins, losses and team performance.
“Sometimes you play on the same team with girls from 7th-12th grade,” Doffing said. “The bonds made last forever, even though you might not always see eye-to-eye, you connect on a deeper level. You bond over the loss that should have never happened, the liners you had to run until you feel like quitting, and celebrate the win and remember why you endured all that hard work, to win. Nobody but the soul sister that is standing next to you through the tough times understands why those good times are so good.”
All three of the district high schools have a playoff pedigree. Coach Paula Dodge has been the face of McAllen High volleyball for years and she says the hard work from her athletes make it worthwhile.
“We have been very fortunate to have had very dedicated athletes join our program who work very hard to share the McHi traditions and expectations year-to-year...which trickles down to middle schools.”
Her team this year is led by dual-sport standout, senior Alexa ‘Lexi’ Gonzalez. She is flanked by sophomore Celina Saenz along with juniors Haidee Moore and Madison Helmcamp.
“The rivalry between the three schools has helped develop a higher level of competition,” Dodge said. “The girls all know each other. They love to play against one another for that top spot in town.”
Nikki Rowe is also used to deep playoff runs and year-to-year consistency. Even as memorable Warriors graduate, the team quickly molds the next roster and remains competitive. This year Anna Honrubia will step into the shoes of many former strong outside hitters before her.
Coach Magda Canales has no worries that incoming varsity players are prepared thanks to the McAllen ISD volleyball system.
“Middle school teams are the future the help keep that tradition alive at Rowe,” Canales said. “The middle schools start by showing the fundamentals of the game and this helps us develop the competitive drive we see in our program. Therefore, we will continue to work with our feeder middle school coaches to develop our student-athletes.”
Canales and Dodge each have reached the 500-win plateau as bench bosses while helping girls mature through athletics, competition, and companionship.
The newest head coach, who was an assistant prior to the move, explained how volleyball’s impact is deeper than sport.
“Life is tough, and for these young adults, it’s just getting tougher,” Doffing said. “Playing volleyball teaches you to challenge yourself early, and learn your abilities even in the face of adversity, being able to do this at a young age will just help prepare them for their future.”