The Keller volleyball team came up one game short of making a routine trip to the playoffs last season, and that sour taste may still linger for the Lady Indians.
All indications are the team will be in position to wash that taste out as they got back on the court this week.
In last year’s first trip through the district opponents, the injury-laden Lady Indians went just 2-5 and had plunged down a deep hole. They turned it around on the second go-round and posted a 5-2 mark and into a tie for the fourth-place spot with Timber Creek.
A play-in game for the final playoff spot went to Timber Creek in five games.
“We’re regrouping this year and I like our chances,” said Keller head coach Sylvia Ortiz.
The Lady Indians are returning 11 players, five of which were starters.
To help re-establish the momentum and offer leadership, Keller will also have five seniors among the returnees.
With players such as Cassidy Stewart and Hanna Brown back, Ortiz said the libero, middle and outside hitter roles are in good order. The libero, Ava Carnley, is a first-team all-district selection.
“We’ve got the five starters,” Ortiz said, “and the rest will come around.”
Included among the experienced players for Keller is the district’s 2013 Newcomer of the Year in outside hitter sophomore Cameryn Zahradnik.
The center of the Keller line was very good last year, but it featured four-year starters who have since graduated. There are several in the middle returning this year, which will provide a “dog fight” as four players – two seniors and two juniors – will battle for the spot, Ortiz said.
Defensively, with Carnley as a solid libero, Ortiz said the Lady Indians will have good options and she feels good about the healthy competition.
Between the returning talent and experience and the track record of Ortiz at the helm, Keller can be a legitimate contender this season.
“I think we’ll be hungry because of the disappointing finish,” Ortiz said of the excitement for the coming season.
Keller will have to traverse their way through the newly revamped District 5-6A.
Gone are Carroll, Richland and Haltom, but that allows for possibly an even stronger top-to-bottom district as Denton Ryan and Guyer will join Byron Nelson in the larger class this year.
“I’m excited about our chances in the competitive district, all the way around,” Ortiz added. “No one will be able to run away with it. It’s an intense district.”
The Lady Indians won’t waste any time in working through the chemistry experiment in finding the right combinations of players.
The first scrimmages will be Friday and Saturday and then a tournament appearance in Grapevine will launch the regular season on Aug. 15-16.
In less than a month after the start of the season, the district schedule begins. Fossil Ridge will be the Lady Indians’ first district match on Sept. 12.