A lot of new faces for Lee College volleyball are expected to step up and deliver as the season begins. Blocking from left are Jana Wiesel, Holly Stutz and Barbers Hill alum Jessica Hardin.

Dozen newcomers must adapt quickly

It’s year two for Danielle Essix in charge of the Lee College volleyball program and in many ways it’s a reboot.

Essix reloaded an almost fully graduated roster with 12 freshmen, including two – Jessica Hardin and Macy Sumrall – from Barbers Hill.

One thing the team has avoided is the potential pitfalls of chemistry taking too long to come together as her squad appears to have figured each other out.

They will be put to the test at 11 a.m. Saturday when they travel to New Orleans to scrimmage Dillard University. 

“This is my mound of clay and the girls are great and willing to learn,” Essix said. “We have a lot of good players in and I look forward to seeing what we can do.

“We are clicking faster than I thought. Fundamentally we are great. Now we are just learning our system. I see us every day, getting better. It’s exciting and nervous all at the same time.”

Essix gets her first chance this weekend to see how things are coming along.

“I want to see us huddle after every single play and to say something good to someone,” Essix said. “I just want us to compete and if we do, I am OK. I want to see what we need to work on because we begin play in a week.”

The Lady Rebels finished last season 10-13 and will need the newcomers to adjust if they want to do better than a two-and-out at the Region XIV tournament.

“They were a little nervous at first, but they are starting to break out of their shell,” Outside hitter Kennidee Willis, one of two returners, said. “We are really close and we are together every day doing team activities.”

Hardin says that the freshmen are working well together.

“It was especially important coming in to know that everyone is on the same page coming in,” Hardin said. “It’s a new team so you have to work ten times harder about building chemistry and being open to everyone’s perspectives and opinions. With that being said, we’ve all come together very quickly with how much time we are spending together.”

Willis credits the freshmen – who are the majority – for respecting the veterans which Hardin acknowledges have done a solid job leading the program.

“I was a little nervous at first, but I am actually friends with everybody,” Willis said. “They all listen and understand and follow the rules. They also all want to win.”

Hardin said her and Sumrall have enjoyed playing close to home while taking the next step.

“That’s a lot of the reason why we chose here and we are fortunate to be able to go home,” Hardin said. “Mom is just a hop and skip away.”

So is the beginning of their college careers.

“This weekend we won’t be at our peak yet, but it will show all of us what college ball is really like,” Hardin said.

Lee continues play on 10 a.m. Tuesday at Texas Southern for another scrimmage before the season starts at the Vernon College Tournament next weekend.


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