By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 25, 2015) — Armed with experience, especially on the front row, Stephenville volleyball head coach Fran Metzger is eager to build on the area championship her club won in 2014.
“I’m excited. We have a lot of seniors coming back with experience, some of them even having started as sophomores,” Metzger pointed out. “We’re hoping that pays off. We have to pull together as a team and we have to stay healthy.”
Health has been a big issue in recent years, especially with knee injuries to 6-2 senior middle blocker Kourtney Seaton, who has already committed to Division I Northwestern State in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Seaton is one of four heavy hitters who are entering their third varsity season and have played in five playoff matches. Outside litters Kaleigh Conger, Mikayla Hobbs and Chelsea Gillespie are the others, while juniors Nicona Stilwell and Emily Brandon also have varsity experience.
“Our biggest strength is the hitting experience. We should be strong hitting-wise and blocking-wise,” said Metzger. “What we’re going to have to be sure of is getting our passes down. If the passing is good, the setting will be great. But you have to work on setting the bad passes, too, because there are always going to be a few of them. That’s just part of the game, and it’s where experience pays off.”
Taylor Garber will be relied on at setter along with Gillespie and Seaton.
“Our setters have some experience, but not really much at the varsity level,” Metzger admits. “But we have three people capable of setting and they have all been working hard to get ready for it.”
Senior Taylor Medlin and junior Kylee Ponder will be called upon to receive serves and anchor the back of the defense.
“They’re both good athletes and hard workers, and I’m excited about them. They’re both great competitors,” Metzger said of Medlin and Ponder. “That’s what you have to have back there are girls who are athletic enough to get to balls and competitive enough to do whatever it takes to get there.”
Stephenville figures to again be a heavyweight in a district including perennial power Abilene Wylie, Graham, Brownwood and Mineral Wells. Wylie won the district and reached the regional semifinals in 2014. Stephenville took one set in each of its district matches against Wylie, but lost each time. The Bees were second in the league and fell to state champ Decatur in the regional quarterfinals.
“I think we should be one of the top leaders in the district and the area,” Metzger said. “Wylie of course has the winning tradition and is always at an elite leveel. We just have to get in there and get after them, because that’s who we have to go through if we want to win a district title.”
It’s the beginning of the third decade of Honeybee volleyball, which was established in 1995 and has known no head coach besides Metzger. She led the Honeybees to the 4A state championship in 2003 and reached the 3A Region I final in 2012.
Preseason workouts for the 21st season begin on Monday, Aug. 3. Practices are from 8-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.
“They haven’t run me off yet,” laughed Metzger. “Hopefully we can stay healthy and put it altogether and have a great season.”