As the 2019 volleyball season reaches its midpoint, teams are quickly shifting gears from figuring things out in preseason tournaments to looking for the right results in league play.
The Grandview Lady Zebras and Rio Vista Lady Eagles are among a few teams in Johnson County taking the court Friday for district openers.
After a three-seat loss against Peaster on Tuesday, Grandview carries a 13-8 record into the Lady Zebras’ District 17-3A opener against Whitney.
“I think we are about where I expected coming into the year,” Grandview coach Jesilyn Hatch said. “We’ve taken care of business and beaten teams that we should; on the other hand, we have competed tough against teams that we’ve lost to. With an inexperienced team, that is about what you expect and hope for.”
Leading the way for Grandview through its non-district schedule have been Jada Hudson, Morgan Holliday and Faith Petty, among others.
“Jada Hudson has been very dynamic on offense and has played really well across the back row,” Hatch said. “If we can continue to get the same type of production out of her, I will be pleased. As our libero, Morgan Holliday is definitely growing into the role as floor general. I think she will only continue to gain confidence and that will help us out. Faith Petty has taken on a big role as a setter. She’s a senior who’s never played the position, but has filled in nicely and will continue to fine-tune her skills.”
Last season, Grandview beat Keene in a tiebreaker game for the final playoff berth out of District 17-3A as the Lady Zebras were able to overcome the loss of a deep and talented senior class from the prior year. This season, Grandview again entered the year with a relatively inexperienced squad. Heading into their district opener, Hatch said she’s seeking more consistent efficiency from her team.
“To be successful at a high level, you have to be an efficient attacking and serving team,” she said. “We do both skills well, but we could cut out some of the errors we do make. I believe that will come with experience.”
Competing in the same eight-team district for a second year, Hatch said she believes her Lady Zebras will be in the mix for a playoff spot.
“I think Maypearl and West are still the top tier in our district,” Hatch said. “I believe that we can compete with them and should end up at least in third or fourth.”
In addition to Maypearl and West, the Lady Zebras’ main competitors for a playoff spot are expected to be Whitney, Rio Vista and an improved Clifton team. So opening league play against Whitney will be a good chance for the Lady Zebras to get a leg up in the playoff race.
“It is always important to start on a positive note and Whitney is certainly a big match,” Hatch said. “I think Whitney and Rio Vista are part of our competition for a playoff position, so it’s definitely an important first match.”
The Lady Zebras and Lady Wildcats are set for a 4:30 p.m. first serve Friday in Whitney.
In Rio Vista, the Lady Eagles are off to a 17-12 start under first-year head coach Misty Martin.
“I am really excited about where we are right now,” Martin said. “We have faced some tough teams so far and that has helped us to get ready for district play.”
As Rio Vista looks for a return trip to the postseason, Martin said one area needing improvement is the team’s ability to move on quickly from bad plays.
“The girls have got to get past their own mistakes,” Martin said. “They beat themselves up over one or two mistakes and sometimes cannot move forward. This is where we need to learn to overcome that and move on to help the rest of the team out.”
In 2018, Rio Vista lost only four games in league play — two against West, and once against Maypearl and Grandview — as the Lady Eagles finished third. This season, Martin said they have a chance to improve on their finish in the standings.
“My hopes are that we play with everything we have each and every game from here on out to fight for the top spot, because that is where we should be,” Martin said.
Rio Vista begins league action at 4:30 p.m. Friday against Maypearl.
“This game can help set the tone for how the rest of the season will go for the girls,” Martin said. “Again, it comes down to them moving on to the next point and not worrying about any mistakes they have made.
“I really have an entire team that has stepped up and motivated each other to want more. I need them all to continue to be leaders in our program and to help light the fire in the younger girls so they will want to step up and play with everything they have as well. My seniors, Audrey Pinyan and Reagan Jessup, have been a driving force to keep everyone going strong. Juniors Haila Linton and Abby Patterson are setting the tone for hustle and hard work.”
The first meeting between Rio Vista and Grandview is Sept. 24.