It isn’t breaking news that the road to the 2017 District 8-5A volleyball championship will go through Highway 121. Within two miles of each other, Colleyville Heritage and Grapevine present teams which will be the district champion favorites.
These teams have experienced their share of turnover. However, they are programs that replace the graduates with ambitious new talent.
What hangs over the district race is whether anyone can knock off Colleyville Heritage. The Lady Panthers went undefeated last year. Grapevine has the best opportunity.
The summer is over. On Monday, the work began toward advancing to the state tournament Nov. 15-18 at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
Colleyville Heritage Lady Panthers
Head coach: Bri Barker-Groth (2nd season)
2016 record/postseason: 36-9, 14-0 District 8-5A; lost to Saginaw Boswell in Region I quarterfinals
Key returning starters: OH Lauren Evans, Sr.; S Grace Koper, Jr.; Libero Jillian Dits, Jr.; DS/OH Mari Prasak, Sr.
Notable: The Lady Panthers begin the season keeping an eye on Evans. Barker-Groth said Evans is just returning from an injury and was available this week. There’s really no telling how she will be used in matches. Evans has verbally committed to Arkansas. But there will be a change in her role. Barker-Groth said she plans on keeping Evans at outside hitter and will take her off the back row from setting …
Koper will be the No. 1 setter as the Lady Panthers are likely going to start in a 5-1 … .Dits has verbally committed to Tulane … the program finally welcomes junior middle blocker Ashley McKillop to the program. McKillop is expected to be a presence. She missed the 2016 season with a torn ACL … senior Bryn Gerlich, who has made a name for herself in basketball, is expected to contribute … Colleyville Heritage is planning on carrying only 13 on the roster … the Lady Panthers opened the season Tuesday against Flower Mound. Barker-Groth will face her sister, Danielle Barker, on Sept. 1 when Colleyville Heritage and Flower Mound Marcus meet … preseason tournaments are Pearland, Justin Northwest and Plano.
Grapevine Lady Mustangs
Head coach: Whitney Woody (2nd season)
2016 record/postseason: 34-15, 12-2 District 8-5A; lost to Aledo in Region I quarterfinals
Key returning starters: OH Symone Wesley, Jr.; OH Nicole Buher, Jr.; MB Savannah Kjolhede, So.; RS Georgia Neill, Jr.; MB Kerstynn Grobe, Sr.
Notable: Wesley (5-9) has worked her way into becoming a Division I recruit as she has verbally committed to Houston … the Lady Mustangs will have some height across the board between Buher (5-11), Kjolhede (6-2) … Grobe has verbally committed to St. Edwards in Austin … it’s likely there is going to be a 6-2 formation with two setters between junior Anna Johnson and senior Paiton Broussard …
Woody is looking at three different libero candidates but said junior Maya Soto has the lead … the season began Tuesday against South Grand Prairie … Grapevine is only in two tournaments between Pearland and Plano. Last year, Woody felt like her team was too beat up through August. There were four starters who suffered significant injuries. She wants to implement more rehab days for her team this month … Whitney believes this team is better at ball control but still needs to find the chemistry between the setters and hitters.