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Sophomore setter Kelsi Wingo, center, get the Barbers Hill attack going during a recent team practice while Sarah Lankford, left, and Nadia Karabanoff get ready to block. Wingo and Karabanoff are some of the younger players expected to contribute to the varsity.

Lady Eagles aim to go further in regional play

MONT BELVIEU – The biggest problem second-year head volleyball coach Kristin Goodman could face this fall is volleyball only allows one ball on the court during a match.

With the talent brimming over in Mont Belvieu, Goodman definitely prefers this challenge over the alternative as she comes into the new season off of a 27-18 season that saw the Lady Eagles go 11-1 in capturing the District 21-5A title while advancing to the regional quarterfinals.

It all begins again 6 p.m. Tuesday when the Lady Eagles play host to a strong Santa Fe squad.

“These girls are relentless,” Goodman said of her new-look roster. “We battle every single match and fight point for point. We are not the biggest or the fastest, but we are scrappy, and we have heart. I can definitely see us having another 25-plus winning season.”

The Lady Eagles will see some tough pre-district competition at a tournament in Pearland and against Class 6A powerhouse Ridge Point.

“Seeing this type of competition early is key to a successful season,” Goodman said. “We can see our strengths and weaknesses early before starting district in September.”

Goodman believes the team has the ability to “defy the odds” and make it to the Region 3 finals and that could happen with some new systems in place.

“We will be running a fast offense and have two athletic and crafty middle hitters,” Goodman said. “We also have very aggressive serves. We are also still working on serve receive daily though.”

Senior S Trinity Hennigan, senior MB Kylee Kejonen, senior MB Sarah Lankford and junior hitter Faith Guidry are back, and the hope is they will ease the team’s losses of OH Jessica Hardin and libero Macy Sumrall from last year’s unit.

Sophomores, OH Nadia Karabanoff and S Kelsi Wingo are coming on strong as well.

“They are aggressive, tough, and can play multiple positions,” Goodman said. “They will be key additions to our line up to help us be more competitive in every aspect of the game.”

Senior DS London King is optimistic despite losing some key pieces from a season ago.

“We are going to defy the odds,” King said. “We don’t care what the haters say, kind of like last year when not many people thought we would make it that far too. This year we will come in even stronger.”

One thing that has caught the attention of King and Langford is the rapid growth of the younger players.

“They have taken the open spots to heart and know they have to step up to the plate to take them,” King said.

“A lot of them have taken into account that we don’t have those people anymore and they’ve been working their butts off,” Langford said. “We’ve seen it in our practices and our camps. They are just proving that they deserve the varsity spots and have taken a huge leap.”

Like many of the other area teams, the Barbers Hill frontline is not full of big bodies, while making up for a lack of height with athleticism and guile.

“When we go up against the bigger teams, our block tries to take on a little more,” Langford said. “We try to get the most touches that we can to take as much off of the back row, but they know they have to also take on more. Everybody just steps up a lot and we know we have to work harder against a bigger team.”

King said that the team has come to rely on the backrow having to ramp up its game to make up those inches the girls at the net might be lacking.

“We got to learn how to cover that backrow without the height and be fast on our feet,” King said. “We just have to go all out for everything.”

Goodman knows her team has to get to work in hoping to defend its district title and move toward bigger and better in the playoffs. 

She sees Nederland, Dayton and Port Neches-Groves as top challengers for the district crown once again after the four teams battled for supremacy. 

“We have to be consistent week after week, and keep ourselves healthy,” she said. “Our bodies were very tired last year after a grueling pre-season, and we ended up losing an early match in district play to Nederland. This year, we hope to go undefeated and secure another district championship.”

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