Lady Panthers rely on four seniors to push for turnaround
There is no other option than improvement for the Anahuac Lady Panthers volleyball team.
Second-year head coach Lauren Brandon aims to ride the experience of four key seniors to better play after year one.
Last fall, the Lady Panthers finished 4-25 overall with just one District 22-3A win and no postseason bid.
But with seniors – S/OH Maci Bennett, RH Ashley Bennett, S Bree’Anna Anderson and libero Sydney Bertrand – to rely on, Brandon sees advancement in play as a reality.
“Their leadership on the court will be a strength in guiding our young players,” Brandon said. “However, our young players are competitive in nature and eager to win. This is a new team for Anahuac and this group of athletes will bring a great dynamic to the court and help us push for the win.”
Added to that dynamic is sophomore middle Erin Willcox who has really improved her ability to attack from between the pins.
“She is an up and coming middle attacker,” Brandon said. “She has a big swing, is hungry for the game, and has a desire to win.”
Maci Bennett is impressed with the younger Willcox who has increased the effectiveness at the net for the Lady Panthers.
“We have a middle that can actually make blocks and quick sets,” she said. “She’s the bomb.”
The seniors are feeling a sense of urgency and increased hunger to flip the script with one year left to play at Anahuac.
“Coming into the season we are playing well together,” Ashley Bennett said. “Last year we thought we were going to be a pretty good team, but it just didn’t work out.
Bertrand said the defense has improved and the block has played a big role in keeping the back row from sprawling all over the place to keep points alive.
“We are getting way more blocks so it’s easier for me and the back row to get a pass up,” Bertrand said. “We have a new defense this year which takes into account where the block is going to be as long as it’s up and it usually is.”
The attack will benefit from more connectivity between setters and their pins.
“Our hitters have gotten really good at getting good strong hits or hitting around the block,” Ashley Bennett said. “We are good at placing our shots and where we want to hit them too.”
The seniors agree that they may not be able to terminate points as often as they will need to win with good defense to take long rallies.
“Our seniors this year want to have a great season and we are pushing the younger girls to play good and hopefully we will win games.”
The Lady Panthers realize they just can’t work hard but they have to work twice as much as everyone else to close the gap.
“We do work hard and our mindset has gotten a lot better,” Bertrand said. “Usually when we were on the court, we would get down and kept losing the next balls. Now we just focus on what’s next rather than worry about what already happened.”
The district won’t be easy with teams like Hardin, Buna and Orangefield ready to battle for the Class 3A playoffs once again.
Hardin and Orangefield both advanced to the Region 3 quarterfinals.
“Several of our opponents are evenly matched which makes every game a battle,” Brandon said. “The key to making the playoff’s will be to take the season one game at a time and one win at a time.”
The Lady Panthers open the season 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hitchcock.