Lady Trojans out for return trip
By Jason McDaniel
South Houston hasn't made the state volleyball playoffs since 2000, when LaToya Davis starred before going on to Texas Tech.
Yet even while going winless in district in their ninth year removed from the postseason, the Lady Trojans didn't self-destruct, proving they are capable of weathering any adversity thrown their way.
Now they're looking to throw the volleyball community for a loop by returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
I might not have somebody who's extremely talented like LaToya, however I do have a team that works really well together," veteran South Houston coach Deana Garza said. Last year we didn't win a game in district and there wasn't one single fight with the team the entire time, which is historical when you have a team filled with girls."
This year's girls are filled with hope thanks to a UIL realignment that has all of Pasadena ISD buzzing. Pearland and La Porte are gone, so two new Pasadena teams will make the playoffs this season.
That means everybody is back in the game.
They know our goal is to make the playoffs," Garza said. They know that we have the opportunity, and as a team we have the ability to do it. Individually nothing's going to happen for us."
The Lady Trojans graduated five players in May, but the top player lost, outside hitter Melanie Vigil, suffered a career-ending knee injury early in district last season, contributing to their downward spiral.
This year's squad boasts 10 seniors, many who've played together since their junior varsity days, which Garza hopes leads to good chemistry. She says they already complement each other well.
Now the goal is to turn them into a better offensive squad, one that doesn't just survive by playing defense.
My kids do a really good job of running down the ball and making sure no balls hit the floor," Garza said. However, when you're playing teams that are a lot stronger offensively, you spend the whole time playing defense, so this year we're going to concentrate on, not necessarily hitting the ball harder, but being smarter in our play."
Sophomore Deanna Camry leads the group of returning players.
She played varsity last year because her 5-foot-9 frame helped a team sorely lacking in height, but Garza's looking for more this season. She's also planning to play club ball a rarity at South Houston.
Now she's getting the coordination and the timing and making better contact with the ball, so we want to be able to get the ball to her a lot more and have her be effective in that area," Garza said.
Outside hitters Karen Cantu and Perla Preza and setters Selena Reyna and Annesa Rios also return.
Cantu is the consistent threat on the outside, a workhorse who supplies a steady stream of play, and Preza will be the team's go-to player for big points on offense if she's ready.
I'm hoping (Preza) will be more consistent this year in being able to handle that role," Garza said.
Garza will spend the first part of practice, which begins Aug. 2, focusing on smarter offensive play. The Lady Trojans historically have been a slow-starting team because of a lack of club, but Garza's hoping this season will be different.
My kids are very far behind," Garza said. Some of them don't even start playing until they're in ninth grade, so it takes me a while to get them caught up just to be competitive. I try to inspire them to at least enjoy the sport and want to get better, so it's definitely different than what everybody else goes through."
They'll go through scrimmages Aug. 6 and 7 before opening the season Aug. 10 at Texas City.
It's always exciting," Garza said. I like where I work so it's always fun to spend quality time with the kids, and now that school starts a little bit later, it's fun to have volleyball without having to worry about all of our school stuff.
We get through a couple of tournaments before school actually starts."
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