The Poolville Lady Monarchs are seeking their fourth district championship in as many years  as the team kicks off the 2019 season.

Poolville, which finished as a Class 2A area finalist in 2018, is set to feature a large junior class (seven in all), something that will be instrumental not only in achieving that above-mentioned goal, but helping set up another successful season come those players’ senior year, Head Coach Kendal Bracy said.

“Most of our players on varsity are juniors,” Bracy said.

“We still have a lot of returners, but just one of them will be a senior. I’m really excited. Last year we had that big group of sophomores, I think they gained a lot of experience. So I think coming in with a big junior class, they have the experience to build on. They’re excited to go for a fourth district championship. They are determined to continue the tradition.

“Hopefully everything we build on this year will carry over to next year because everybody will still be coming back.”

Bracy cited the Lady Monarchs’ deep personal ties with each other, as well as the team’s defense as reasons for optimism as the 2019 season commences.

“I think our team chemistry is awesome,” Bracy said.

“I think that’s something that’s really gonna benefit us because we work really well together. 

“Our defense as far as keeping the ball alive and getting in long rallies to fight and earn points is also something that’s really gonna be beneficial for us.”

Junior outside hitter Brooklyn Hensley also cited the Lady Monarchs’ strong bonds, saying the players’ familiarity with each other will help cover the team’s weaknesses and bolster its strengths.

“Most of us have been together since probably fifth grade,” Hensley said.

“We’ve been a tight-knit group of friends. We’ve known our senior, Makaya since junior high and then we have a new freshman, Makaylee. We got to know her a little bit last year and have gotten closer with her this year, so I think the chemistry is really strong. We’ve all learned each other’s weaknesses and strengths.”

While Poolville only has one senior, libero Makaya Pressley, on the roster, Bracy said she envisions the 12th-grader taking on a major leadership role this year.

“Our one senior is Makaya Pressley, she’s our libero, so that’s a big leadership role,” Bracy said.

Poolville’s head coach also stressed she fully expects major contributions from her outfit of juniors.

“Sarah Back is a middle blocker who’s coming back. And then we have our outside hitter, Brooklyn Hensley who is one of the other juniors. She’ll be big for us this year also.” 

Poolville will also benefit from the services of promising underclassman Makaylee Ray, Bracy said.

“We have an incoming freshman that actually made the roster that’s gonna fill a pretty big role for us,” Bracy said.

“One of our setters graduated last year, so Makaylee Ray is coming in and is having to take on a big role there. She’s pretty talented and showing a lot of promise, so I’m really excited about her.” 

The Lady Monarchs plan to prep for district play with appearances in a number of tournaments across the state, Bracy said.

“One big one we’re doing this very next weekend we haven’t done before is we’re going to Galveston,” Bracy said.

“I think it’s gonna be great to go out that direction and play teams we haven’t seen before. It will be a team bonding experience. 

“And then we also go to Whitesboro where you get tons of games and see a lot of teams you’ll see in the first few rounds of the playoffs, so that’s super beneficial for us.”

Those competitions will precede District 10-2A action for the Lady Monarchs, who finished with a 9-1 record in district play last year.

However, the district as a whole suffered a large graduation rate after last season, Bracy said, something that is sure to play into the standings this year.

“I feel like this season, it’s gonna be kind of wide open because almost everybody lost [a large number] of seniors last year,” Bracy said.

“We have big competition with Chico and Bryson, they have a lot of people returning. But it’s going to be interesting because each one of us lost one or two [seniors], so those are going to be good matches for us.”

Confidence in recreating last year’s success is high in Poolville’s locker room, Hensley said.

“I think if we keep working at the rate we are and keep on progressing as a team, I think there’s a pretty good shot we can go farther than we did last year.”

Pressley echoed her teammate’s comments, while adding that having Coach Bracy back in the fold again is another major boon for the team.

“I feel confident,” Pressley said.

“Especially having our coach back. She’s gonna coach us all the same way and help us grow. Last year we started out a certain way and ended way better than [how] we started. 

“By the time district games roll around, we’re gonna be perfectly fine if we keep working the way we are.”