GLEN ROSE — The motto for the 2016 Glen Rose Lady Tigers volleyball team was “all business.” Perhaps the team should adopt the mantra “unfinished business” for the 2017 season after bowing out of the state playoffs in the Class 4A regional final for the second time in the last three seasons last year.
The Lady Tigers, who were ranked second in the state for the last half of the 2016 season, finished with a school-record 40 wins and lost to eventual state champion and No. 1-ranked Bushland in the Region I-4A final.
According to head volleyball coach Sandy Langford, the loss only made the 2017 team more motivated for this season.
“We have everybody back and we’re all healthy. They got a taste of a deep run in the playoffs last year, and I think it made them more hungry for what’s ahead,” Langford said. “Once it was all over with, I think they looked back and saw that we could have played Bushland even closer than we did. I think that helps with their self-esteem and knowing how far we can go this year.”
The Lady Tigers return key contributors in junior outside hitter Logan Smith (co-District 8-4A Most Valuable Player); junior middle blocker Libby Hinton (District Newcomer of the Year); senior setter Emma Bozarth (District Setter of the Year); senior middle blocker Ally Andress (first-team all-district); junior outside hitter Bryanna Lytle (first-team all-district); junior libero Madi Mooney (second-team all-district); and senior right side Laiken McAnear (honorable mention all-district).
“I think the biggest thing from your sophomore to your junior year is you make big changes. I have seen that for years,” said Langford, who is 108-22 (83.1 percent) in three seasons with the Lady Tigers. “They’re going to be a thousand times stronger not just physically but mentally, and the seniors have one more year of experience too.”
Smith and Hinton led the team with 494 and 336 kills, respectively, while Andress tallied 102 and Lytle finished with 74. Hinton (82) and Andress (61) led the team in blocks, respectively, and Smith (451), Lytle (444) and Mooney (288) led the team in digs.
“A lot of those girls have been playing since last season so they have matured and gotten stronger and smarter about the game, and I think it’s really going to benefit us,” Langford said.
The Lady Tigers, who went 14-0 in District 8-4A play, enter the season ranked No. 4 in Class 4A behind No. 1 Bushland, No. 2 Argyle and No. 3 Liberty Hill. Two of the Lady Tigers’ four losses of the year came to Bushland and Argyle — the schools that met in the state final.
“I think we have a big target on our back. Everybody knows that we have the ammo to get it done,” Langford said. “We’ve got a lot of different girls coming from a lot of different things and we have to figure out how to make them a team.
“It’s fun to be ranked fourth, and it’s fun to know that people think that we are a powerhouse, but none of that matters right now.”
The Lady Tigers began practice Tuesday and they will play their first scrimmages of the year today (Friday, Aug. 4) and Saturday in Glen Rose.
Action begins at 8:30 a.m. today with the freshmen playing at the junior high gym, the JV at Tiger Arena and GR Intermediate, and the varsity at the Red Gym.
Competition Friday will include Burleson, Mineral Wells, Brownwood, Tolar, Red Oak, Dublin, Venus and Blum.
Saturday’s scrimmages get underway at 9 a.m. at the same locations with Clifton, Dublin, Mineral Wells, Tolar and Brock.
The Lady Tigers kick off the regular season Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. when they host Waco University at Tiger Arena.
Following the Nike Denton Ryan Classic next Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the Lady Tigers host Joshua Aug. 15 before hosting the Glen Rose Invitational Aug. 17 and 19.
On Aug. 18, the Lady Tigers host Sanger at Tiger Arena.