by WES FERGUSON
The Lehman Lady Lobos are testing a major new strategy as District 27-4A volleyball heats up.
From the setter position, Aleeya Eskridge’s ability to deliver pinpoint-accurate assists has been one of the early highlights for the Lady Lobos, who dropped their first district match to Kerrville Tivy on Friday and were set to face Boerne Champion on Tuesday.
But Eskridge isn’t just the best setter on the team. She’s also one of the taller players and the most experienced athlete.
Coping with a lack of height, and taking advantage of Heidi Munoz’ emerging play as the Lady Lobos’ second setter, Lehman coaches are seeing how the team fares with Eskridge as an outside hitter prowling the net.
Eskridge, a setter on her club team, is being diplomatic about the move.
“Coach thinks I’m one of the biggest hitters on this team, and we have a great second setter in Heidi,” Eskridge said. “I believe it is working a bit better than our other rotations, but I think if we can continue to work on our other rotations we can continue to run a 6-2 using our new setter as an outside (hitter) as well.”
The new rotation showed promise during the Rebel Bash tournament at Hays High School on Saturday. Although the Lady Lobos lost both matches – 25-17, 25-18 to Calhoun and 25-14, 25-12 to Belton – Eskridge led her team in kills.
She also changed the tenor of the game at times. Down 22-8 in the opening set against Belton, Eskridge handled an assist from Munoz for a hard spike to the opposite corner of the court. As the Lady Lobos gained momentum she scored once more on another hit, before a short serve ended the 4-1 Lady Lobo rally.
Head coach Megan Cooper was unavailable for comment, but assistant coach Gloria Sandoval said the Lady Lobos have benefited by the shift in the rotation.
“This is Heidi’s first year setting, and she’s really surprised us,” Sandoval said. “Aleeya is one of our stronger hitters, and we wanted her to get more hits. Having just one setter is working pretty well. Aleeya’s getting her kills in, and we like it.”
With the early season under their belts, Eskridge said she likes the Lady Lobos’ chances in district play, and she and her teammates know what areas of their game still need improvement.
“We know what we’re getting ourselves into,” she said. “We know what we need to get done, so we’re not going into district surprised about anything, and that makes it a little easier. I think our setting’s fine, and our hitting’s fine. Defense is one of the best things that we do. It’s just finishing a point, finding holes on the other side, knowing where the court is, not just on our side, but on the other team’s side as well. That will be key.”
Lehman plays again Friday at Lockhart before hosting Alamo Heights on Tuesday. Both are District 27-4A matches scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.