While no team ever wants to go winless in district play as the Mineola Lady Jackets did this season (0-14) there’s plenty of optimism to go around that next season will be different.
Head Coach Kerry VanCleave will have 10 returning players next season, eight of which were underclassmen this year.
“When you have that many young players you’re bound to make more mistakes than not and you will likely struggle like we did this season. However one of the more positive things that comes from our struggles is that our young players got a lot of in-game experience against better competition,” VanCleave said.
VanCleave said in order for the team to perform better next year she plans to have the team work on a bit of everything in the off season.
“We need to work on everything really because our youth got the best of us at times this year we really tried to help the girls learn the game and work on our skills, we have to become more volleyball smart. As a team we’ve proven we have the ability to hit efficiently when we pass well, hopefully we continue that,” Van Cleave said.
When asked who she believes made the biggest jump this season compared to last VanCleave quickly said, “Sabria Dean, as our middle she does her job very well, she played varsity as a freshman (so going in to her third year) I expect to see even more growth from her.”
Sophomore middle Sabria Dean easily stood out during district games this year because of her unique athleticism, her timing on tip plays, and her ability to be a vocal leader for her team.
Dean said the one thing she was most proud of about her team this season was that even when things got tough her teammates continued to work and give their best effort.
“I try my best to lead by example by always working hard in the game and at practice, with a lot of new players on the team this season next year I think our chemistry will be better. We had the chance this year to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses in order to be equipped for next season,” Dean said.
In a list of three top priorities for the Lady Jackets going forward VanCleave said she believes her team needs to improve their passing, blocking and mental toughness.
Other players to look out for next season are Jessiah Riley who will be a junior next year. Riley helped this season with back row passing and outside hitting. Kelsey Brewington who will also be a junior will likely replace graduating senior Kiley Banks at the libero position as the teams primary passer and defensive ace. Tahjae Black who rotates in with Dean at middle also showed flashes of talent this past season, and will be relied on for more offense as she enters her sophomore season next year.