The regular high school volleyball season tips off in a little over two months, but the Goose Creek Memorial, Sterling and Barbers Hill programs are getting an early start on the campaign this week.
The Barbers Hill-led EXCEL Volleyball League will take place every Thursday in June with a number of teams and matches per day.
Two GCM teams and one each from Sterling and Barbers Hill will make up four of the 11 varsity squads set to battle beginning at 5:15 at the XCEL Sports Facility, 8702 Unity Drive, in Baytown.
Barbers Hill Blue battles GCM Red at 7:15 and then takes on La Porte right after on Court 4, Sterling opens with matches against Port Neches-Groves Varsity 3 at 6:45 on Court 5 and then takes on Splendora at 8, while GCM Red also plays North Shore on Court 3 beginning at 6:45.
GCM White takes on PNG 3 and Tarkington High School at 5:15 and 6 on Court 5.
For each program, the goals have their similarities to one another and some variances as to what each coach wants to see from their girls this month.
The Lady Patriots went 15-18 in 2018 and head coach Casey Veen has some high hopes this summer.
“My goals for my teams are to acquire good reps, learn to play positions out of their comfort zones, and more importantly, work together,” Veen said. “I would like them to build upon the amazing chemistry we already have.”
Veen has two teams of about six or seven players each so that a number of players can get good court time.
“The changes that I am looking forward to see are the girls stepping into new roles, and new leaders emerging,” Veen said. “Zoe Martinez had an outstanding year last year. She was just a freshman and earned the Newcomer of the Year superlative for our tough district. Also, you will see Elizabeth Easley and Mia Bookman. They are both seniors and will add some power on our frontline.”
After a 26-11 campaign, Candace Southall wants to build off that success and the summer is the perfect place to start.
“I want to try out different lineups, see players in various positions, and build chemistry,” Southall said. “We lost two seniors last year so we will just have to prepare players to fill in those roles.”
She has a number of players who could step up and play big roles, including four-year starter Jasmine Moore who is a key component to the attack, according to the Lady Rangers coach.
Junior utility play Bailee St. Romain comes off a 2018 season where she was named the Newcomer of the Year for District 216A, Kayla Jones will aim to show her top defensive skills that landed her district Defensive Player of the Year honors and Kaitlyn Stork will be another glue kid on both sides of the net, according to Southall.
Setter Alex Lee will play at the setter position and is expected to be the pacemaker for the offense.
The hosts will have a few big pairs of shoes to replace, but head coach Kristin Goodman still has some solid piece back from a 27-18 club.
“Our first goal is for the girls to start establishing team chemistry now, which will be essential for our success in August,” Goodman said. “The second goal is to figure out which one of our great defensive specialists will step up and win the libero position left vacant by Macy Sumrall. Lastly, we hope to hone in on perfecting our triple middle offense which we’ve been working on all off season.”
Five seniors have left the program and that will leave a significant number of rotations to fill for a squad that got to the Class 5A Region 3 quarterfinals.
“We are playing with different offensive and defensive systems that will work best with our new personnel,” Goodman said. “We have been working on the triple-middle and moving from a 5-1 to a 6-2 to see what will be successful for us.”
Multiple-award winning senior Trinity Hennigan will be a core piece to the Lady Eagles attack and could be used more in the 6-2 offense.
Also Kylee Kejonen and Sarah Lankford will play big roles in the middle for Goodman.
“Both are senior middle blockers who achieved all district team awards last year,” Goodman said. “These two returning starters will lead the team with their experience, and we must utilize them in the middle more this season until some of our younger girls step up in the outside position.”