Atascosa County schools set high expectations for upcoming season
When high school volleyball practice kicked off Tuesday morning, a number of experienced players hit the court for teams in Atascosa County.
Pleasanton, Jourdanton and Poteet—which all made the playoffs in 2016—each return several upperclassmen, which has set the bar high for these schools as the upcoming season approaches.
The Lady Eagles, Squaws and Lady Aggies—along with Charlotte and McMullen County—will begin their 2017 campaigns with scrimmages Friday.
Coach Gabriel Aguirre will have some added depth on the Pleasanton roster this season, his 15th leading the team.
A year after carrying 13 varsity players, the Lady Eagles will suit up 17 for the upcoming season. Of the group, 11 players will be seniors.
“They’re going to be pretty experienced this year,” Aguirre said. “I have nothing but juniors and seniors on the team.”
Pleasanton will look to replace two graduates who helped the Lady Eagles to a second-place finish in District 30-4A last year.
Despite a regular season Aguirre said did not go “that well,” Pleasanton topped Carrizo Springs in bi-district before bowing out to Orange Grove.
Aguirre is hoping for a better start this season.
“Since we are very experienced this year, we should have a very good beginning to our year, a real good record,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll contend for the district title and hope to at least go two to three rounds deep in the playoffs, if not farther, depending on how healthy we can stay at the end of the year.”
The Lady Eagles will lean on their senior class to be examples for the team’s newcomers.
“I think that this year’s strength is going to be our leadership,” Aguirre said. “Since we have a lot of returners coming back, they all know what’s expected. I think the leadership is going to be good for us.”
The Squaws enter their second season under head coach Joella Gallegos.
In Gallegos’ first year, Jourdanton finished second in District 26-3A behind Poth. The Pirettes handed the Squaws their only district losses of the season in 2016.
“It was kind of a learning process for them,” Gallegos said of her first season. “These seniors have had a year with me already, so now I think they have a little bit stronger foundation of where we’re going as opposed to everything being so brand new like it was last year.”
The Squaws have six returning lettermen and will have five seniors on the squad, one of whom was not on the team last year.
Six varsity players graduated from the Jourdanton team that fell to Lago Vista in bi-district. Gallegos said it was a winnable match for the Squaws and hopes the team learned from the postseason setback.
“It was one of those matches that we felt we really could’ve won, and we should’ve won,” she said. “I think that put a desire and a hunger in them to make sure that we don’t finish the season thinking that we could’ve done better, kind of the way we ended last year.”
Although Gallegos has playoff expectations, she said her hopes are the Squaws come together as a team.
Gallegos also wants to make sure Jourdanton leaves it all on the court every game.
“If we’re going to lose, we want to make sure that we’re giving it all we’ve got and losing to a team that’s better than us,” she said.
The Lady Aggies will vye for a fourth consecutive trip to the postseason when they take the floor this season.
Coach Sananda Molina has taken Poteet to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. With an experienced group coming back, he expects nothing short of a deep playoff run.
“Our goal is to first win the district title, which is always important, but our primary goal is to really go more than two rounds deep in the playoffs,” Molina said. “We’ve been to the playoffs consistently, and so now we’re trying to not be finished in the first or second round.”
The Lady Aggies are still searching for their first playoff win under Molina after falling to Devine in the bi-district round last year. The Arabians went on to advance to the Region IV-4A Final.
Poteet has seven varsity returnees after graduating three starters. The senior-heavy Lady Aggies have been preparing to fill those spots since last season.
“We were in the process of training kids to take the [graduates] places,” Molina said. “We pretty much knew who was going to fall into place, and they’ve done a good job of falling into place so far.”
Molina said a tough pre-district schedule, which includes tournaments in Round Rock, San Marcos and San Antonio North East, will prepare Poteet to achieve all its goals.
“We’re very competitive. There’s no reason why we can’t win the whole thing,” Molina said of the District 30-4A championship. “We just have to be consistent, and the experience has to show. If they do that, then they have a good shot of winning a district title.”