By Moses Leos III
With nine players returning from last year’s bi-district round playoff team, the Hays Lady Rebels aim to push forward as they enter their new 25-6A home.
For Hays High head volleyball coach Stephanie Coates, ensuring her team improves is the goal that drives them in 2016.
“We’re good and we have the opportunity to be great. One of our sayings this year is, ‘good is the enemy of great,’” Coates said. “We have to be sure our kids won’t get complacent. We want them to strive to be a great team.”
Hays, which finished last season fourth in 14-6A, returns all six players within its starting lineup. Leading the way are senior outside hitters Hailee Morton, setter Mackenzie Coates and liberos Anise LaHue and Ashley Slovak.
Coates said she’s seen the four show their work ethic, intensity and the expectations they have set during the first two practice sessions of the season.
“They are excited about working hard. They know this new district is tough,” Coates said. “They know they have to work hard on the court every night in the new district. They’re fired up about that, and it trickles down to the team.”
Joining them are sophomores Jamie Agnew, Catherine Croft and juniors Katie Hall and Kaitlyn Krafka, who bring varsity experience to the roster, Coates said. Hays will also have Sierra Ditmer, Kayla Tello and freshman Ryan Torres split time between varsity and junior varsity.
Through the first two practices, Coates said the team was “further along than last season.” She said the team has been making good contacts on the ball on offense, while ball control is at a “good place.”
“Our depth is exciting and our hitters have progressed,” Coates said.
Hays will have its depth tested as it enter the new 25-6A. The district includes Vandegrift, Vista Ridge, Lake Travis and Westlake, who all made the postseason last year.
To counter, Coates said the team opted to increase the intensity of their pre-district schedule. She said scheduling tough opponents early was imperative, as it would prepare the team for the tough district grind.
“Scheduling is huge for us,” Coates said. “We need to start and play tough teams and do nothing but come to play every single night.”
Hays’ preseason schedule includes a match against defending Class 5A state champion Dripping Springs. The Lady Rebels also earned an invite to the Pearland Invitational Tournament, which features 80-plus volleyball programs that are “the best in Texas,” Coates said.
“It’s an intivation only tournament and it’s hard to get into. We’re excited to get in this year,” Coates said. “We’re going to go there and play our best volleyball. Win or lose, as long as you play at a top level, you get better.”
Coates said while the team will work on “everything,” the team’s early focus lies in ball control. She said ball control and passing are important as the team’s “entire offense is driven off of the first pass.”
“Everything on the court is based on first contact,” Coates said. “We’re going to work on our serving and serve with a purpose.”
Staying competitive, while also limiting unforced errors are attributes the team plans to work on this year.
“We want to make teams earn points and not give up points,” Coates said. “We want to execute in pressure situations, limit errors…and make sure we’re terminating the ball.”