Initial practice for Brownwood comes seven days prior to season opener against San Angelo Central

The Brownwood Lady Lions captured their first bi-district volleyball championship since 2009 in head coach Julie Kennedy’s first season, and are looking to raise the bar even higher as the 2017 campaign officially kicked off Tuesday.

Kennedy reported 32 players at Tuesday’s practices, with the number expected to increase to 35 as Brownwood will field three teams — freshman, junior varsity and varsity.

The Lady Lions return all but two members — graduates Bailey Randle and Kayla McFarden — from the 2016 varsity squad that finished second to Abilene Wylie in District 5-4A, knocked off Vernon in the opening round of the playoffs and posted a 22-18 overall record.

The enthusiasm level was obvious throughout Warren Gym during Tuesday’s initial practice, which started with conditioning that only increased the Lady Lions’ desire to start on-the-court drills.

“What I was really happy about is we did a drill the girls typically don’t like, but they brought a lot of energy and the atmosphere changed in the gym during that drill,” Kennedy said. “The girls loved it and I think they were just so excited to touch a ball after conditioning for an hour.”

As is always the case with volleyball, teams get very few practices under their belt before the first game arrives. The Lady Lions will scrimmage at Glen Rose Friday, then open the season at noon Tuesday when San Angelo Central visits. A trip to the Abilene Bev Ball Classic follows Aug. 11-12.

“We just want to be functioning as a team and doing things correctly,” Kennedy said in regard to early objectives. “The first few days we’re just trying to do a lot of conditioning to make sure the girls are in shape. We’re trying to get the girls in volleyball shape and that’s a lot different from any other sport because of the quickness and agility and things like that. That was our main focus today, and we got some touches on the ball.”