In a little over a week, Weatherford volleyball will take the court for the team’s first tournament of the 2019 season.

Last year, the Lady Roos strung together 40-plus wins while going four rounds deep in Class 6A playoffs.

While this year’s squad is destined to feature some new faces and a fresh look, next weekend’s Rockwall-based Battle of the Rock tournament is sure to give Weatherford a good read of where it stands competitively, Head Coach Nicholas Gay said.

“We’re going to a brand new varsity tournament this year in Rockwall, it’s called the Battle of the Rock,” Gay said.

“Basically, the 16 best teams in the state are what we tried to get. Our very first game we play this year will be against Flower Mound, which won the Class 6A state championship last year, so that will be a good bar to see where we are at competitively in Region 1. 

“And then there’s a bunch of other really good teams that all made the playoffs and deep runs, so that’s our first weekend.”

That tourney, combined with a number of others including the Northwest  Tournament and Leander’s Volleypalooza, will all help Weatherford prep for district play while giving the Lady Roos a chance to bond as a team, Gay said.

Not that Weatherford lacks unity.

In fact, senior defensive specialist Hartlie Kennedy said she and her teammates’ close bonds absolutely stand to help Weatherford achieve its goals this upcoming season.

“I think our team now, all of us work really hard,” Kennedy said.

“Everyone on the team has really good chemistry. We all work together on and off the court. We all just have fun with it and play our game. 

“I would say our biggest strength is our positive attitude and our communication. If we mess up, we always regroup and get the point back.” 

Junior right side hitter Abbie Lane agreed, saying that while it will not be easy recreating last year’s success, the Lady Roos’ sense of unity gives them a leg up. 

“Honestly I think it will be a little harder than it was last year, but with our great chemistry, I think it will all click as the season goes on,” Lane said.

“We all work together well. We don’t have any problems with each other, so the volleyball just comes along with it.”

Gay for his part said Weatherford will benefit from a number of returners and the leadership/experience they possess.

“Jayla Schultz is my only player that has been on varsity since I got here,” Gay said.

“She was on varsity her sophomore, junior and now senior year. She’ll be looked upon to carry the load and kind of teach the younger kids what to do and how to do it. 

“And then we have some other seniors like Tatum Wright. She was a starter last year for the outside. Her mom is our JV coach. She’s a coach’s kid. She does whatever is needed. She’ll be asked to take on a bigger role. And then we have Paige Bevers and Hartlie Kennedy. They both split time last year in our defensive specialist spot. We also have Chloe Brownlee who started for us some of the year in the middle and on the right side. She kind of switched between those positions. 

“Then obviously we have a couple of underclassmen who got some awards last year. Abbie Lane was our newcomer of the year in district. And then Logan Loran and Ava Saltzgiver both got awarded second-team all-district, so it’s good to have some key players in key positions.”

That experience and level of familiarity with each other is bound to help the Lady Roos achieve success, Bevers, a senior defensive specialist said. 

“We communicate really well because we’ve all been together since we were freshmen,” Bevers said.

That is all bound to be tested in a competitive District 3-6A, Gay said.

“It’s always hard to figure out at the very beginning of the year what your district opponents will look like, just because you haven’t seen them play,” Gay said.

“Almost all the teams had a pretty big senior class, so it kind of depends on who’s the next person up. 

“But you can always count on San Angelo Central to have a solid team. Trinity, Bell, really all the teams in our district are gonna be improving from last year, and all kind of have a brand new team just because of so much senior graduation last year.”

In 2018, Hurst L.D. Bell (bi-district finalist), Richland (bi-district finalist) and San Angelo Central (bi-district finalist) stood as District 3-6A’s other three playoff teams aside from Weatherford, which finished as a regional semifinalist.

However, Gay said it is important to not get caught up in last year’s success, and instead focus that energy on making the most of the opportunities still in front of Weatherford.

“As a coach you always look back and enjoy that particular part of the season,” Gay said.

“But then as soon as the season is done and the state tournament is over, I look forward to this year. 

“We’re gonna have a completely different team than last year. That’s where my focus goes, seeing what we can do to maximize our potential for this team.” 

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