Volleyball aims to join REL renaissance

Naomi Hockless , left, gets ready to hit off a set by Nicole Price during Saturday’s scrimmage against Channelview.

Robert E. Lee volleyball is in the hands of a former Lady Gander with a bright vision for the program.

Mary Grosjean inherits a squad that has four returning starters and a lot of new pieces to work with to build off of last year’s 4-21 overall record.

The former REL assistant recognizes a lot needs to be done to make progress in her first year.

The Grosjean era begins 6:30 tonight when the Lady Ganders travel to play Houston Milby.

“Our strength going into the 2019 season is definitely a strong defense,” Grosjean said. “At Lee we have always prided ourselves in our back-row defense, but this year we have one of our middle blockers back from injury and are looking forward to adding more blocking defense to our team. 

“A weakness would be our age. We lost a lot of seniors last year, so our team is looking to be young, but the younger girls have a lot of heart and will compete, and they are hungry for the next level of competition.”

Grosjean has libero/DS Marisa Flores, OH Gabi Lara, OH/MB Ti’tiana Brown and MB Naomi Hockless are back to provide the team’s backbone.

Of course, losing a top setter won’t be easy.

“Last season we ran a 5-1 with our senior setter, Bre Velfling,” Grosjean said. “There are girls who have proved themselves in the off-season, but she will be tough to replace.”

Grosjean is encouraged by the number of new athletes on board ready to make a difference.

Lara played club ball for Grosjean at Texas Eastside and she believes the coach will focus on the tactical aspects rather than being a cheerleader on the bench.

“I’ve had this coach before and I feel she’s helped me improve a lot,” Lara said. “I am excited for her and I think she will do a lot for the program.”

Some of the players sense the Lee athletic program moving upward and volleyball should be included in that mix.

“I feel like we are progressing to that level slowly and we will eventually get there as long as the athletes here are dedicated and they actually love the sport,” Hockless said. 

“We have a lot of defensive specialists and we are good because we are short,” Lara said. “We are known for our passing. With hitting, I am short, but I am a smart player and it can still work out.

“You can hit around the block or tip where they aren’t at. You just have to be a smart player.”

Now it’s just about who can help REL make a postseason push and begin the process of turning the program around.

“We have the big picture in mind, and we are making movements to it,” Grosjean said. “Our girls need to focus on one game at a time, play on their strengths, and help one another out on their weaknesses. If we can do that, we all believe in Lee.” 

The belief is there, now it’s about creating tangible results.

“It might take a couple of years, but we will get there,” Hockless said. 

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