If the Fossil Ridge volleyball team can learn from its experiences, the Lady Panthers should have a wealth of knowledge.
After what was a humbling experience last season, Fossil Ridge should be poised to raise some eyebrows. The Lady Panthers went winless in district play. Granted, the district was loaded with great strength and Ridge had to rely on a bevy of youth.
This season, the team returns with stability in knowing their second-year coach, Jennifer Chandler, and with a foundation of 10 returning players. Six are seniors.
Chandler realized the wins weren’t on their record, but saw the progress which breeds optimism for this year.
“We didn’t show the progress in the win column, but we showed improvement,” Chandler said. “Although we were last in the district, the main thing is that there was improvement along the way. “We took at least a game from everyone except (district champion) Southlake. We challenged into the 20’s but just couldn’t finish.”
That knack for picking up an element of improvement along the way spilled over into making progress in the off-season, too, Chandler said.
“There’s been continuity,” Chandler added. “We worked to establish it in the off-season. The girls have a great work ethic and we got a lot stronger. The new talent coming in is working really hard, too, so we’re excited and eager to change the culture. There’s positive talk on campus and in the community. I’m very proud of how they worked hard this spring.”
Among those returning for Fossil Ridge are three players who made the all-district listings.
Tori Woogk, an outside hitter, libero Maci Matherne and outside hitter Gabby Love will anchor the lineup for Fossil Ridge.
In addition, Ridge will return players in key positions such as a setter, middle blocker and a defensive specialist.
Whether the Lady Panthers can make a big turn in a year’s time is to be seen, but Chandler said the investment in the off-season work of the spring and summer are expected to pay dividends.
“What I expect to see is that we will go in and contend for a playoff spot,” she said. “It’s a feasible goal. The girls have bought in to the program and have done the lifting and had a great off-season. We’re just excited to get in the gym again.”
Volleyball camp concluded last week, which was led by UTA’s Diane Seymore. Two-a-day practices start this week with tryouts slated at the end of the week. Scrimmages start almost immediately following the naming of the teams and the schedule starts next week on Aug. 12. The district schedule will commence on Sept. 12.
Chandler emphasized she has confidence in making headway with the foundation of returning players, but admits there are some unknowns with the new teams coming in to form District 5-6A.
Gone are Carroll, Richland and Haltom. The addition of Denton Guyer, Denton Ryan and Byron Nelson could possibly make the overall strength of the district even tougher.