A season after going undefeated in district play, Colleyville Heritage volleyball players are learning news way to maintain their program’s winning tradition.
The Lady Panthers, a team which went to the Region I quarterfinals, is working to try and match last year’s accolades and achievements with a new head coach and players willing to step up.
The Heritage squad has eight returning players from last year, two of whom are learning new communication and leadership skills to keep the team on track.
Those players – senior Kat Anthony and junior Jordan Lackey – have said the transition hasn’t been difficult, but it has been an adjustment.
“It’s been a transition year, with a new coach and with a couple of girls that graduated, but we’re getting a lot closer and having to adjust more on defense,” Anthony said.
The shift in focus to be a more defensively-minded team is due, in part, to the loss of taller players.
“We’re not as tall this year,” said the 5-6 setter.
“We’re on the shorter end of height and a more defensive team,” Lackey added. As a 5-7 outside hitter, Lackey said the defense played by the Lady Panthers will need to be a notch above where they’ve been.
“It was not-so-great a beginning, but we’ve all connected,” Lackey added.
Head coach Hollie Huston knows this year’s leaders now have the opportunity to step out of the shadows of those that graduated and noted for this new group, “It’s our time.”
“It’s their journey to find leadership and create their own identity with Colleyville Heritage volleyball,” Huston said via e-mail.
“They’re coming around to a new defensive mindset and ways to win than the way that have won games for them before,” Huston added.
Anthony said having it be “her time” means there’s opportunity as a player and a team to continue to excel, and it’s been motivation for her.
In addition to Anthony and Lackey, Huston had mentioned the key contributions of others such as Tatum Ticknor, Rachel Goodwin and Allison Jackson.
“We have to be more scrappy and can’t let it hit the ground,” Anthony said in what that new defensive style may entail. “We’re not as good blockers at the net or hitting as hard, so we have to be more defensive-minded and trust each other a lot.”
Lackey said the games leading up to Heritage’s first district game on Friday at Richland have been instrumental in developing the team’s chemistry.
The Lady Panthers are also riding the confidence wave of a program’s success. The double-edged sword of being a part of a tradition-rich program, though, is the added pressure to meet the expectations.
“It goes both ways,” Lackey said. “There is pressure because the kids at school know us as district champs. But it’s been going really well.”
The goals are the same, Anthony said. “We have the same goal to go to the playoffs and we have to learn to communicate with the coaches’ new style,” she said. “My team is really stepping up and every game we’re getting better and better and starting to gel and work itself out as time goes on.”