The unfinished email Ryan coach Cindy Williams started Wednesday morning was still open on her computer that afternoon.
Williams and the rest of the Ryan volleyball team were busy preparing for one of the team’s biggest weekends of the year, when many Denton-area teams will join a slew of visitors for the Ryan Varsity Kick-Off Classic.
It’ll be Ryan’s first home competition of the season, an opportunity for the Lady Raiders to put the struggles of the last two years behind them.
“I think coming out on our own court and setting the tone is a big thing,” Williams said. “It’s always something we get hyped up for because it is our tournament. We’ve got to bring that energy and that competitive spirit to the court. To the kids, it’s a big thing.”
Denton, Guyer, Liberty Christian, Argyle, Pilot Point and Calvary are among the 32-team field that will play at the three-day tournament at Ryan that starts today. The Lady Raiders’ first match will be at 10:30 this morning against Fort Worth Trimble Tech.
Ryan is looking to gain some early momentum before District 5-6A play starts Sept. 12 against Justin Northwest. Ryan has only won one set in district play since moving up to the state’s highest classification in 2012.
But one of Williams’ goals early in the season is to eliminate any thoughts of the team’s struggles over the last two seasons.
It was the same case Wednesday — the day after Frisco swept Ryan in three sets in the season opener for both schools. Williams and her staff have made an effort to quiet any negative discussions as soon as they start.
“Anytime they start talking about how they don’t want to lose or how we don’t want to do this or that, we stop them and tell them that’s over,” Williams said. “We’re not talking about that anymore. We’re trying to be as positive as we can about everything.”
One of last year’s seniors, Kodi Pettigrew, is playing at Cisco College this year. Replacing Pettigrew and those from last year’s team are the likes of senior libero Arissa Chapell, junior outside hitter Sydney Lundgren and senior setter Shanna Daniels.
Daniels said that through the first few weeks of the season the team seems more driven in a year when the Lady Raiders are trying to start fresh and prove that they can compete in one of the toughest regions in the state.
“We’re really excited to have our first home game,” Daniels said. “We feel like this team this year is going to be a lot different.”
The Ryan coach echoed the senior’s sentiments and knows how important a strong showing early in the season could be for her team.
“I think it’s important for us to come out strong,” Williams said. “We have set some high expectations for preseason [nondistrict play], as far as what we’d like to do. We’re trying to sell the idea to them of what we have to do.”
Williams said she’s seen signs that this year’s team is different. She was pleased with her team’s ability to contest shots at the net, something that’s been a problem the last two years.
Williams said she hopes a good performance in front of its home fans and many guests can help Ryan get over the obstacles that’s plagued the team in district play for two years.
“I think it’ll boost our confidence and our belief in pushing into district really strong,” Williams said. “The kids are going to start to see that we can be successful.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.