Farmersville stays hot against Strathmore

Farmersville’s Rachel Rojas hits the ball against Strathmore on Thursday night. The Aztecs won on the road in three sets to stay hot this season.(Kason Clark)

Aztecs defeat the Spartans in three volleyball sets on the road; the Aztecs have now gone 5-2 in their past seven matches as they now get ready for league competition

STRATHMORE – With league play coming up, high school volleyball teams across Tulare County will be looking to find their stride. One of those teams are the Farmersville Aztecs, who have been playing some of their best volleyball in their last few non-league matches of the season.

On the road Thursday night, the Aztecs stayed hot with a 3-0 win (25-16, 25-13, 25-18) over the Strathmore Spartans. Not only did the win improve their overall record to 10-6-1, but the Aztecs have now gone 5-2 in their past seven matches.

“It’s just the teamwork that we have,” Farmersville’s Rachel Rojas said about their recent play. “We have our setter Jolina Castaneda, we have our middle hitters, our outside hitters and our liberos, we all just work as a team.”

And it was another team effort on Thursday night against the Spartans. Jazmaine Stewart had another strong match with ten kills and 13 digs for the Aztecs. Rojas also contributed with five kills and 12 digs, but her biggest impact was serving the ball as she recorded five aces for Farmersville.

“She’s a very strong player,” Farmersville head coach Dave Light said about Rojas’ performance. “She’s really instrumental in what we were doing. She has a lot of confidence now on her serve and it’s doing really good things. If she’s not getting an ace, she’s putting them out of system.”

The Aztecs defeated a Strathmore team that recently found some momentum of its own. After an 0-5 start, the Spartans had won three straight matches heading into Thursday night. But against the Aztecs, Strathmore head coach Fidelina Camacho believes it was their youth that doomed them.

“We beat ourselves mentally,” Camacho said. “It is a young team and we’re still building our mental toughness and I believe that beat us tonight.”

From the start, the Aztecs demonstrated it would be their night. To start the first set, the Aztecs raced out to an 8-2 lead. The Spartans tried to march back as they only trailed, 13-11, halfway through the first. But the Aztecs got on a roll to win it, 25-16, for a 1-0 lead in the match.

The Spartans played better to start the second set as the two teams battled it out to a 10-10 tie. But again, the Aztecs dominated with a 15-3 run to win it. As the Aztecs closed out the game, Rojas believes their energy kept momentum on their side.

“We just motivated each other,” Rojas said. “We just came together as a team and celebrated each other.”

The Spartans tried to extend the night as they battled to start the third. But with a 10-9 lead, the Aztecs once again went on a run to build themselves a 23-14 lead. This time however, the Spartans battled back with a 4-0 run to cut the deficit to 23-18. The Aztecs scored in response, but with the game point on the line, the Spartans put up a valiant effort.

On the next possession, the Aztecs and Spartans went back and forth with the ball; it seemed like the rally would never end. But with the chance to end the night, Rojas spiked the ball for the kill to give her team the victory. While the Aztecs could have easily faltered on the final rally of the game, Rojas believes their execution got them the victory.

“Everybody did their part on the court and everybody made sure to do their job,” Rojas said. “I think that’s what got us to the end of the game and that kill.”

While it was a tough way to end the night, Camacho believes the final rally demonstrated the resiliency of the young Spartans and she hopes that is something they can take with them moving forward.

“They finished fighting and we just have to build from that,” Camacho said. “I just have to continue building their mental toughness as I don’t think there’s a team that can beat them but themselves.”

The Aztecs will look to build on their win as they get ready for their first match of league play. With their strong play over the past week, Light believes the Aztecs are beginning to communicate well and are building their team chemistry.

“This was one of the first times we really just came together as a team with a lot of communication,” Light said. “Physically we can do it, it’s a matter of just getting used to each other and making sure that we’re playing as a team.”

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