Most of the group of seniors at Leander have been playing together on varsity since freshman year. The Lady Lions’ head coach Ashley Atkinson thinks this is their year.
Playoffs have become the expectation when it comes to LISD volleyball, and as the season starts up across the area, that thought hasn’t lost its luster.
“Our goal is set on playoffs and we don’t want to just go one round, we want to go several,” Atkinson said.
The whole starting lineup is back for the Lady Lions, who finished last season 11-26 and finished in sixth place in District 25-6A. The last time Leander was in the postseason was in 2013 when it eventually lost to Cedar Park in the regional quarterfinals.
Leander opened the year with a five-set loss Monday night at home against Hendrickson and continues on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Rouse. The district season begins Sept. 8 when the Lady Lions host Lehman.
“They’re a great group of kids and they get along really well,” Atkinson said. “We’re just going to have to keep working hard to make sure our fundamentals are there. Just making sure we’re focused on that first ball. These kids have been working hard.”
If Leander is banking on cohesion from playing together for four seasons, Vista Ridge is hoping a few experienced players can carry it early on in the year.
The top four offensive threats for the Lady Rangers, all of which had more than 200 kills last season, are gone via graduation. Camryn Gore is the leading offensive returner after posting 93 kills in 2016.
“Just a group of girls who know how to work hard together and are aggressive,” Vista Ridge head coach Holly Lamb said. “We graduated all of our offense so we’ve got a bunch of new hitters out there. I’m excited to see how we can pull together.”
Gore joins both setters and the libero in returning to the team this season. Despite winning two of their final three games, the Lady Rangers missed out on the playoffs by three games for the second straight year.
Vista Ridge dropped its opening match to Class 5A state finalist Cedar Park on Monday and will play the second game of the season when they travel to face Stony Point on Tuesday. The district season starts on Sept. 8 on the road against Westlake.
Tryouts for the Lady Rangers started on Aug. 1, and they started the season less than a week later. Lamb said the turnaround is quick, especially when she’s introducing new players into the team, but it’s something they can overcome.
“We’ve had one real practice and then we went into scrimmages,” she said. “It’s going to take time. It’s the only sport where you don’t really have a preseason so you kind of have to jump in and go right at it.”
The postseason expectations haven’t changed for Cedar Park, even with a new face in charge.
Rachel Altman was hired as coach earlier this year, replacing Kori Cooper, who went to the state final in her only year at the helm and left the Lady Timberwolves for an opportunity with Texas Tech.
Cedar Park saw many talented players graduate, most notably three-time All-Central Texas setter and District 19-5A MVP Lindsey Ledyard. But 10 starters are coming back, and they have their eyes set firmly on a return trip to regionals.
“It was rough at the beginning, but we’re clicking and we’re getting in the groove,” senior Raegan Sanders said. “It was just different. Coach Cooper has a different point of view than Coach Altman. We have different roles, but we’re going to get there."