Success for most volleyball teams is defined by a winning season and a playoff berth.
For Michael Kane and the Dripping Springs Tiger volleyball program, success in recent years means attaining loftier goals.
Following 2018’s run to the state semifinals, Dripping Springs is dreaming big as they seek a return to Garland and possibly vying for another title. Armed with a handful of tools from last season’s run, Kane said expectations are high for a program that’s become a Central Texas volleyball powerhouse.
But at the same time, the Tigers are tempering expectations with the reality they will become the hunted in a highly competitive 5A, Region IV bracket. It’s a position Kane said the Tigers plan to relish and respect in 2019.
“When people suit up against Dripping Springs, people have a little extra juice in the engine,” Kane said. “We’ve been so successful in the past, people get amped up to play us. We remind them (our players) of that in practice and in a game. We never take anyone for granted.”
Anchoring the Tigers in 2019 are several key returning cogs. Included in that list is senior setter Avery Kalsu, a Tulsa University pledge, who last season attained numerous postseason accolades across multiple sports. Kalsu is backed up by senior setter Sarah Nadine, who was also part of last season’s state tournament team.
Meanwhile, senior Mackenzie Murray and Kyler Raymond will bolster the outside hitter position, while Lauren Pika, Maddie Lund and Karlie Parker will be vital components at middle blocker.
While Kane said he was somewhat nervous at what the Tigers had at certain positions, work put in by players at team camps, open gyms and the first week of practice alleviated most of his concerns.
“Experience is something we’ll have to gain, but talent level, we’re going to be better off,” Kane said. “I always prepare for the worst, but we’re going to be fine.”
Staving off complacency will be critical for the Tigers as they ready for the season, Kane said. Ensuring players understand what it took for the program to attain previous successes will help prevent overconfidence.
Kane hopes that mentality will propel the Tigers in their first goal of winning an eighth district title in a row. Over the course of seven years, Dripping Springs has gone 98-2 in district play.
However, Kane said the Tigers don’t plan to overlook their district competition. Taking on some of the state’s best in three challenging pre-district tournaments is expected to prime the Tigers for district play. Cultivating a winning and competitive environment is what Kane said he and his staff are trying to maintain.
“We always have a goal of winning district. It’s been a long time since we’ve lost a district game, but we never take things for granted,” Kane said. “We want to go 1-0 in district every game. But first we have to take care of chemistry.”
But an equal motivator is having a target on their backs, Kane said. Getting back to Garland and trying to earn a gold medal is also important, too.
“They (the players) want to get back to the state tournament, but in order to get back, we have to build continuity and get this new team gelled and find the chemistry,” Kane said.
Dripping Springs travels to play at the John Turner Classic in Pearland before traveling to play at Hays High Aug. 13. The Tigers’ host Copperas Cove at home Aug. 20 at 6:30 p.m.