Lady Wildcats Look to Build on Breakout Season

Lady Wildcats Look to Build on Breakout Season

Don’t expect Guyer’s volleyball team to sneak up on any opponent in 2015. Following last year’s showing – the squad won 37 games, claimed a district title and rolled to the third round of the Class 6A playoffs – the Lady Wildcats are unquestionably on everyone’s radar as the early part of this season unfolds.

But with the majority of their starting lineup back in the fold, the extra attention may not matter.

This season may have just started, but Guyer already is viewed as a playoff favorite after knocking off Plano and state-power Coppell in last year’s postseason. It was the Lady Wildcats’ first playoff appearance as members of the state’s largest classification, and they did it with several young players who have since become household names.

Now it’s time to build on that, coaches say.

“It’s going to take some hard work, for sure,” said assistant coach Erin Harden, who is leading the team for the first half of the season with head coach Addie Mack out on maternity leave. “We lost nine seniors, but the core of the team is still here. We just need to stay focused and set bigger goals. We know going into this season that we have to prepare better to hopefully have a longer playoff run.”

That includes a tougher preseason schedule with tournaments at Denton Ryan, Trophy Club Byron Nelson and Arlington. The District 5-6A schedule starts Sept. 11 at Keller Timber Creek. Last year, the Lady Wildcats lost once in league play, four times in non-district.

The good news is, the cupboard is far from bare.

The nucleus of the team, Harden said, is the senior trio of Emily Hill, Mallory McKnight and Tabitha Spray. Hill, a Mississippi State University commit and one of the more dominant outside hitters in the area, led 6A players in Dallas-Fort Worth with 660 kills last year.

She also racked up 358 digs, 20 solo blocks and 65 block assists, with 53 service aces. The performance earned Hill all-state honors by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.

But what took the team’s success to another level last year was a balanced attack. McKnight provided a 1-2 punch up top that few teams in the area could duplicate – or defend. Mack felt that interchangeable strategy gave both girls an equal chance to cash in on offense and opened up opportunities for other points of attack.

McKnight tallied 342 kills to go with 21solo blocks and 84 block assists. Sophomore setter Miles Baker tallied 1,102 assists as a freshman while Spray often provided the kill shot from the right side when opponents least expected it.

Add in a host of other returning players like junior defensive specialist Shelby Heitkamp and sophomore DS Kate Cowan, and Harden thinks Guyer will again be a tough out.

“We are a well-oiled machine,” Harden said. “Our schedule has been set since November, so for us, we can focus on getting started with this season and do what we need to do to be a better team.”

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