Warriors have sites set on another successful season

Aug. 5, 2011 at 3:05 a.m.

Long road trips are a way of life for the Victoria West volleyball team.

In their inaugural season, the Warriors spent a solid month on the road between their home opener and their second home game in mid-September.

This year, Victoria West will spend a month solid playing tournaments and matches away from Victoria before playing at home against Calallen on Sept. 6.

"I think having that experience from last year is really going to help us traveling this year," said senior Kelly Fowler.

Instead, the team used it as a chance to learn, and to get better, a theme that played out for the Warriors time and again throughout the 2010 campaign.

"It made us focus because we didn't have all of our fans in the crowd," said senior libero Sara Hermes.

The Warriors caught several teams by surprise with a 31-6 record, as they built behind strong talent, good coaching and a powerful work ethic. While the talent is still there - Victoria West graduated just one senior after last year's regional final run - that element of surprise will not be there this year.

"It's not going to be as easy as it was last year," said coach Sandy Longoria. "They do feel a little pressure, but we know we have a job to do. But at the same time, we have a target on our back

"We can't play afraid, we have to play our game."

The one senior the Warriors lost, though, was a big one. Setter Jessica Mickey played a key role in facilitating the offense, allowing the team's big hitters - Fowler, Brooke Smith, Jordan Fedorchak, Rachel Hamon, Kelsey Kalich, among many - to do what they do.

With her gone, the void isn't just to find a new setter. It's to find someone to step into that leadership role.

"That's been my headache, my concern," Longoria said. "Not just her ability, but her leadership qualities. The two girls we have coming in haven't run a varsity offense, but they are great kids, they work hard and listen."

Those two players are Blair Butschek and Ellen Hermes. While the youth at that position could be viewed as a weakness, Longoria is more than confident the team's intensity and ability will overcome that.

"They come with the intensity that's necessary for a team to do well. We feel good about the weekend starting our scrimmages," she said. "We have our expectations to do better or as well as last year, but we are taking it one game at a time."

Sara Hermes struck a hopeful chord about the upcoming season, with the majority of the team from last year back.

"It's weird that that happened, not a lot of teams get to keep almost everyone for two full years," she said. "People are expecting more from us. We can be just as good as last year. Our expectations are up."

The Warriors had to adjust and learn from the get go last year, adjusting to a new school and a new coach. Only a few of the players had any kind of varsity experience.

Each step of the way, they learned what was needed to be successful. Chemistry played a huge role, which several players said developed over the course of last season.

"We had something a lot of other team's don't as far as our bond," Fowler said.

The competition figures to be tougher, too. Longoria said the team will head to Pearland for a tournament in late August instead of one in Sealy.

"That tournament will give them a taste of what will be needed to get to the state tournament," Longoria said.

With a large group of seniors entering their final year with the team, Fowler said there is a sense of urgency entering the 2011 season.

"Just because next year, it won't be the same team," she said. "This year, we can say we are getting almost everyone back. This is our last chance to do what we want to do with this team.

"It is kind of urgent, there is a little pressure. But it will be OK."



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