Starting today, the Ryan Lady Raiders will attempt to do something they have done only once in 17 years.
The volleyball team will be looking to defend its home court and put on a strong showing in the Ryan Kick-Off Classic.
Over the course of the next three days, 32 teams will attempt to claim the tournament championship, something that Ryan did when current assistant coach Abby Arledge was playing for the Lady Raiders.
Ryan head coach Cindy Williams said that while the ultimate goal is to win the home tournament, Williams wants to see her team make progress before District 5-5A play starts Sept. 27.
“It’s our court,” Williams said. “It’s our tournament. It would be great to go in there and win the tournament, but our main goal is to improve each match.”
The Lady Raiders open play at 10:30 a.m. today against Fort Worth Trimble Tech.
Ryan started the season in the same manner it ended the 2012 season. Ryan dropped its first match of 2013 on Tuesday, losing 25-15, 25-12, 25-21 to Frisco.
The Lady Raiders went 6-27 last season and were winless in district play. Ryan has four seniors on this year’s squad who are aiming to eliminate last season’s disappointment from their collective consciousness.
Senior outside hitter Kodi Pettigrew said a solid showing this weekend would send a strong message to the team’s competition.
“It’s going to be really important because some of the schools think we’re underdogs because we did not do as well as we should have last year,” Pettigrew said. “But now we need to start off strong so they know we’re coming back tough.”
In this week’s tournament, Williams said, each team is guaranteed five matches. She said she wants her team to focus on putting points away while on offense and getting more touches while on defense, as the team adjusts to a new defensive scheme this year.
Argyle, last year’s Class 3A state semifinalist, is one of the several local teams participating in the tournament. Pilot Point, Guyer, Lake Dallas, Denton and Liberty Christian also are participating.
Other traditionally strong programs like Class 3A’s Decatur and 4A’s Frisco Centennial are participating in the affair.
The tournament is a glimpse of the challenges Ryan will face this season. The Lady Raiders also face Allen and Plano before district play begins. And in district play, Ryan will face Coppell and Hebron, the teams that have combined to win the last three Class 5A championships.
Junior libero Arissa Chappell said this week’s tournament will provide the team’s new members with an opportunity to see what the rest of the season will be like.
“It will be better competition and I think it’ll especially help us because, although we have a lot of players from varsity last year [returning], we also have a lot of players coming up, and they really need to mesh and they need to find that it is a tough competition,” Chappell said.
The junior, who along with Pettigrew is one of the key returners for Ryan, said the challenges the tournament provides will help eliminate not only the sour taste of Tuesday’s loss but of last season’s struggles as well.
“We want to get it out of our heads, especially since this is always how we played last year,” Chappell said. “We always got frustrated with each other and all this, and we’re trying to get past that this year. We’re working really hard on that, so hopefully this weekend we can get past that.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.