By Moses Leos III
Looking at past success isn’t something first year Hays Lady Rebel volleyball head coach Stephanie Coates does often. She’s more of a looking forward kind of coach.
It’s that forward thinking she hopes to translate to Hays High as they enter the 6A ranks.
“[Hays] has had a lot of success. They had a great team last year, but I don’t like to look back. I want to look forward,” Coates said. “I think we can have success in 6A, as long as we believe we can.”
The transition into the Coates era began on Monday during two-a-days. It started on the offensive end, where ball control was a point of emphasis.
Coates worked then to instill her offensive style, which focuses on a balanced attack.
“I’m a ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ kind of gal,” Coates said. “I like a front line where you have all options available…I’m hoping we can put out a team that has multiple weapons at all times.”
It’s a complete paradigm shift for the Lady Rebels, who looked to former teammate Sydney Paradeaux for much of their offense.
With eleven seniors on the roster — four of them hitters — Coates plans to utilize the team’s depth and experience to its advantage.
Leading the way will be senior setter Kathryn Wristen, who helped the offense with 1,246 assists last season.
Flanking her will be senior hitters Shannon Park and Taylor Britton, who amassed 408 combined kills. They will look to replace the gap left by Paradeaux and Melaine Harrington.
With the influx of senior leaders, Wristen said the group will work on setting the example for the younger players. Additionally, their cohesiveness on the court allows them to push each other toward success.
While they continue to learn Coates’ style, Wristen said spreading out the offense will benefit the club.
“It will take some time to get used to, but we will adjust and run it,” Wristen said. “It’s good to go to multiple people, instead of relying on one.”
Defense will be the heart and soul for Hays in 2014. Senior libero and defensive specialist Madison McCauley returns to lead the Lady Rebels on defense.
Coates said working on ball control and serve reception is what she will “bring to the table.” In addition, team communication will prove vital, as it’s something that will determine the team’s success.
While she said the defense is strong, there is always room for improvement.
“It’s not fundamental skills, but aggressiveness and attitude on defense,” Coates said. “We can get to more balls this year than we did last year. We are going to make that a goal.”
The road ahead, however, could prove difficult. Tournaments in Cedar Park and Westwood will test the Lady Rebels during the non-district schedule. The Lady Rebels must then navigate a salty 14-6A, which includes regional-quarterfinalist Westlake.
Wristen said the team must adhere to the higher tempo of play in the 6A ranks. Coates believes a positive, yet aggressive, mentality could foster success.
“There are no bad teams in this district. Here in this area, you have a lot of good players,” Coates said. “We will respect everyone, but we’ll fear no one. We believe we can battle with everyone.”
While change is ongoing on the court, Coates’ outlook leaves a positive impression on her players.
“She brings a lot of new opportunities for the team,” Wristen said. “She pushes us hard and that’s what we need. She doesn’t want to settle for anything less than her high expectations.”