Even with temperatures eclipsing 100 degrees, summer is basically over.
Teachers returned to school for inservice on Monday. Students only have one fleeting week of summer vacation until they begin the tedium of another school year (Also, walking outside in this weather carrying a backpack is never an enjoyable experience; the perspiration it causes isn’t a laughing matter).
All of these are really sad developments. Fortunately, this week does contain some good news: football scrimmages begin Friday and volleyball is already underway.
Here are this week’s top storylines from the Hill Country.
1. Friday first look
Friday will give fans their first opportunity to see how their favorite team fares against outside competition. Tivy will scrimmage Boerne at Antler Stadium. Center Point will travel to Comfort to scrimmage the Bobcats and St. Gerard. And Ingram Tom Moore will play a scrimmage against Lyttle.
August scrimmages represent an important milestone in a football season, as they typically expose major team weaknesses, giving coaches an idea of what they need to fix in the next two weeks before the season opener.
Ever since I started writing for the Kerrville Daily Times in 2017, the Antlers have never looked good in their inaugural scrimmage against Boerne. Last August, Tivy’s coaches watched film well past midnight after their first scrimmage against the Greyhounds, identifying areas of growth. They then spent the next week of practice addressing those needs. When the Antlers scrimmaged Killeen Shoemaker the following Friday, they showed noticeable improvement on both offense and defense.
In other words, a poor performance during an August scrimmage shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Instead, coaches can use that first scrimmage to foster team growth. (But if your favorite team impresses in the first tournament, then it’s perfectly rational to assume that the squad is going to go undefeated and win a state title).
2. A promising start
Most people thought that Tivy volleyball was going to experience another rebuilding season.
It was a logical assumption. The Lady Antlers entered this welcoming their third coach in as many seasons, and their star middle blocker, Ava Wampler, had graduated to begin her career at Ole Miss. Savana Trahan, Ally Scheidle, Keirson Jalowy and Paige Melcher were the only players with any varsity experience.
The Lady Antlers’ performance last week, though, suggested that they may surpass preseason expectations. They opened the season with a five-set victory over rival Fredericksburg and went 5-3 at the AISD tournament this weekend, drawing the praise from first-year coach Stephanie Coates.
“AISD Tourney was a great experience for the girls and coaches,” Coates said. “The young squad and the new staff spent quality time building relationships and getting to know teammates and coaches. We played a quality slate of teams with a lot of different styles, and it tested us and allowed us to grow as a team. I’m excited to get the team back in the gym and continue to build with them.
The Lady Antlers (6-3) certainly possess talent this year. Trahan, a UTEP commit, is one of the best liberos in the area. Scheidle is a versatile player who can play defense, set for teammates and deliver kills herself. And Jalowy proved last week that she can be a dangerous outside hitter and a six-rotation player this season.
The hope, of course, is that the Lady Antlers continue to improve during these preseason tournaments and then begin playing their best volleyball during district play. That’s what happened in 2017, when Tivy advanced to the regional finals for the first time since 1978. Through the first 31 games, the Lady Antlers were only 18-13 and 2-3 District 26-5A. But they pushed through the turbulent moments of the season, and hit their stride to win 12 of their final 14 games.
That season should give the Lady Antlers confidence that if they navigate some early growing pains, they will have an opportunity to be special in late October.
3. Ingram volleyball is for real
It’s hard to call a team great in August. After all, people remember great teams for what they accomplish in November, not what they do in August.
But sometimes it’s necessary to call a spade a spade: This Ingram volleyball team is going to be pretty special.
The Lady Warriors opened the season with a five-set win over Class 4A Gonzales. They followed that thrilling performance by winning the Shiner tournament, defeating a solid Hallettsville team in the final.
The Lady Warriors have the pieces to make a deep playoff run this season. They have a dominant outside hitter (Anna Crittenden), an imposing middle blocker (Karlie Bonam) and an ace setter (Makenna Gelsone), plus several other solid six-rotation players.
All those players are really good volleyball players. Now, coach Tony Vela will try to help those players continue to improve as the season progresses.
“We had a great couple of days in Shiner,” Vela said. “We were able to get everyone a lot of reps and that’s what this time of year is all about. … I couldn’t be more proud of how well they executed and to have two of our girls finish with all-tournament awards was great for them. We enjoyed it and are ready to get back in the gym to work and get better.”