JOSHUA — The Joshua Lady Owls not only open District 14-5A play Friday, but they do so in a huge showdown against the defending district champs in Red Oak.
Coming off a four-set win over Godley on Tuesday, Joshua carries an 18-13 overall record into its league opener at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Red Oak.
In her first year as head coach last season, Joshua graduate Jordan Whitworth led the Lady Owls to the playoffs for the first time in five years and their deepest playoff run in recent memory. After graduating eight seniors off the 2018 team, Whitworth said there’s still some learning to do for the newcomers.
“Having nine new players added to varsity this year, we still have a lot of room for growth,” Whitworth said. “We are finally learning the tempo of the game and what mindset we must have to be successful. Areas that we are struggling in are consistency and tempo of the game. These are areas that we are focusing on every day in practice.”
Despite some varsity inexperience, Whitworth said Joshua maintains its lofty aspirations as the Lady Owls begin league play hoping to match or surpass last year’s third-place finish.
“The expectations remain the same,” Whitworth said. “I do not let the excuse that ‘we are young and inexperienced’ affect what I know we can accomplish. I expect for us to go out and compete and to win. At the varsity level, winning is important.”
Last season, Red Oak lost only one match en route to the district title and a first-place playoff seed en route to the regional semifinals, but Joshua battled the Lady Hawks in a five-set loss and four-set loss.
“Red Oak is a good team that will challenge us on every level,” Whitworth said. “Winning a district opener is always a great start to where we want to be heading. But this game is not any more important than any other district game. I want my girls to go out and compete at a level that they know they can.”
Against Godley on Tuesday, Joshua claimed a win in four sets, 25-13, 21-25, 25-21, and 25-14, in its final non-district outing.
Returning starter Reese Rumfield leads the team with nearly 400 kills on the season, one of the top attackers in the area — a few kills behind Red Oak’s Hailey Hunt.
“It will be fun to watch those two compete on Friday as they were club teammates for the 2018 season at NRG,” Whitworth said.
Fellow returning starter Rylie Rumfield leads the Lady Owls in digs with 352 and aces with 54. “Rylie is a player that we depend on offensively and defensively,” Whitworth said.
Grace Wood directed the Lady Owl offense in Tuesday’s win over Godley with 43 assists, upping her total on the season to 706.
“Grace is new to leading the court as the setter,” Whitworth said. “She is learning to study her blockers and how to run a court to set her hitters up for success.
“Carissa Stowe, who is a junior middle, and Peyton Abbott, who is a sophomore middle, are both starting to make their presence known. They are getting faster every day and are leading the team in blocks. Kailey Sasser (280 digs) and Kassidy Wooten (202 digs), both seniors, keep our back row in line. Their different styles of play and ability to communicate have led our defense to an all-time high in digs at 1,359.”
After Joshua’s district opener at Red Oak on Friday, the Lady Owls are scheduled to host Waco University at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
In District 5-5A, the Burleson Lady Elks, ranked No. 4 in Class 5A, host crosstown rival Burleson Centennial in each team’s district opener at 5:30 p.m.