When a coach says the ball comes out of a player’s hands nice and fluid, you owe it to yourself to know what that means.
As it pertains to Colleyville Heritage senior setter and hitter Alex Janak, the praise ties into how quickly the ball comes out of her hands. And it really doesn’t matter if coach Jamie Siegel is describing the way Janak hits or sets. It can serve both purposes.
“It’s something that you can tell that she has been trained to do when she was younger,” Siegel said. “Each set and each match, it’s a skill that’s getting better. That helps Alex, and that helps us.”
Janak (5-10) began her fourth year on the Lady Panthers roster and has been pretty consistent throughout her career with the program. Through the first 19 matches, Janak had the second-highest kill percentage on this roster at just over 40 percent. She averaged one kill per set. In the serving game, Janak is second on the team in total aces at 20.
Setting up the offense hasn’t gone too shabby either, as Colleyville Heritage is primarily working out of a 6-2. Janak’s providing 7.2 helpers per set. That means she’s keeping teammates active and involved. Janak is sharing setting duties with sophomore Katherine Anthony. She’s also going to take it into college. Last week, Janak verbally committed to North Texas.
“Ever since I started volleyball, I’ve always received compliments on how good my hands were,” Janak said. “When I was in 13s [club ball] my coach transitioned me from hitter to setter because of this.”
Colleyville Heritage was coming out of playing in the Plano tournament last week and Richardson Pearce on Tuesday. The Lady Panthers play host to Aledo on Friday.
The journey for a setter is never easy. A poor toss can result in an errant hit or causing the offensive set to collapse. A great toss can lead to sheer precision. It’s pretty much an either/or result. Setters have to live with the results.
For Siegel, she understands the journey because she played setter at Euless Trinity and in college at Austin Peay in Tennessee. But because she’s been there, she doesn’t want her setters to relax.
“I’m pretty hard on my setters,” Siegel said. “You’ve got to be able to take the blame for a hitter’s error and tell them you’ll get them on the next one. You always have to be thinking of trying to make the perfect set.”
While a coach can push, challenge, irritate or inspire, the players always seem to get the message. Janak understands that.
“It helps me stay focused on the goal that we’re trying to reach,” Janak said. “I think this is what makes her a good coach. It shows that she cares.”
Janak’s experience will be pretty important over the course of the season. Besides a grueling District 7-6A schedule that includes Carroll and Coppell, the Lady Panthers want to break through and get to the Class 6A state tournament. They were eliminated in the regional finals in 2013 and 2014.
As much as Janak has worked at running the offense, there are the moments where she enjoys the front line opportunities. Her 6-2 height allows the setter to play front row.
“She doesn’t hold anything back,” Siegel said. “She’s one of those players who has a killer instinct. Everything she does is constant.”
Kori Cooper’s Lady Mustangs were also coming out the Plano tournament and a non-district match with Richland on Tuesday. They are playing host to Carrollton Creekview on Friday. District 6-5A play begins Sept. 12 against Birdville.