Volleyball teams prepare to serve up the new season

Mineral Wells head volleyball coach Erin Rincon is preparing her team to take on the Millsap Lady Bulldogs Tuesday night.

Palo Pinto County residents will have the opportunity to witness the embryonic stage of what might develop into a decades-long volleyball dynasty. Erin Rincon is only 24, but the new head coach of the Mineral Wells High School volleyball team doubts she will leave her post.

Ever.

Rincon grew up in the town, played volleyball with the Lady Rams and graduated from the school in 2014 before moving to Lubbock to earn a degree in kinesiology at Texas Tech University. In 2017, she returned to work as an assistant coach for a couple of years at her high school alma mater before being selected this summer to lead its volleyball program into the 2020s.

“I wanted to come home and help the program I went through to find success,” Rincon said. “Now that I’m at this spot, it brings a lot of joy to me because I finally got where I wanted to be. I’m ready to build a program for this town and this community.”

Rincon’s parents and immediate family still live in Mineral Wells. So does the family of husband Adam Rincon, who also attended Mineral Wells High.

“Sticking it out for the long haul is definitely in the future for me,” Erin Rincon said. “I’m not planning on jumping ship anytime soon or if ever.”

She replaces former head coach Sheridan Willard, who resigned to stay at home with her new baby girl.

Kickstarting a dynasty will require clearing more obstacles than usual. COVID-19 interfered with summer workouts and limited teams to short strength and conditioning drills on certain days. For 4A schools and smaller, practices began Aug. 4, and the season kicked off Monday.

“We’ve been following all the COVID guidelines,” Rincon said. “This summer has been hectic and chaotic never knowing if we get to come back the next day. We are enforcing our mask mandate. Our players have to come in with their masks on.”

Just like she trains young athletes in block strategies and assist techniques, she will train them to be prepared to zig rather than zag when the pandemic creates unexpected hurdles.

“I told my kids to expect changes,” she said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned through all this is that things change pretty quickly and rules change quickly. Right now, we’re just grateful we’ve gotten to be in the gym lately and try to prepare ourselves for our season to start.”

With only a week between tryouts and the start of the season, coaches everywhere are cramming what used to be weeks of off-season practices into a handful of days. Rincon is working with a young roster, meaning she has a short amount of time to impart a large amount of knowledge and instruction. Only a handful of seniors are returning, making this a rebuilding year, she said.

Rincon said she will rebuild by establishing a foundation of trust among her players.

“One of the main things I’m going to be harping on is team chemistry,” she said.

Chemistry is being established in many gymnasiums Parker and Palo Pinto counties, including in nearby Millsap, where another new head coach is readying her team to take on — who else? — Rincon and her Lady Rams.

Kylie Serrato was tapped as head coach of the Lady Bulldogs varsity team after posting a 23-5 record with the district’s developmental program last year. Serrato has a strong set of seniors who have been working with her for two or three years already, she said.

After promoting Serrato earlier this summer, Millsap ISD Athletic Director Jake Johnson praised the coach for her ability to “push kids and get them to respond” while also building relationships with them.

Serrato’s seasoned 3A team will take on Rincon’s young 4A team at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, in the opening match of the season at Millsap.

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