Veteran core builds off of hard work, togetherness
Things are getting serious with Sterling High School volleyball.
Head coach Candace Southall enters her fourth year coming off an impressive 26-11 overall record and a 12-2 mark in District 21-6A play, finishing second.
Last year ended earlier than the Lady Rangers expected, getting knocked out in the bi-district round, but there is plenty of heavy artillery available to have a better finish this fall.
Sterling opens the season 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at home against Dickinson.
Southall returns Jasmine Moore, Bailee St. Romain, Brooke Benoit, Kenady Irwin, Kaitlyn Stork and Kayla Jones from that team and that should be enough to offset the losses of Jazmine Morris and Yulina Garza.
“I believe this year will be one of the strongest years we have had since I’ve been here,” Southall said. “This will be my first graduating class and they all know my coaching style.”
The coach cites the team’s drive and hustle as key areas the team can rally around, but the reality is they are not the tallest of timber, especially in the middle and at the pins.
But the players believe they can overcome those shortcomings.
The senior Moore says their team pushed the envelope this summer in terms of work ethic, setting a tone not many other squads match up with.
“We have been going hard,” Moore said. “During the offseason we work well together and we try to do as much as we can.”
Not to say Sterling lacks height, but they make up for any potential holes with athleticism and are able to get hands on a lot of attacks to keep points alive.
“As long as we walk onto the court and have confidence in ourselves and the players beside us, we feel like we can accomplish anything even if the other team is bigger than us or not,” St. Romain said. “If we can get a touch it makes it an easier set up for the back.”
Benoit, a setter, has plenty of experience watching the front row battle it out at the net and she is satisfied with where it stands as the season approaches.
“A lot of that has to do with our conditioning and work ethic,” Benoit said. “I am confident in our front row and they take the heat off of our back row. Even when our front row is not exactly on, I feel our defense is going to keep up with everything and I won’t have to kill myself to get to every ball.”
Senior Laila Rojas, who plays in the back row, believes the block has done a fine job making her and others that play the last line of defense not have to panic against the attack.
“Our front row is so good at what they do, we don’t have to dive for everything,” Rojas said. “We also do our job as well as they do and we’re always there when they need us to be and they are there for us.”
District play should once again be challenging with Deer Park, Channelview and North Shore providing plenty of solid opposition.
“The key will be quickness and making sure we are cohesive on the court,” Southall said. “Our defensive game will also be key and will set up our offense.”
The Lady Rangers are a team that expects to build off of last season and take a bigger leap this fall.
“It’s only up from here,” St. Romain said. “We’re not having to reclimb the ladder. We have been together for a minute and we can only get better.”