September 9, 2023

By Greg Selber

Click here for select game photos

The Lady Bobcats are an interesting mix this season, with a few trusted veterans on hand and a host of promising newcomers on the road to progress by the day. The roster then, shows lots of kids who will in time become the nucleus of the program. And leading the charge is the newest face, as EHS went to work this volleyball season without the staple figure who had paced the effort for 22 seasons.

With the departure of long-time coach Deanna Sanchez, the Lady ‘Cats have installed Jaclyn Olvera at the head of the line, and she, like her young team, is full of energy and potential for the wars ahead. Olvera will be familiar to careful program watchers, as her husband, the estimable George, has been an EHS coach for some time. Those who recall the old salad days at Lyford High School will remember Olvera as a fantastic all-around athlete in multiple sports who went on to play volleyball in college.

After 13 years at P-SJ-A Southwest, Olvera now takes the helm at EHS, and in warmups for Saturday’s home match against Harlingen, one could see that the new coach has not lost a step. Tossing the ball here, striking it there, Olvera revved her girls up in a tight and quick reaction drill, near the wall mats at one end of the gym. Still long and lean as in her playing days, Olvera modeled for her crew on every iteration of the drill, putting the ball where it needed to be and teaching her girls on each successive hit.

Twenty-six games into 2023, with league play to begin Sept. 23, the Lady Bobcats have carved out a winning record, as the Olvera Era unfolds and the school gets used to life without Sanchez, who fashioned the program into one of the consistent winners in the Valley.

“I guess nobody saw this coming, coach leaving,” Olvera said, now watching her girls serve from one side to the other. “This opportunity came, the doors opened up, and I think it was God-sent. George and I now have all our kids here in Edinburg, and so far, it’s really been a lot of fun.”

As the season develops, Olvera has been fast at task finding complementary pieces to go with the powerful senior lead horse, Emily Carranco, always crafty and effective at the net, and the pair of junior Melanie Perez and sophomore Makayla Olvera (yes, verily, yes). Olvera has taken over many of the hitting chores and against Harlingen was to enjoy fruitful periods of smacking, early and late. Perez, moved from backrow to the setter role now, was hustling all day, bristling with intensity in the attempt to replace one of the best passers the program has had, the graduated Hailey Vega.

Other than that, it’s newbies all around, and in the non-district portion of the slate, the new coach has been double-timing it with rookies on board.

“We have been working on a lot of things,” Olvera noted. “One of them, teaching them not to panic when things don’t work out. Like any team, we’re also working on erasing bad habits and creating new ones; everyone has something to work on.”

If it seems like the work in progress has been done at a distance, it’s because Saturday marked the first home game of the season, after a handful of tournaments and gobs of away matches. And the road caravan continues this coming week with bouts at Brownsville Hanna and Laredo United South before the 31-6A opener against Mission, back at last at home.

So far, Olvera seems to be dedicated, upbeat, but not shy of letting her team know what’s what. Expressive in huddles with her girls, stalking the sidelines with instructions, exhortations and the hastily though smoothly demonstrated technique she wants to see out there, the newest member of the staff at EHS gives off an air of proper urgency, and the kids seem to have followed her lead.


Harlingen has been an enigma this season, with a poor overall record due to massive graduation losses. Still, the Lady Cards came to town Saturday with a decent fan group and some super-big girls on the front line. Watching them warm up, one had the feeling that play at the net might be a key to the clash, and so it was, to a degree.

With four-year starter Carranco holding sway at the twines, EHS struck early, and Olvera’s windmill kill gave her mother and her team an 8-3 lead. Olvera the Younger is a carbon copy of her mom in almost every way, and she seems to have progressed considerably after what was at times a signal freshman season. The Harlingen height came saddled with its attendant dash of sluggishness, and Olvera was able to find space well enough as the match began. It became 14-9 after a sharp dig from libero Maddy Martinez (yes, the baller), who’s taken charge of the firestarter role with the same sort of grace she brings to guard chores on Coach J.D. Salinas’ basketball outfit. Then, Carranco’s resounding block led to another spike from Olvera and the Lady ‘Cats were in control at 17-10.

From there, EHS closed it out, 25-14 with a smash off a Perez feed, slammed home by a lengthy and athletic option, Danica Rivera, who spot-played in 2022 and now slides into a key role for the squad. With a quick leap and the ability to land in rhythm and be ready for more, the 5-11 jumping jack was to enjoy a solid match against Harlingen, auguring well for the days to come.

With Perez scooting around like a waterbug, and Olvera coming good with another swat, the Lady Bobcats finished up, thanks also to contributions from freshman Jacklyn Garza, who at first glance appears to be a skilled frontliner who hits a heavy ball at the defense. Perez’ slick backset to Carranco ended the first set, as the latter absolutely crushed one into the teeth of the sagging Lady Cardinal backline.

Long a playoff perennial, Harlingen came out annoyed for set two, and played like it, establishing a quick 6-1 advantage. It got out to 13-6, visitor, and that’s when Olvera’s tutelage per the panic mode paid off. The Lady ‘Cats listened long to their mentor in the huddle, and then rededicated, refocused, and came back out ready. Zero panic.

