Lady Elks could be tough to handle
Burleson volleyball coach D’Anna Newton is excited about the possibilities for the Lady Elks this season.
Part of Newton’s excitement comes from the fact that she has nine players returning from last years squad that finished third in District 9-5A.
A year ago, the Lady Elks went 10-4 in district play and posted an overall record of 21-18. Mansfield Lake Ridge, which has moved to Class 6A, ended Burleson’s season in the first round of the playoffs.
The odds of returning to the playoffs this season are in the Lady Elks favor considering Newton is only adding four new players to the mix, in sophomore middle blocker Emily White, junior left-side hitter Addison Lambert, freshman defensive specialist Emma Dustin and junior defensive specialist Macy McCoy, a transfer from Joshua, who played with the Lady Owls varsity last season.
“We have a lot of experience returning and already have chemistry,” Newton said. “It’s not going to be that tough adding four to the mix.“
The hardest thing will probably be replacing graduated middle blocker Jailah Ivory, 9-5A’s Blocker of the Year last season, and 9-5A second-team players Sarah Reid.
“We lost both of our middle blockers to graduation, so we are having to train two new middles,” Newton said. “That’s going to be the hardest part for us to make sure we are as strong in the middle as we were last year.”
Taking over at middle blocker will be junior Maddie Gregory, who played outside hitter last season, and White, who started at middle blocker for the junior varsity.
That position is the main concern for Newton.
“We need to make sure we mesh together in the middle,” Newton said. “We need for our setters to get used to playing with the new middles. That’s the area where we are going to have work the most.”
Mia Smalls, who was the 9-5A Setter of Year last season as a freshman, is back to run the office. Also playing setter will be senior Madi Lewis.
The Lady Elks are loaded at outside hitter with district Newcomer of the Year Emily Rich, a sophomore, and junior Ellie Strebeck, a first-team performer last season back at the position.
Burleson has plenty of power at the left-side hitter where senior Kenady Moore and junior Madison McCall return along with newcomer Lambert.
Makayla Davison, a second-team all-district player, returns at libero for the Lady Elks. Playing at defensive specialist for the Lady Elks this season will be senior Kyra Smith, junior Macy McCoy, and Dustin.
“Our hitters are strong,” Newton said. “Mia is very good at setter and our serving game is going to be really good.”
The Lady Elks opened the season Tuesday night with a 25-19, 17-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-7 win over Stephenville.
For Burleson playing in Abilene’s Bev Ball Classic on the first weekend of the season has become a tradition.
Newton likes facing the high-level of competition the tournament draws to Abilene and also enjoys team-building opportunity that traveling affords.
“It’s a good chance for us to bond and also there will be a lot of tough teams there,” Newton said. “It will be a good test for us and will get us out of our comfort zone. It will help us get ready for district play.”
Burleson returns to Region I this season and will be playing in District 5-5A. Also in the district are former District 9-5A foes Arlington Seguin, Centennial, Crowley, and Everman plus newcomers Mansfield Legacy and Mansfield Timberview.
The district will face District 6-5A in the first round of the playoffs. That district includes eight Fort Worth ISD schools in Arlington Heights, Carter-Riverside, Eastern Hills, North Side, Polytechnic, South Hills, Southwest and O.D. Wyatt.
“I’m looking forward to district play and finishing better than third place which we did last year,” Newton said. “That’s our goal.”