They couldn’t bear the label.
A senior class never wants to be tagged as being the first at something for the wrong reason.
Fear, pressure, drive or a combination of all three drove Haslet Eaton’s volleyball program. The first graduating class walks the stage in May. On Oct. 31, seven seniors become the class to take this program into its first postseason.
Eaton (23-18, 9-5) tied Saginaw Chisholm Trail for third place in District 6-5A. However, the Lady Eagles lost the coin flip and will go in as the No. 4 seed. They meet Wichita Falls Rider at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Arlington Bowie in the Region I bi-district round.
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“It’s felt really good because every game, we’re making history,” senior middle blocker Alyssa Jolly said. “None of us would have felt good had we not been able to do this.”
Expectations were a big motivator. Girls soccer and softball advanced to their respective postseasons in their first varsity season.
Volleyball just missed in 2016. The Lady Eagles finished in fifth place at 5-9, one game behind fourth-place Chisholm Trail. Players had to learn the hard way before this season could happen. Offseason chatter and effort fueled the resolve to not have a near miss this fall.
Eaton overcame a 1-4 start and wound up sweeping the two district meetings from Northwest ISD rival Justin Northwest.
“Everything we do now is new,” head coach Diane Wilson said. “It’s taken more patience than I thought it would.
“But then, you have zero girls who have played in the playoffs. Their questions are legit. Nothing of this has been taken for granted. We’re all going through this together.”
The career move has also been energizing for Wilson. Before coming to Eaton after one year at Arlington Bowie, Wilson made a name for herself at Grapevine. She directed that program to the postseason in 14 of 18 seasons.
The drills and match-to-match strategy make up Wilson’s on-court philosophy. That doesn’t guarantee winning. Wilson had to make an immediate connection with her players and have them return it. Once the locker room had the right vibe, the effort on the court would follow.
Given her history, all she asked was for these players to trust the process and follow her script from August through tonight. The regular season ended on Oct. 24. The Lady Eagles are still going to practice.
There is balance on the roster between the seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. What the underclassmen see this year will now be the standard for as long they continue with the program.
It just needed a spark.
“[Wilson’s] definitely one of the best coaches I’ve been around,” Jolly said. “She expected a lot from us. But it was going to take a lot from us to make this happen. We had to be businesslike in what we did. We deserved to get here.”