Jackie Lang guided the Brownwood Lady Lions to a seventh consecutive playoff berth in her first season as head volleyball coach, but the expectations have increased as Lang kicked off her second season at the helm on Monday.
Like football, the volleyball campaign also began Monday, but Brownwood has only a few days to prepare for scrimmage action in Graham on Friday, followed by the season opener at Abilene High on Aug. 9.
“I opened with a very brief conversation about my high expectations for this season,” Lang said of Monday’s first practice. “We have a lot of experience coming back and even more talent coming up, and I want the girls to be as excited about this season as I am.
“Overall, the girls came ready to play. Everyone was on time, paperwork was turned in and they were excited to get started. The first day is always tough, but our new coaches jumped right in and the girls responded right away.”
A total of 38 girls took part in the first day of practice, as they were split between the varsity, Melanie Kunkel’s JV team and Amanda Sheffield’s freshman squad.
“We had 22 girls in the JV/varsity sessions and 16 in the freshman sessions,” Lang said. “We plan on moving a few freshmen up to compete on JV, but we haven’t made any final decisions yet.”
The Lady Lions enter the season fairly healthy, with the exception of key returnee Kelsey Gober.
“For the most part the girls came back in shape,” Lang said. “There are always a few that need a little extra conditioning, but it hasn’t taken away from any of our drill work. I was pleasantly surprised.
“Unfortunately, not everyone is 100 percent starting the season. Kelsey Gober is battling a foot injury from last year, but we’re hoping for a mid-August release date.”
As for Monday’s on-court action, Lang was pleased with the chemistry the Lady Lions are showing, which comes from being in the second year of the head coach’s system.
“I was most pleased with the cohesiveness of this year's squad,” Lang said. “All of these girls genuinely like each other and the teamwork is outstanding already. It will only improve as the season continues.”
With just three more days of practice before facing competition for the first time at Graham on Friday, Lang wants to see improvement on both sides of the net.
“I'd like to see our offense come together and our serve receive continue to improve,” Lang said. “Serving looks strong and we have a lot of setting experience coming back, but our offense has not been clicking yet. But it will only get better from here.”