When DaVette McCall took over the Splendora volleyball program before last season, the primary goal was to get her players on board with the culture she wanted to establish.
Heading into her second season at the helm, she is confident the Ladycats can take the next step and begin to establish a tradition of success.
Splendora finished with an 8-24 overall record last season, which included a 2-8 mark in District 21-4A. As the Ladycats embark on a new campaign this fall, they will be seeking the first postseason berth for the program since 2016. The focus during the first year under McCall was to change the players’ approach to the game. Now the expectations are rising.
“Year 2 has been incredible so far,” McCall said. “It started in the offseason. There’s been such a huge cultural change, and they’ve already been pushing toward volleyball season since the spring. That’s been amazing. They’ve been coming to summer workouts, they’re tweeting about volleyball and ready for volleyball to start, and that’s just a change in itself.”
Getting into the win column on a more consistent basis starts with varsity experience, which the Ladycats possess in droves. There are 11 total players returning to the fold this season and five seniors who will be counted on for both their leadership and on-court performance.
“Last year, we only had one senior,” McCall said. “I think the leadership this year is going to be a lot more dominant because there are five of them. It’s just different whenever you’re playing for one last time, and I think they’ll do a really good job of preparing the other players.”
Two of those players, middle blocker Shaelyn Sanders and setter Allie Jones, were team captains last year. The other seniors are defensive specialist Bri Bowers, middle blocker Morgan Bufford and libero Kayla Martin. Jones was selected as the District 21-4A Co-Specialty Player of the Year last season, while Martin earned first-team all-district honors.
“It’s definitely going to be a more competitive team this year, and we’ve discussed that with all the girls,” McCall said. “Last year we had three returners, so everybody was kind of babies when it came to the varsity level. This year, everybody has a year under their belt and is going to be gunning for a spot. So I’m really excited to see that develop, too.”
Having 11 returning players provides the team with plenty of benefits, including a high level of chemistry that has already been established and fine-tuned. The girls have one year of experience playing together, which should bode well for the Ladycats as they progress through the schedule.
“Everybody is just getting on the same page, which is awesome to see,” McCall said. “I think the competition is going to push all of them, and if they don’t make that starting position, I know I can look at my bench and it will be loaded. I think that is very, very crucial to success.”
Splendora is entering its second season in Class 4A since moving down with the most recent UIL realignment. The Ladycats will once again take on Huffman-Hargrave, Livingston, Liberty, Shepherd and Tarkington, competing for one of four playoff spots over an eight-game slate.
“We’re really excited,” McCall said. “We have some really good teams in the district, and this year, we’re ready for it. We obviously still have some work to do, just to buff out from the summer and all that, but we’re excited to get into the preseason and play some competitive teams. We’ll hopefully come into the district season ready to fight.”