First-year Fort Worth Arlington Heights coach Paul Wisden made the rare move from college coaching back to the high school level.
In most cases, there’s an adjustment period because of the speed of the game and the talent level. But Wisden, who left Cedar Valley College, hasn’t had time to think about those adjustments.
“The first day I met with these kids, I realized they had the tools in place right now to be competitive,” he said. “It wasn’t a matter of teaching fundamentals or waiting on success, it was available by just trying to improve their volleyball IQ.”
The remedy has been an early success for Heights, which is off to a 14-12 overall start and 2-2 in District 7-4A.
That has the Yellow Jackets holding third place entering the final game of the first half of district play Friday against Fort Worth Trimble Tech. And it’s a far cry from just a year ago, when Heights collected only nine wins all season.
“It doesn’t have much to do with me,” Wisden said. “These girls were already bound for success. I think the difference now is that they are starting to believe it.”
The belief starts on offense, where Haley Vampran has 162 kills on the season. That’s almost 70 more kills than any Heights hitter last year.
Throw in Bailey Pilant’s 263 assists and Alexis Valdez’s strong play in the libero spot with 345 digs, and it’s easy to see why the Yellow Jackets are built for immediate success.
In continuing to build a respectable program, Wisden said he’s already seen an uptick in the feeder school system with some 90 players signed up to play this season.
“I’m more of a challenger-type coach; I don’t do the yelling and all that,” he said. “I want each player that plays at Heights to be the very best and reach their potential.”
Joshua in the hunt
Joshua faces a tough test Friday at Burleson but has the firepower to make this match a key meeting in the chase for the district title.
The Owls are 20-13 and 5-1 in District 8-4A as they look to build on success from 2012.
With a team hitting percentage of .228, four players lead the way at the net to complement a strong defensive back row.
Junior Ashley Brakel has 245 kills, 97 aces and 310 digs on the season. Brakel also leads the way in assists with 156 alongside Joshua’s other setter, junior Kailey Hicks, who has 137.
“We’ve got a few players that can play in multiple roles, and I wish we had more of them,” coach Jennifer Key said. “We’ve done a lot to open up our outside hitting game.”
Joshua will face Cleburne on Friday in a match that will determine second place heading into the second half of district play.
On the block
Burleson’s Holly Milam has 110 blocks on the season, followed closely by 100 blocks each from Cleburne’s Brianna Reband and Euless Trinity’s Darian Bucknor.
Joshua at Cleburne, 5:30 p.m.
Keller at Keller Central, 5:30 p.m.
Arlington Heights at Trimble Tech, 5:30 p.m.
Arlington Martin at Arlington, 6:30 p.m.
Colleyville Heritage at Euless Trinity, 6:30 p.m.
Keller Timber Creek at Keller, 5:30 p.m.
Azle at Trophy Club Nelson, 6 p.m.
Joshua at Burleson, 6:30 p.m.
Aledo at Granbury, 6:30 p.m.
Mansfield Summit at Mansfield Legacy, 6:30 p.m.
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