Volleyball notebook: Young Lady Broncos gaining confidence

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Starting the season, Denton volleyball coach Danielle Silva knew this year’s roster was going to feature plenty of youth after nine seniors graduated last year.

Then things got incredibly tougher when junior Jade Akins and senior Amber Phillips went down in succession following the Lady Broncos’ first tournament of the season.

Since the duo has been out, Silva said, the young team has worked much harder in practice and been able to get some experience.

Tuesday night’s straight-set victory over Denison was much needed after the Lady Broncos (7-10) suffered tournament losses to McKinney and Rockwall.

“It was definitely a confidence booster for the team, and it was definitely something that we needed,” Silva said. “We had a really good practice on Monday, probably one of the best practices that we’ve had all season. And everything that we worked on, you could tell that it had improved in the game [Tuesday] night.”

In Tuesday night’s victory, junior Hannah Altman stepped up with 10 assists and eight aces, while sophomore Kenzie Dozier earned 10 kills for the Lady Broncos. Altman and Dozier have become captains on a team that reached the area round of the Class 4A playoffs last season.

Along with Altman and Dozier, Denton’s young players have played well and started to adjust to the change in speed at the varsity level, a positive result of the lack of seniors on the roster.

“I think it’s been a blessing in disguise because we’re getting more experience,” Silva said. “We’re getting used to playing at that faster pace.”

Guyer regaining stability

After an emotional weekend for Guyer, the Lady Wildcats found themselves trailing Little Elm on Tuesday night.

Guyer dropped the opening set, something coach Addie Mack said was the equivalent of hitting the reset button. The Lady Wildcats went on to win the remaining three sets and defeat the Lady Lobos — a few days after the death of classmate Nate Maki.

“This week has been a really emotional week for the coaches, players and school, that we kind of lost our focus and it took us a minute that we still have a job to do,” Mack said.

The inconsistency shown Tuesday was something that plagued Guyer in the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Tournament at Argyle over the weekend. Guyer finished third behind second-place Argyle and first-place Burleson, and even though Guyer lost to Argyle, Mack said it was the most consistent volleyball the team’s played in a while.

That steadiness is something Mack is looking for over the next few matches.

“What I want in the next three matches ahead of us is just for the girls to gain their bearings and play consistent volleyball, play Guyer volleyball,” Mack said. “And that’s been a recurring thing for us, is just playing to our capability and playing to our maximum potential.”

Aubrey finding consistency

Instead of throwing on their practice jerseys and stepping onto the court, the Aubrey Lady Chaparrals were enjoying their off day on Monday.

Aubrey was coming off three straight weekends of playing in tournaments and was off Tuesday before a Friday night matchup against Gainesville.

In head coach Lisa Deaver’s first year at Aubrey, the Lady Chaps (9-15) have shown a bit more consistency in recent weeks.

“I think we got more consistent as the tournament season progressed,” Deaver said. “We were up and down a little bit more at the beginning of the year than we are now, and I think that was pretty typical of all three tournaments.”

After struggling in bracket play at the Collin County Spikefest, Aubrey reached the consolation finals of both the Prosper tournament and the Whitesboro tournament.

Coming into the season, Deaver said, she didn’t know what to expect from her squad. Paige Bisi and Natalie Gattuso have grown into leadership roles for a team that’s continued to work hard in nondistrict play.

“I’ve been very happy with their work ethic, with their desire to play the game and with their realistic perspective on things,” Deaver said. “They play because they love the game, and that makes it fun.”

Pilot Point offense clicking

After the graduation of Feliciana Reed, the Pilot Point Lady Cats were in need of a replacement for the player who started at setter for the last three seasons.

Pilot Point coach Becky Phillips looked down her roster and found two people who she thought were her best athletes — Kirby Smith and Marissa Morris.

And while things may have been rocky at the outset of the season, the Lady Cats’ offense looked smooth in a straight-set victory over Whitesboro on Tuesday.

Pilot Point’s record may only be 9-7, but Phillips said the defending District 12-2A champions are starting to mesh better on the offensive end behind Smith and Morris.

“They’re both leaders,” Phillips said. “They both have the respect of their teammates, so being a setter, you have to have that. I figured it’d work out, and it did.”

Smith and Morris, both team captains, have had the luxury of setting the ball for sophomore Ashtyn Richey, who leads the team in hitting percentage.

The Lady Cats are looking to make another deep run in the postseason after losing to Gunter in the 2A Region II quarterfinals after an undefeated district campaign.

“I think we peaked too early last year, and so does my team,” Phillips said. “They feel the same way. I feel like we’re probably going to be peaking at [the start of] district. I think in another two weeks we’ll look even better than we did [Tuesday] night.”

BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.

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