By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The 2015 Belton High School got underway at 5 a.m. Monday morning at Tiger Gym.
Dozens of varsity, junior varsity and freshman hopefuls hit the court running and jumping, in hopes that their hard work will garner them a spot on one of Belton’s teams.
Varsity brings back a core group of talent that shined last season, but fell short of expectation.
Belton head coach Stacy Meyers returns for a fourth season, looking to erase a disappointing end to 2014. A recent successful completion of the CenTex Volleyball lead helped the healing process.
“The CenTex League was a success because it got us some time with our setters and hitters,” Meyers said. “Some of our setters were setting for different middles with playing for other club teams. It gave them a chance to get back and work on their timing and getting timing down. It showed some things about our kids that surprised and some disappointed us.”
The first day of workouts showed who took the summer seriously and dedicated themselves to volleyball.
“The first day was good,” Meyers said. “The freshman group will be strong. The junior varsity team will be fairly strong. Our varsity team will be young, but have great returning talent and solid leadership. There are some high goals with these girls that they have set and they are very motivated.”
With having games against Round Rock Stony Point and Temple on Monday and Tuesday respectively, the pre-district tournament schedule will be challenging for the Lady Tigers. A trio of tough weekend tournaments in Westwood, Gatesville and Robinson will test the team’s focus, attitude and mental toughness.
“Our big thing is to get the team playing together,” Meyers explained. “There will be new kids on varsity and we need to get them adjusted to the speed of the game. Our biggest focus is on mental toughness. If we go to Westwood and play some really good teams and they beat us, that’s fine. We don’t want to roll over and play dead. We want to make them beat us. If they do, they do. There is always someone better. But, we don’t want to just roll and play dead just because we’re scared. We have been really working on mental toughness this off-season and it’s one of our focuses in the preseason.”
Brey York has become a floor general on the floor and a big-time team leader off the court.
“She always puts the team first and encourages the team,” Meyers said. “She encourages, yet pushes the team and holds them accountable. She has high goals and knows that the team has to be on board. She’s the one in their going ‘one more, coach’. We’re going to get a little better and she’s going to do what it takes to get it done.”
One of the biggest improvements since the end of last season is Waits. Fully recovered from two knee injuries that had cost her the better part of two years, Waits went strictly volleyball. She took the game so seriously she committed this week to the University of Incarnate Word to play for the Lady Cardinals Volleyball Team, while studying kinesiology.
“Allison has finally caught up skill-wise with having missed time with her two knee injuries,” Meyers said. “But more importantly: confidence-wise…the confidence in herself. She missed her entire freshman year and her club season. It not only hurt her confidence, but you miss out on that skill and repetition. She has caught up to where we knew she would be. She just had setbacks that were out of her control.”
At press time, the varsity team was not set. However, York, Waits, Abbey Morgan and Audrey Linder are seniors and are returning. The rest of the team will be announced later this week before the Friday and Saturday scrimmages.
“We have girls that are returning varsity and some junior varsity players that are right on the fringe,” Meyers said. “We need to look at them over the next couple of days and assess what they can do before we make the final decision.”
Along with a tough tournament schedule, the Lady Tigers have a favorable non-district home schedule. Stony Point, Temple, Salado and Lorena play at the friendly confines of Tiger Gym within the seasons first 15 days. Challenging road contests against Gatesville, Live Oak, China Spring and University lie in wait for Belton before the schedule serves up the District 12-6A schedule, sending the Lady Tigers to Harker Heights on September 11. The schedule will feature all district games between September 11 and October 27, with the exception of hosting La Vega on September 22.
“Last year’s road schedule was a nightmare,” Meyers said. “But at this point, I’m not really focused on the wins and the losses. There are some games we should win and some games we should lose. If we win some that we are supposed to lose, that’s a positive. If we lose some that we are supposed to win, that’s a negative. What’s most important as we go into district the question ‘are we getting to the point where we fighting for points’? If we get to the point where we are mentally tough, fighting for every point and not giving up, I believe we have a chance.”
The scrappiness of gaining every point will be most important going into the District 12-6A schedule. Waco Midway has a trio of players that are over 6-2, so the district playoff race will go through the backyard of the Pantherettes.
“I’m predicting that Midway will not lose a game in district,” Meyers said. “They have three players that are over 6-2 and all have committed to (NCAA) Division I schools, Big XII or SEC schools. We don’t have that size. We have heart and hope that we will be mentally tough and competitive.”
This year’s varsity squad includes seniors Abbey Morgan, Brey York, Audrey Linder and Allison Waits, juniors Anna Becker, Chloe Bush, Breanna Farrell and Cameron Kasberg, sophomores Jamie Janczak and Elecia Jackson.
The pathway for the Lady Tigers will start Friday with a 4 p.m. scrimmage, followed by a 10 a.m. scrimmage Saturday. Belton will host Stony Point on Monday and Temple on Tuesday, starting at 5:30 p.m. with the freshman and junior varsity games. Varsity will start at 6:30 p.m. each night.