It’s a brave new world for the Byron Nelson athletics programs. It just so happens that the volleyball team takes the first dip into the unknown.
Following the University Interscholastic League’s realignment on Feb. 3, Nelson moved into Class 6A (the renamed highest classification) and is grouped in 5-6A with Northwest, Denton Guyer, Denton Ryan, Keller, Keller Fossil Ridge, Keller Central and Keller Timber Creek.
Head coach Libby Pacheco, who begins her sixth season running the volleyball program (fifth year as a varsity program) has been through the battles at the highest level in Texas high school volleyball. She was at Colleyville Heritage before she came to Nelson.
“It’s a challenge, but we spent all spring preparing for this,” Pacheco said. “The girls understand that the games will be a battle and that they can’t take any games off. This is just a different kind of volleyball.
“In 4A (now re-named 5A) you knew there were some games that if you weren’t at your best, you still may win. But at this level, you can’t afford to have a bad night.”
Pacheco has been very successful in her run at Nelson. She’s taken the Lady Bobcats to the playoffs in the last three seasons (the Lady Bobcats lost the play-in game to make the playoffs in their first varsity season).
The question will be whether this group has enough to reach the postseason in its first 6A season.
Coach: Libby Pacheco, 6 years (5th year in varsity)
2013 record: 27-17, 13-1 (shared district championship with Denton Guyer); lost to Granbury in Class 4A Region I quarterfinals
Returning starters: Sr. Haley Tippett (6-1), OH; Jr. Delaney Duis (5-10), S; Jr. Tori O’Connor (5-3) DS; Sr. Jonor Fusselman (5-4), DS
Key players: So Erin Pennington (5-10), MB; Jr. Sophia Sheehan (5-9); Jr. Jackie Gray (5-9), OH
Notable: Tippett had been committed to Tulsa before she decided she wanted to play in Florida and committed to Stetson ... Delaney Duis was the district 5-4A setter of the year in 2013 ... O’Connor was also a first-team selection.
• This team will not be very tall because it lost 6-0 MB/RS Sarah Brocik and 6-1 MB Elizabeth Pennington to graduation. Pennington is going to continue her career at Texas Women’s in Denton this year. ... after Tippett and Delaney Duis, there are a lot of questions ... freshman defensive specialist Ellie Duis (5-4) and freshman right side Sanaa Barnes (5-9) may have an opportunity to crack the varsity roster in some capacity. However, the week of practice was going to determine how and where each would fit.
• Pacheco is staying with the 5-1 because she likes Duis as one of her hitters and going to the front row ... with several offensive questions, Pacheco preached to her team in the offseason about being more patient with the ball and that this team must play a lot smarter to stay in matches.
• Nelson will be playing its non-district schedule at the Texas Invitational in Pearland, then hosting its tournament with Justin Northwest and traveling to the Arlington Classic ... Bottom line, this program has a chance to make the playoffs despite the graduations and move to 6A.