When Jamie de Turck took over as head volleyball coach at Colleyville Heritage, she was baffled that the Panthers had never won a postseason match.
Now five years after taking over, the Panthers find themselves at No. 5 in the Texas High School Girls Coaches Association preseason state rankings.
It’s the highest ranking in school history, and with such a dramatic change in a relatively short time, it makes sense that de Turck had one more change to make.
The former Austin Peay and Euless Trinity standout, is now Jamie Siegel after tying the knot with Brian Siegel this summer.
“As far as volleyball, we’re definitely right on track with where I wanted things to be,” Jamie Siegel said. “We’ve crossed barriers every year, and the credit goes to the players that have worked so hard for it.”
The 2013 season will be Siegel’s first class to have worked in her system since the seventh grade, meaning this group only knows how to improve, senior Anna Walsh said.
“It’s kind of strange that even though we’re ranked that high, we still feel like we’re underdogs and that motivates us,” Walsh said. “We still feel like we have to prove how good we can be.”
How good, remains the question.
The preseason rankings are determined primarily off last season’s playoff success.
Consider the Panthers’ win over Southlake Carroll in the regional semifinal last year as one foundation block.
Consider the return of four starters as another.
But foundations are one thing; actually breaking through to the state tournament is something Siegel says is time for the program to accomplish.
That will start, though, with the prospect of trying to fill in for an outside hitting game that was as good as any in the state last season.
The Panthers graduated two primary hitters and that could complicate production at the net.
Included among the graduates was Star-Telegram Super Team hitter Kimmy Gardiner, who recorded 522 kills and 57 aces.
The Panthers had a .411 hitting percentage last season and were successful on 52.6 percent of their kill attempts.
“That’s really an identity thing now,” Siegel said. “Are we going to be a scrappy, defensive-minded team or will some of these underclassmen step up and create a power-hitting game for us?”
Walsh returns as the main piece in the middle that could free up the younger outside hitters.
She had 315 kills, second only to Gardiner in 2012 and 46 blocks.
Feeding the ball is setter Alex Janak, who had 676 assists and served 47 aces.
Chandler Templin is expected to fill the lion’s share of the outside hitting void after collecting 145 kills last season, while Maddie Jones returns as the back-row defensive anchor who had 417 digs.
For Walsh, she thinks the team has a chance to be the most well-rounded.
“We’ve spent the summer getting in a groove with the big difference from last season being height,” Walsh said. “That mean’s we have to outthink opponents, and we have enough rotations to keep them guessing right now.”
Carroll is top seed
The Dragons begin the year as the No. 1 seed in the 80-team Nike Texas Volleyball Championship tournament in Pearland.
Last season’s Class 5A champion Coppell and Class 4A champion Lucas Lovejoy are in the field.
For the first time, the championship and third-place matches will be televised live by Comcast, on Saturday.
“We’re always excited to play in this event against the top-level teams,” Carroll coach Arthur Stanfield said. “It gives us a great opportunity to get ready for the upcoming season.”
Back to Garland
The Curtis Culwell Center in Garland will host the state tournament in all classifications in November.
Last season was the first year in which the Culwell Center hosted the tournament as a result of an Austin Formula One race that is now contested that weekend.