Williams excited about Lady Spartans chances
With 17 players on the roster, first-year Centennial volleyball coach Julie Williams has to find where each of those players fits in the mix.
Williams said the pieces are all there to keep the Lady Spartans streak of never missing the playoffs alive this season. Centennial has reached the post-season in all seven varsity seasons.
“I’m very excited about the possibility of us advancing to the playoffs,” Williams said. “I think that is something we can do with this group of girls. It’s just a matter of getting it all together. I think they will come around. Talent-wise it is all there, it’s just a figuring out where everything fits.”
Last season, the Lady Spartans shared the District 9-5A title with a record of 11-3 and finished the season with a mark of 20-22 after losing to Midlothian in the first-round of the playoffs.
Centennial’s roster is senior-laden with 14 Lady Spartans playing in their final season. There will also be four juniors on the team.
Williams, who came to Centennial from Dumas High School, will run a 6-2 offense with senior setters Avery Tomme and Nadia Romancelly calling the shots.
With just a few days of practices and scrimmages under their belts, the setters are doing well. The problem right now is the Lady Spartans need to be more consistent about getting passes to the setters, Williams said.
“Our offense is going to be good when we make solid passes,” Williams said. “We definitely need to work on our passing.”
Williams has three middle blockers to choose from in returning seniors Zassmine Birdwell, a first-team District 9-5A selection last season, Sam Ufkes and Madison Hutchins and junior newcomer Haley Hock. Birdwell played well in the squad’s scrimmages, Williams said. Hutchins, who didn’t play with the varsity last season, has also drawn the eye of Williams.
Senior Lauren Foster, another first-team player, returns at right-sitter along with senior Briley Taylor and junior Bella Russell, who are new to the varsity.
Outside hitter might be another area of strength with seniors Molly McCalla, Ady Mize and Hannah Walker returning along with senior Kaytlin Moore.
“Right now the leader for us is Molly McCalla,” Williams said. “She is playing all the way around for us. She is playing really well also. She is one of our standouts right now.”
The defense will be solid with junior Casey Hendrixson, the District 9-5A MVP, returning. Also playing at defensive specialist will be seniors Caroline Garlington and Alayna Martinez and junior Haley Hunnicutt.
“Our defense is going to be good,” Williams said. “Our hitting and blocking have been pretty solid for it being preseason. I know that things will improve we just haven’t had much playing time. Plus we really don’t want to be playing our best volleyball at the start of the season. We are just trying to figure things out and sort through all of the girls.”
Williams said that one of the best things so far has been how coachable the players have been. That’s a big bonus for a new coach who is trying to learn her players and she said she appreciates them being coachable.
The Lady Spartans opened the season at Saginaw Chisholm Trail Tuesday night with a 25-10, 25-10, 25-11 loss, and begin pool play this afternoon at the Mansfield ISD Invitational Tournament. Coppell, El Paso Chapin, and Arlington Sam Houston are in the Lady Spartans pool.
Williams said there are certain things she wants to see her team work on during the preseason.
“I want to see us work on our serve receive and passing,” Williams said. “I’d also like to see us be more creative on offense and try to get our hitters in the best position to hit. We also need to do a better job of communicating on the court.”