The Justin Northwest volleyball team has shown early the potential to be a force in its new 5A district.
The district schedule won’t start for another week, but the Lady Texans are flexing some muscles in the early going, thanks in part to a smooth transition with a new head coach and the output of experienced players like Camryn Berryhill.
Berryhill, a senior outside hitter and returning first team all-district player from the 6A ranks and All-Wise County Team, said incorporating the new defensive-minded philosophies of Jennifer Chandler have taken hold with her and her teammates.
The dividends have begun to come in.
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“My defense has improved a lot. It’s harder and more difficult but everyone’s become more defensive-minded players,” Berryhill said.
Even with the new focus on defense, Berryhill had 15 kills in a four-game win over Arlington Lamar last week. She also registered 16 digs.
The switch to Chandler’s new coaching perspectives had no awkward phase at the beginning, which Berryhill and the Lady Texans took in stride.
“She came in and told us what she wanted and we did it,” Berryhill said of Chandler. “We know what we need to do to be successful.”
Berryhill is motivated to do all she can to help Northwest get back into the playoffs for the first time since her freshman year. It’s an issue which has left a bitter taste in the seniors’ mouths. And with it being her senior year, there’s a sense of urgency.
“I realize it’s my last year and as a captain, I want to leave a culture for when I’m gone,” Berryhill said.
Some of that role as a captain has entailed becoming even more a vocal leader on the court, she admits. “I’m used to it, but this year I took that role over,” she said of being more talkative on the court. “It’s natural for me and I like people to talk to me, so I like to talk to them in a soothing and encouraging way.”
Getting ready for her final season at Northwest, Berryhill said she continued offseason play with Texas Image, a select team. The additional work on the court competing against top talent helps her prepare for the varsity season, she said.
“I love school volleyball, though,” Berryhill said. “The crowds, the announcer … I just feel closer to the school team. It’s being a part of something.”
Along with the obvious focus on earning a playoff spot, Berryhill said she hopes to add another all district honor and possibly earn the honor of Hitter of the Year.
“But I know there’s a lot of good talent in the area,” she said, noting that the new district alignment will pit the Lady Texans against standout programs including Aledo and Saginaw Boswell. “Whatever comes is fine, though.”
After taking on Summit early in the week, Northwest will travel to San Marcos this weekend for its final tournament in advance of the start of the district season.