Last year as a middle schooler, Charitie Luper went to as many Byron Nelson volleyball games as she could. Determined to be a part of that team this season, she was a mainstay at open gyms and camps over the summer.
Now, despite the Bobcats boasting a roster almost full of returning lettermen, the freshman has forced her way onto the court.
“At first I was nervous, but then I found my groove and became more comfortable with the offense and the girls,” Luper said. “But at first, yes, I was nervous. Now I’m more confident.”
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“She’s been great,” Nelson coach Libby Pacheco said. “She has helped balance our offense a lot more. She definitely doesn’t play like a freshman.”
Expectations were high for the Bobcats entering the season. The team went three rounds deep in the playoffs last year before losing to eventual Class 6A state champion Lewisville Hebron.
Most of that squad returns this season, and after winning the ASC Nike tournament over the opening weekend, Nelson debuted at No. 1 in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s first area rankings of 2017.
We let her play with the varsity at team camp and she fit right in. There was definitely no doubt at that point she was going to be a contributor on the varsity.
Nelson head coach Libby Pacheco on freshman Charitie Luper
The potential existed that adding a freshman to the mix could disrupt the chemistry. But Pacheco said it was easy to see that wouldn’t be the case.
“I had seen her for several years, coming to camps and I already knew some of what she had done for her club,” Pacheco said. “So, we already knew she was coming, but we weren’t quite sure 100 percent she was ready for varsity. We let her play with the varsity at team camp and she fit right in. There was definitely no doubt at that point she was going to be a contributor on the varsity.”
Helping matters is that several current Bobcats were also varsity players as freshmen or sophomores, so they understand where Luper is and how important it is to get her involved.
“All the girls are really nice to me and help me out with everything,” Luper said. “They’ve been very, very welcoming. They’re pushing me in practice. When I need to be pushed, they’re pushing me. They’re making sure I’m being the best I can be.”
A comfortable and confident Luper is exactly what Pacheco wants.
“I’ve always been a big believer that if you’re going to have a freshmen on varsity, you want to get them as many minutes on the court as you can,” Pacheco said. “She’s earned it. We’re not just putting her in there because I feel like I have to. She’s definitely earned a spot in our rotation. There’s no doubt she’s going to be part of what we do this year and for years to come.”