If there is one thing the Brock Lady Eagles have going for them ahead of the start of the 2019 regular season, it is experience.
Head Coach Mallory Daniel’s team has five returning seniors in the fold, along with a number of returners in the junior class from last year’s Class 3A regional semifinalist squad.
That large veteran presence stands as a major positive for a Lady Eagles’ team looking to recreate last year’s success, Daniel said.
“We have five returning seniors which is very exciting,” Daniel said.
“Two of those have been on varsity since their freshman year, Jessie Steele and Kealey Dent. I definitely will look to them to take on that leadership role. And I think they’re gonna do a great job with it. They have experience and they’re confident. So that’s one thing we definitely have going for us.
“And we have some juniors that are really gonna take on some leadership roles as well like Ava Tanner. This will be her third year on varsity. So it’s really exciting to see their leadership skills develop over time.”
Even more, Brock’s younger players are beginning to make waves as well, Daniel added.
“Marlee Garcia played right side for us last year, and she’ll be a sophomore this year,” Daniel said.
“It’s always nice to see that big leap they take from freshman to sophomore year.”
The Lady Eagles’ head coach said the pieces are all there for Brock to have another successful year, it is simply a matter of putting it all together.
“I’m confident,” Daniel said.
“It’s obviously early in the season, but I’m confident in the skill and talent we have. It’s just putting it all together and learning how to work as a team. We lost two players last year, but I think [someone] will step up into those roles. It’s exciting to watch.”
So far, the Lady Eagles are on the right track in that department, senior outside hitter Jessie Steele said.
“One of the team’s biggest strengths so far has been how well we all get along,” Steele said.
“We are all good friends, sophomores to seniors, and we all enjoy being around each other and having that bond makes playing a lot easier. We are more comfortable giving criticism to one another because we know we are working toward a goal and we are just helping each other. The chemistry in the locker room is comfortable and fun, we all laugh together and also talk about our goals and try to motivate one another before practices.”
Steele added that the heavy senior presence on the team has further motivated the Lady Eagles’ upperclassmen to put together one more memorable run.
“This season we have five seniors and it’s our last go around so the motivation to make it farther than we have in the past is very strong,” Steele said.
“We are all in the mindset to work hard and do what we need to do to reach our goals.”
Fellow senior Laney Dale, a setter, echoed her teammate’s comments about Brock’s plethora of experience and the benefit it can yield this upcoming season.
“One of our biggest strengths this season is experience,” Dale said.
“We have a lot of seniors on the court in all different positions, so it helps us out that most of us have played varsity before and have had that experience. As far as chemistry, we are all very close and are always hanging out with each other.”
Senior libero Kealey Dent added that it is not only the Lady Eagles’ intangibles that are strong, but their technical skills as well.
“We are definitely going to be a strong team all around,” Dent said.
“Offensively, our hitters are in great shape. We have all been training year round, and our setter-hitter connections are spot on. We have a lot of power on our front row. Defensively, I am fully confident in our game play. Taylor Mueller and I have been playing together since junior high. We love playing defense. Our back row has a lot of trust. So I think we are going to be a threat on both ends this year.”
One of the Lady Eagles’ early season focuses will be on competing against larger schools, as well as some potential postseason opponents to help get a read on what Region 1 competition may look like, Daniel said.
“We are attending the Bev BallClassic in Abilene,” Daniel said.
“We typically face some larger schools from out west. And it gives us a good look at what we’re up against and then we see some Region 1 schools as well that we may meet later on in playoffs.”
The high level of competition early in the season will serve as a good test run for Brock’s march through a competitive District 7-3A, Daniel said.
“I feel like we have one of the strongest districts in the state,” Daniel said.
“Boyd obviously has some returners, and I’m sure they have some younger kids that are gonna fill in the roles that they lost from last year. I’m looking for tough matches against them. And then when it comes to Peaster, you never really know what to expect with Brock versus Peaster. It’s a different kind of matchup and adrenaline for those kids with the rivalry that’s always existed there. Millsap was young last year, but they’re only gonna get better. As well as Tolar and Jacksboro. They got better as district went on, so I’m sure they’ll keep going down that path.”
In 2018, Boyd (state finalist), Peaster (bi-district finalist) and Jacksboro (bi-district finalist) finished as District 7-3A’s other three playoff teams aside from Brock.
While the Lady Eagles have yet to take the court in regular season action, the desire to continue the program’s winning tradition is as strong as ever.