Mineral Wells Index
By TONY EIERDAM
After losing 11 seniors to graduation on last year’s area championship team, Mineral Wells Lady Rams head volleyball coach Taylor Eggleston knew she would be in a rebuilding year as she had to replace five of six starters for the 2013 season.
Add to that the lone returning starter, all-district senior libero Bethany Allen, was moved from the back row to hitter as she played “all the way around” this season.
The Lady Rams struggled early with a tough non-district schedule and finished in fourth place in District 6-3A with a 5-5 record. The mark tied the Lady Rams with Lake Worth for third place.
Since the Lady Rams and Lake Worth split a pair of district games a tiebreaker match was played to determine the third and fourth seeds of the district.
Lake Worth won in four games as MWHS entered the playoffs as the fourth seed. The Lady Rams fell in three games to state-ranked No. 11 Iowa Park in the first round of the playoffs.
Although the young MWHS team did not advance as far as last year’s squad, it has established a program and was the first Lady Rams volleyball team to appear in the playoffs in back to back seasons. In the four years Eggleston has been head coach, the Lady Rams have qualified for the playoffs in three of those years.
“It was encouraging to make the playoffs after losing so many starters and seniors from last year,” Eggleston said. “It was a boost of confidence for the kids who are coming back.
“Next year we will have a set of kids with playing time under their belts, whether it be a lot or a little. I was satisfied with some of the improvements that were made throughout the season – individually and as a team – and I thought the kids adjusted to the things we had to do such as moving BB (Allen) to hitter.
“Everyone adapted to that situation, and they adjusted to the changes I made on the front row. They adjusted to every situation, and it was good to know they could handle those.”
Eggleston will say goodbye to graduating seniors Allen, Erin Burgeson, Brittany Guill, Sydney Vasquez, Ashlynn Robinson and Emiley Loya.
Eggleston has been the head coach every year the seniors have been in the volleyball program.
“It is hard to lose a group like this that is so special to me,” Eggleston said. “I will miss the relationships I have built with them as well as miss their skills on the court.
“Bethany went in as a defensive specialist in my first year and her freshman year in a playoff game and has never left the floor since. The only words I said to her was to not let any ball hit the floor, and she didn’t.
“It’s those kind of things I will miss
“Watching Erin grow as a setter after I pulled her up in her sophomore year was also special, and these are the things I will remember about this class. Same thing with Brittany, too. I pulled her up in her sophomore year. She led in kills in a lot of games this year.
“Sydney Vasquez and Emiley played junior varsity last year but came up this year and were big contributors, and I will also miss Ashlynn although her senior year she was injured most of the time, but she was a big influence on the younger players.
“I will miss this class.”
Next year Eggleston will welcome back libero Mason Malone, hitters Ashley Valdez, Caroline Clarke, Maxi Shultz, Scarlett Eaton, Emily Rogers and Bailey Simonton, defensive specialists Bre Hinojos and Kaleigh Aaron, and setters Riley Bullock and Sami Hickey. Hickey filled in nicely for Bullock as a second setter when Bullock suffered a season-ending injury.
“Both Riley and Sami have excellent potential,” Eggleston said. “I was really proud of how Sami came in this year as a freshman and adapted to the varsity game.”
Eggleston feels the Lady Rams can use offseason work to refine their games individually, but also as a team.
“The returning players have a full season together, and in the offseason we can make more connections and jell as a team,”she said. “We can work more as a cohesive unit as opposed to trying work on working with each other since they have had a year together.
“I feel we will see a more cohesive unit in the off season in April and May as opposed to August like we had to do this year with 11 seniors gone.
The girls will be intense and that will help them to gain confidence.
“I feel that year of experience together goes a long way, and it can’t be understated enough. In other words, we will have a better head start for the 2014 season.”