East coach Jamye Pauley is hoping the Titans can get off to a faster start this season. Victoria East struggled from the outset of last year, but rebounded in September and October to finish second in district and make it to the area round of the playoffs.
• Aug. 17-Aug. 20, East at Corpus Christi ISD Tournament, TBA
• Aug. 21, East vs. St. Joseph, 7 p.m.
• Aug. 24 and Aug. 25, East at Floresville Tournament, TBA
• Aug, 28, East at El Campo, 6 p.m.
Katlynne Wilson looked at a sheet of paper taped to a window at the Victoria East gym to find out her fate.
As excited as the junior may have been to become the newest member of the Titans volleyball team, there was work to be done. Whether they are ready or not, volleyball season begins next week.
Wilson, and her youthful teammates, said they are prepared for the challenge.
"I'm glad I get to have an experience on varsity," Wilson said about making the team. "I went every single day and to a lot of camps. Basically, I wanted to try and be the best."
Though the 2012 team has three seniors and five returning players, the Titans believe they can make a long run in the playoffs if they all continue to improve, as Wilson did over the summer.
East faltered at the outset last year, but recovered to finish 25-18, place second in District 30-4A and reach the area playoffs.
Amber Howell said the key to the team will be fellow seniors Morgan Lienemann and Kali Meyer meshing with the rest of the squad. Considering how close many of them are off the court, the girls believe it's only a matter of time before that cohesion is displayed on-court.
"We're all really good friends and we have been playing with each other for a really long time," Howell said. "We all work together pretty hard. After we click and communicate together, it will be easier for the team to come along."
Destani Villarreal and sophomore libero Alicia Hernandez also return for the Titans.
With just one week of practice to prepare for a non-district schedule that includes three tournaments and matches against Edna, El Campo and Yoakum, all of whom made the playoffs, the Titans are excited to tip off the season.
"We need to start off good because it's a real game obviously," Lienemann said about the Aug. 14 season-opener against Edna. "They have a pretty big girl [Madison Kucera] on their team. But, we've played them in summer league, and we played them last year, so we know what they are bringing. It's important that we start off good to build up our confidence."
Their optimism might make up for physical shortcomings.
At a recent practice Jamye Pauley was the tallest person in the gym. Unfortunately for the Titans, Pauley's varsity eligibility expired about a decade ago. It's up to her to coach her undersized team to use their athleticism to win points this fall.
"I'm going to count on our defense," Pauley said, noting she would stress the Titans getting their hands above the net, and finding ways to dig ball, rather than their height.
Howell will be East's inside presence as its middle blocker, and one Pauley will depend on to get kills and blocks for the Titans. Howell, now standing 5-foot-10, grew an inch in the offseason.
"We need to work hard," Howell said. "We're not as big as the other teams who might have 6-3 girls. We have to have the skill and know where we want to put the ball and know their strength. When we play big girls we need good defense. It's not just about the block, but to get a touch on the block."
Once they master the small thing, Howell and the rest of the Titans said the sky is the limit this year - even if their height is finite.