It’s time for the Lady Patriots to do their jobs.
Their individual jobs actually as fifth-year volleyball coach Casey Veen is instilling this mantra to get her program back to the 20-win-plus plateau after falling to 15-18 in 2018 with a fourth-place finish in District 22-5A. GCM’s season ended with a bi-district playoff loss against Barbers Hill.
So now, Veen is looking to add to her 97 wins at the school with a team that has plenty of tall timber and talent across the court.
“We are returning the bulk of the team from last year and they have played together for a few years now and I think that their comradery will be a big strength,” Veen said. “As far as a weakness is concerned, I would have to say that we sometimes falter in consistency. I think we have made great strides in our overall play, but sometimes we create more errors on our own than we should.”
Veen has a plethora of options to go to as she brings back junior OH Taylor Kotlarz, sophomore S Zoe Martinez, senior S Jaidyn Coffman, senior M/RS Mia Bookman, junior M/RS Sarina Garcia, senior OH Elizabeth Easley and junior libero/DS Kaitlyn Herrera.
Easley and Bookman are also listed by Veen as two key players to keep an eye on.
“Elizabeth and Mia will surprise some people this year,” Veen said. “They both are selfless athletes that have played out-of-the- norm positions to better the team. I think with them going into their senior year with a little chip on their shoulders, you should see some big things from them.”
Their rise could help offset the loss of Brooke Byer who was a six-rotation player.
“Last year we went through a part where we weren’t clicking together,” Easley said. “It’s going to motivate this team. We all need to come together and mesh and the work we’ve done this summer has paid off. We really pushed and we worked out with football in the weight room all the time. We were always grinding and helping each other. I feel like it really helped us.”
Easley believes the team’s work ethic expanded from last season.
Martinez is seeing a lot of smarter play from her attackers which will only make her job easier.
“All the hitters really improved, and we are all more connected with each other,” she said. “This upcoming season the hitters are really changing up and looking on the other side of the court and seeing what’s open instead of just swinging away.”
Bookman has seen the GCM hitters keep the opposition off balance in summer league as their shot selections have advanced.
“We focus a lot on tips because that’s really where you get your points at,” Bookman said.
The Lady Patriots feel their defense is much improved and able to keep more points alive.
“We are doing a lot better not scrambling, but even when we do, we are always in the bleachers, on the floor or in the wall,” Easley said. “We now have that work ethic that ‘No, that ball is not dropping.”
It won’t be easy to move up in district play with two of the top 5A teams around – Friendswood and Santa Fe – atop the standings.
“The key to getting into the playoffs this year is finishing games,” Veen said. “There were a few times last year that we needed to find momentum and close the gap to a couple of points but failed to do so. I think we need to find the fire within, come together as one unit, and execute when the game is on the line.
“There are no easy weeks and I believe that our district is one of the more difficult ones around. But on the flip side having that constant competition helps prepare you for the playoffs.”
The GCM volleyball season starts 6:30 tonight at Aldine Davis.