Following four consecutive appearances in the Class 4A volleyball playoffs, the Brownwood Lady Lions are eager to see how they measure up in Class 3A. Goals of both a district and state championship have been established as the Lady Lions return nine members from last season’s 20-13, bi-district finalist squad.
“I have coached for many years in the high school ranks, and I can truly say this is by far one of the most talented groups of athletes in both physical and academic abilities,” said Lady Lions head volleyball coach Mary Steed.
Brownwood is loaded with experience at every position as the list of returnees includes five seniors - Moochie Galloway, Shalisa Hall, Jalisa Hall, Stephanie Jordy and Alex Williams - along with four juniors - Julie Kennedy, Flynn Harrell, RaeLee Taylor and Chloe Geye.
“We’ve always had high-flying, hard-hitting and very athletic girls but never have I had so many,” Steed said. “We present the total package against our opponent.
“We can hurt you with our left front hitters (Harrell and Kennedy), but you better watch out for our middles (Geye and Galloway). And just when you concentrate on those four, we have Stephanie and Shalisa on the right side ready to score at will. Alex supplies our offense with brilliant setting and amazing soft sets, and our defense is looking very solid with Jalisa and RaeLee supplying some amazing digs.”
Among the new additions to the varsity roster are Jessica Seaton, Courtney Murray, Tiara Brown and Sheldon Miller. Steed expects all four to work into the rotation as the season progresses.
“Shortly, they will be contributing new dimensions to our team as they attain more experience,” Steed said.
As for concerns regarding the upcoming season, the biggest for Steed is the health of her team. The Lady Lions have battled nagging injuries over the past couple of seasons, but with a clean bill of health, the sky could be the limit.
“Staying healthy is my single most concern,” Steed said. “Intelligent preparation without tearing down these athletes with chronic injuries is so important. Sometimes we look like the walking wounded when we leave each day, everyone is packed in ice. There girls work so hard day in and day out that it’s easy to push them too far.”
Steed also added she would like to see the Lady Lions improve their service reception before the start of the District 2-3A slate, which begins with a Sept. 26 road trip to Snyder.
“If there is an area where we need a little improvement, it would be our service receive,” Steed said. “But our new formations are causing some of the hesitancy between the athletes and this can easily be ironed out with game experience over time. Trust me, we are very close to being very good.”
With the season opening Justin Northwest tournament scheduled to begin on Friday, the Lady Lions wrapped up their scrimmage schedule over the weekend and Steed was raving about the results.
“What a difference a year has made,” Steed said. “Anyone watching our scrimmages can tell that the team is so solid offensively and defensively, as a result. The chemistry is great, the hard work and preparation by the returning athletes is paying off with consistent and high level team and individual performances. Parents are excited, coaches are excited, but most importantly, the girls are excited.”
Steed admitted the Lady Lions will miss the challenges playing larger Class 4A district foes presented, but those past experiences will only benefit Brownwood in its new classification. And the days of taking on bigger schools aren’t completely over as all but two opponents on the Lady Lions’ pre-district schedule are either 4A or 5A programs.
The Lady Lions’ non-district schedule includes trips the Justin Northwest tournament, Abilene Bev Ball Classic and Fredericksburg tournament, along with matches against Abilene Cooper, Lampasas, Hondo, Copperas Cove, Stephenville, Fredericksburg and defending 4A state champion and former district rival Midway.
The only home match during that span is an Aug. 19 date with Cooper.
“As strange as this may seem, I loved for the girls to play against the toughest teams in Class 4A,” Steed said. “It presented such challenges and excitement over the last few years, especially since Midway won the state championship this past year and we fought such great matches against them.”
As for what District 2-3A holds in store for the Lady Lions, only two teams in the district reached the postseason last year - Breckenridge and Sweetwater - and neither advanced further than the second round. Steed feels the Lady Lions not only possess enough talent to emerge as 2-3A champions, but they could make a lengthy playoff run as well.
“Breckenridge and Sweetwater both have solid programs and I am sure there will be great matches waiting in the future for us, but I would not hesitate nor have any reservations in picking Brownwood as the district favorite,” Steed said. “We match up so well on and off the net and the girls are ready to display their work for all to see.
“There are many great programs in Class 3A but for sure we are a contender for the title and the girls understand what work needs to be done to pursue their goal of a state championship.”
Lady Lions Varsity Volleyball
A15-16 at Justin Northwest Tournament
A19 Abilene Cooper
A22-23 at Abilene Bev Ball Classic
A26 at Lampasas
A28/30 at Fredericksburg Tournament
A29 Hondo (at Fredericksburg)
S2 at Copperas Cove
S5 at Stephenville
S9 at Hewitt Midway
S12 at Fredericksburg
S16 at Abilene Cooper
S26 at Snyder*
S30 Abilene Wylie*
O3 at Breckenridge*
O10 at Abilene Wylie*
O14 at Sweetwater*
O24 at Graham*
* District 2-3A Match