Olvera did her part with fine serves and when Martinez and Perez combined to save one in the back, the bouncy Rivera, one of the few seniors on the roster (3 of 12 total girls) was there to win at net. Amid a slew of subsequent Harlingen errors, the home side elevated, a key smash from Garza tucked in with an ace by Perez. All of a sudden, the Lady ‘Cats were in the lead, courtesy of a blistering 12-2 stretch that had seen them dominate all phases. When junior Felicia Panola came up with a lefty score, it was 20-15, to the good.

Perez now went to the deck to make an amazing dig, one that looked like a Harlingen point until folks realized that the power pack had been able to make her hand into part of the floor and somehow crank the bomb right up and into play. Though EHS eventually lost the point, this sequence might be indicative of the type of spirit and performance the club will be capable of, moving along.

However, the visitor was going to have its run, and indeed, Harlingen closed to within 1 late in the set, until an untimely mistake clinched it, 25-23, for Olvera and Olvera and Co.

The Lady Cards wanted to keep the mojo for a while now, gunning out to an 8-3 lead early in the third set despite a couple of winners from the dogged Carranco. Struggles in serve-and-return hindered the jam from an EHS standpoint and the set flat got away. Harlingen was up 18-6 and nothing was going wrong for the Redbirds. Though Rivera showed her timing on a tip winner, and Garza clobbered a few, this was all Harlingen, to the tune of 23-13.


Every potential match-ending set will be a test this season, and faced with an oncoming foe that was starting to use its size to advantage, it was time for the Lady ‘Cats to find answers and stop the bleeding. The resurgence was not long in coming, as after the Lady Cards assumed a lead at 7-6, Olvera took flight for a memorable kill, floating on air as she tomahawked a no-doubter.

Martinez served up an ace and soon it was Rivera’s serve, clacking the net and dribbling over for a point, proving that sometimes a little good fortune goes a long way.

The Red and Blue zoomed to 14-9 with a wicked, slicing baseball-slider-of-a-kill from the redoubtable Carranco, and it got even better now as Olvera, involved on defense with a dig, instantly hustled up to the net, where she hammered one home for a point. Work rate. Then it was Rivera rising high to score, quick trigger, for an 18-15 lead. Harlingen was hanging tough, but EHS played like this was it: and it was to be that, but not before some tense moments. Harlingen fought into ties at 20 and 21 before a Perez set was placed perfectly between two defenders by a leaping Carranco; how does she always know what to hit, when, how, and where? Mysteries. Facts.

Give the enemy credit because they fought against this tide, knotting the clincher up at 23 before Olvera’s big blast and then the finale play, a save from the quickster Perez and block from Rivera, leading to a 25-23 final, and a 16-11 record for EHS.

After a hard day’s work, Olvera and her team rested. Looks like the pieces she’s been tinkering with are coming together, including libero Martinez, who prior to 2023 had not played the sport since middle school but showed few signs of rustiness. Including the live wire Perez, athletic Rivera, and a host of other contributors. With Carranco manning the core of the squad and the young Olvera progressing along the path of improvement toward excellence, the goal is to not to skip a beat after the change of coaches. Win some games, vie for the trophy, business as usual at EHS.

Olvera was pleased with the effort on Saturday and is excited to see what comes next. Her offspring was front and center for the win, although the coach noted that sometimes she has to remind herself, as all coaches who mentor their kids must do: she’s not judging No. 7 as a daughter, merely as a player, one of many.

And then, close observers of the local sporting scene know well the incredible family bond here; Aaron Olvera, one of the greatest basketball players the Valley has ever seen, is now coaching the JV volley gals, and then there’s George, Liz, and … the list goes on for that fecund fam of sporting prowess.

As district nears, Jaclyn Olvera is happy to be leading a contender toward the playoff run, reiterating that though the move from Southwest was tough to do, she couldn’t be happier at how her run at EHS has begun.

“We’re all here now, got all our kids in school in Edinburg, and that feels good,” she explained. “If I had stayed there, I would of course be coaching at the exact times that Makayla is playing, and I would have missed basically all her games.”

NOTES: Econ continues to compete well, after last season’s breakthrough to the playoffs. The Lady Jags have won 10 times already, including victories over Harlingen South and Palmview, and will be at home Tuesday to San Perlita, followed by a road game at Weslaco in preps for the league opener against formidable P-SJ-A (with former EHS pounder Mia Dominguez) on Sept. 23.

Meanwhile North has been sharp from the outset in 2023, compiling an 18-6 mark, with a non-league match against Los Fresnos set for Sept. 16 and the lid-lifting 31-6A try at La Joya the same day as Econ-Bears. The Lady Coogs have won seven in a row following a telling result against Rivera Saturday; they lost just four sets in that 7-game streak and are surely amped for district.

As for Vela, the Lady SaberCats have started 5A district play with a fair roll, three wins in five and this week, it’s Pharr North at home and then a trip to McAllen to tackle the Lady Bulldogs of Mac High.

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