Sometimes a smaller senior class allows other athletes playing time and exposure to certain situations heading into the next year.
That is the case for the volleyball team in Sealy which has four members of the senior class yet again this year with a solid group of underclassmen to complement the nucleus that has not forgotten about the short stay in last year’s postseason.
The 2019 offseason presented a host of new challenges, chief among them was a new baby girl residing in the home of head coach Kim Boyd and although that kept her away from her team a little longer this offseason, the team’s liveliness did not decrease in that time.
“Practice has been going well, the energy level is nice and high. I haven’t seen them all summer because of the baby but they’re super enthusiastic, very excited that I’m back and to show me what they’ve been working on all summer and throughout the offseason,” Boyd said after a full week of tryouts and practice before a scrimmage with a familiar district opponent.
The Needville Lady Jays came up just shy of the state’s ultimate trophy last year and returned plenty of height coming into this year which had the Lady Tigers taken aback at first.
“We weren’t afraid to go up against the tall hitters. They were intimidated at first but they saw they were just as capable especially since we have three six-foot-tall girls ourselves,” Boyd said of juniors Ally Dickens, Avery Oliver, and Brylie Nedd. “Once they got that in their head that, ‘Oh wait, I play against this every single day,’ it wasn’t as intimidating.”
That trio of terror is only part of the upperclassmen contingent that helps to lead this year’s squad alongside the four soon-to-be graduates who have all played meaningful sets for the black and gold, except for one.
“We have returners Zoee Jeffrey and Raegan Newsome, and Alexi Kulhanek set for us on JV last year and got pulled up for playoffs,” said the coach. “They are a very fun group. They’re doing a great job of not just including the kids on varsity but the overall program with the younger girls and how the program should be run with full enthusiasm, including everyone with games and different bonding experiences. We also have a move-in, Haley Reese, who will be one of our hitters.”
On top of those returning starters, a solid junior class bolsters the program with eight members of the class of 2021 holding down a roster spot in 2019, as focused as ever.
“We talked about it in the offseason that we need to stay all-in, all the time and so we decided to stay with that as the overall theme for the program this year,” Boyd said. “All-in, all the time, so we don’t shut down in practices, we don’t shut down in the fifth set, we go in hard the whole time.”
That was put on display in the season opener against Boling, where the first two sets went in favor of Sealy but soon, rotational issues caused the hosts to fall behind the Bulldogs and the visitors soon took the third set.
Boyd has made adjustments since then, noting updated sideline responsibilities for some players and added communication coming from those on the court.
Through the team’s first three games and one tournament in Columbus, the Lady Tigers sat at 4-4 but the coach knows not to hang her hat on preseason results.
“Preseason doesn’t dictate your district outcome, all it does is prepare you for that district schedule and I’ve been on teams that went to state even though in the preseason, the overall record looked like it was nothing,” Boyd said. “I fully loaded our preseason to prepare us for district and we’re just taking it in strides.”
Part of taking things bit by bit will be the group coming together overall and although she knows it will take some time, she’s excited to see what happens when it does happen.
“We just have to play as a unit … the people off the court are just as important as the ones on it and when we have both groups doing what they’re supposed to, we’re going to be a pretty tough group to handle,” Boyd said.