Forrest Murphy/WD Sports

Peaster senior Tori Cast (1) and the Lady Greyhounds kick off the 2019 regular season today at Wimberley’s Tex Fest Tournament.

The Peaster Lady Greyhounds are set to get their first taste of regular season action at Wimberley’s Tex Fest Tournament Friday and Saturday.

After a 2018 campaign which saw the team finish as a Class 3A bi-district finalist, senior and three-year returner Tori Cast said the Lady Greyhounds are ready to to recreate that success.

“I am very confident in our chances of making the playoffs this season,” Cast said.

“We are strong in every position and even though we have a pretty tough district, I believe our hard work will take us far.”

While Peaster is only now kicking off non-district play, Head Coach Autumn Threet said a good mix of upperclassmen leadership and promising young players has her optimistic about the team’s prospects.

“Tori Cast was team captain last year,” Threet said.

“We have transitioned her from a setter role to playing six rotations. She’s gonna be hitting and playing defense, so her role has changed, but I think she’s gonna be able to help us out a lot more in these different positions. So we’re really looking to her for lots of leadership. 

“Another senior we get a lot of leadership from is Madison Baldwin. She’s a great teammate. Whether she’s on the bench or on the court, she’s constantly talking to her teammates and lifting them up. She’s always really positive. 

“We have an incoming freshman, her name is Payton Hull. Payton is a very versatile player. She can set, hit outside, hit middle. She hasn’t gotten to play a whole lot of volleyball at a higher level, but she’s so athletic that she’s really picking up on things and I think she’s gonna help us out in pretty much any position we put her in. She’s a player that refuses to lose. Even though she’s young, she’s gotten in here and mixed in with these kids and I expect to see her really develop as a player this year. 

“Another younger player that has improved tremendously since last year is sophomore Sadie Ballard, who is our setter. She’s probably got the highest vertical on the team. She runs a great offense. Now that she has one year of varsity experience, I expect her to come back and be a really good player for us.

“My other sophomore middle blocker is Hannah Barry. We’ve transitioned her from playing right side last year to the middle blocking position. She is our firecracker. She’s the loudest kid on the court, has the most energy on the court and I think she’s gonna do a really good job for us.”

Despite the mix of veteran and younger players, Cast said there are no splinter groups on Peaster’s roster.

“I would say our team chemistry is one of our greatest strengths,” Cast said.

“Most teams have cliques, however, everyone is close with everyone on our team and no one gets left out. We are tight on and off the court and even our new freshman Payton Hull fits in perfectly with us.”

Baldwin echoed her teammate’s comments. 

“Off the court, we are all so close,” Baldwin said.

“These girls are my best friends.”

Baldwin added that the Lady Greyhounds collectively have a great mindset about this season.

“Everyone on this team has worked so hard this offseason and are continuing to do so,” Baldwin said.

“We all have a positive mindset going into this season and we constantly are encouraging one another to be better.”

Peaster’s appearance at this weekend’s Tex Fest Tournament should give the team a chance to further strengthen those bonds, Threet said.

“Our focus in Wimberely has always been team bonding and team building,” Threet said.

“We have a house on the river and so we do a lot of things with the kids outside of volleyball. The tournament is just a plus.”

Stints at Godley and Nocona-based tournaments in the coming weeks will also benefit the team, giving the Lady Greyhounds a chance to get a feel for their potential playoff competition.

“The week school starts, we go to Godley,” Threet said.

“We got out of the Glen Rose Tournament. And then our last tournament we always like to go to  is Nocona, because it gives us an opportunity to see the schools in other districts that we will see in the playoffs.”

Later on, Peaster will battle fellow 2018 playoff teams Brock (regional semifinalist), Boyd (state finalist) and Jacksboro (bi-district finalist), as well as Millsap, Tolar, Paradise and Breckenridge in District 7-3A.

Threet said matches against Boyd and Brock loom large, while stressing that every team in the district should prove competitive.

“I know several teams lost a lot of people,” Threet said.

“Boyd lost some big-time seniors. They’re coming back from a state finals game. But they’ve got a few move-in players. So they’re gonna be very good again. Brock returns a lot of their players from last year. I know they’ve historically been good, we always have a big rivalry with them. 

“But I’m not counting anybody out. I know [Millsap Head Volleyball Coach] Courtney Hammett will have them going. I think our district is probably the most competitive in the state in Class 3A.” 

By all accounts, the Lady Greyhounds are ready for the challenge.