Denton volleyball coach Danielle Silva and the Lady Broncos have been successful in the past two seasons, qualifying for the playoffs in Silva’s first two years at the helm.
With the team making the jump from a first-round playoff exit to the area round last season, Silva said the Lady Broncos’ stock is rising.
“We won [in the] first round against Saginaw and we lost to Aledo, who went on to get second in state,” Silva said of last season. “The girls came up with a theme this year: ‘Stop it, never.’ It means to never stop fighting to reach our goals as a team and as a program. As a program, us making it to the second round was a huge success, and that’s something we want to achieve.”
The last two seasons aren’t just something the Lady Broncos want to replicate. They want to build a foundation of winning.
Last season, the Lady Broncos were finishing the first round of district games when they hit a rough patch that dropped them out of the playoff picture, but they pulled out of it with a four-match winning streak to earn the third playoff seed out of District 5-4A with an 8-6 district record.
“We have to win the key games and not lose focus like we did last year,” Silva said. “With a younger team, you are going to experience that, so we have to make sure that we aren’t experiencing it when it’s not the right time. I looked at them and said, ‘Nine of you aren’t going to be here next year, and we can either continue like this until November or go further.’”
While most coaches don’t want their teams looking too far into the future, Silva wanted last year’s team to think about the end of the road, and she says this year’s squad is ahead of the curve.
“You have to keep it in the short term, but sometimes you have to keep it in the long term. I’m only graduating three this year, but I think they saw it last year and they want it. They want to set the tone again.”
When the playoffs came around in November, the Lady Broncos were clear of their funk and beat Saginaw in four sets to advance to play Aledo, which beat them in three sets. Even in defeat, Silva said, the team showed its true colors.
“I was really proud of the girls for coming out and fighting,” Silva said. “We were down, but we weren’t quitting. Aledo is a good team and they have a really great offense. They really keyed in on Jade [Akins] and put her out of our system, but I think that sparks our theme for this year. It’s a fight to the finish and never quitting. We never want to stop fighting for this team.”
With several key seniors departed, the new crop of Lady Broncos got some valuable training during the summer, and Silva is encouraged by the team’s fire to start the season.
“We had summer training camp, and I have some friends that do some personal training,” Silva said. “They’ve been working physically with our girls with conditioning and weights. Seeing them train [in] competitiveness, it has definitely transferred to their court play, because I was able to see them play summer league. They’re ready and they want it. They are right where I want them to be to enter the season.”
Silva’s journey to the Lady Broncos’ head coaching position didn’t exactly get off on the right foot. After obtaining a degree from TWU, she was hired as a teacher at Denton, then laid off because of budget cuts. Silva interviewed for assistant coaching positions at Guyer and Lake Dallas, but Denton hired her as head coach.
“I had coached club [volleyball] for seven years,” Silva said. “I really thought about it, and if anyone can go from no high school experience coaching to a head coach, I can do it and I was 22 at the time, which doesn’t normally happen. I’ve just been fortunate to have great coaches that have been supportive. I’ve been blessed with a great administration, and I’ve been blessed with great girls.”
The Lady Broncos are 1-1 against Guyer and 1-2 against Ryan under Silva, and she said the team likes to keep track of its record against rivals because it provides motivation throughout the season.
“Guyer and Lake Dallas are our main, huge rivals,” Silva said. “We get fired up when we play them, and the girls are kind of on the same mindset that I am. We are going to talk a little bit about our goals, and every game is important, but this is where we are with our rivals. It’s always in the back of your mind.
“Denton is looked down on, and we always like to prove ourselves. We are a great school and I love working here. We have great kids, great teachers and great coaches. I like to keep track because I like to prove ourselves. We are here and we are good.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.