New Kid On The Block Johnson Has Pieces In Place To Make Early Splash
Austin area high school volleyball scene, it's time to meet the new kid on the block. Its name is Buda Johnson and it's scheduled to open its inaugural varsity volleyball season in September. It has one year of sub-varsity experience and is already focused on hitting the big time as a member of UIL's 26-5A district. The Jaguars will face a mix of Austin and San Antonio area programs, including Alamo Heights, Boerne Champion, Dripping Springs, New Braunfels Canyon, Kerrville Tivy, Kyle Lehman, San Antonio Veterans Memorial and Seguin.
"The biggest thing for us is continue to work hard every day," said Buda Johnson head volleyball coach Shelly Jones. "We are returning a corp group of young ladies. Opening this varsity season, they understand the expectations set before them and they're ready to compete. They know that our district is one of the hardest in the state, but they also take that as we're the underdogs or the silent assassin. We're going to come in and show them what we're made of. The fact that we're young is not an option for these ladies."
Coach Jones is very familiar with local volleyball from her previous stops at Dripping Springs and Burnet. She learned a lot from her past assistant and head coach experiences and plans to implement important lessons in shaping her latest program's development.
"It helped me in the fact that when I was at Burnet previously before Johnson opened, we had a really young varsity squad as well," said Jones. "I had seven freshmen on that varsity squad. We finished second in the district there under Liberty Hill, a very athletic school. Dealing with the younger squad, you have to work on their mentality, as well as their skill. Basically, it taught me how to bring in the positivity and help these younger athletes develop their mental toughness, especially when you bring in a high level of competition."
"Prior to that, I was actually the assistant at Dripping Springs under Michael Kane," she continued. "So, I learned a lot of tips and tricks to build a program and learned to create an atmosphere of success. There's a few things I've taken from Coach Kane. Our drive to expect the best from our athletes, no matter what age or play level they're at. When we expect the best from each one of them, they're more inclined to rise to that expectation. There are drills that he used with that 2015 state championship team that I took out of that playbook [and] we put into play here at Johnson. So, just mainly creating the atmosphere of high expectation and positive culture is what we strive for right now at Johnson."
Two of the players that will help set the on-court standard for future Buda Johnson volleyball teams will be sophomores Mackenzie Behl and Lana Tello. Both were full-time members of their school's JV team as freshmen and are ready to make the jump to varsity.
"It was very exciting for me," Tello said of last year's experience. "I got to meet new people and make new friends in the game. We got really close fast, so it was really fun playing with all of them."
"We already know what's expected of us," Behl said about the upcoming 2020 season. "We're here to help the freshmen when they come in and help them get on the right track. There was a lot of good competition this year with tryouts. It felt like it was a little tougher than it was last year."
Hays County has enjoyed a lot of volleyball success over the past decade, with Dripping Springs winning the 2015 UIL 5A state championship and Hays producing Missouri commit Trista Strasser and Texas State signee Ryann Torres the last two years. So, expect more local challenges to prepare Buda Johnson for successful years to come.
"Being that [Hays County is] a volleyball hotbed is an advantage for us because our kids will be seen," said Jones. "But at the same time, it gives us an opportunity to establish our name as well. We have some young ladies here that are already being looked at for Division I opportunities, and I think that we will continue to aid their success in the athletic department. We have some very notable assistant coaches on our staff as well that have played at Division I levels and also provide extra opportunities for these young ladies to get better reps in."
Everyone currently involved with Buda Johnson volleyball understands the expectations that come with the location that they're based, so goals are starting to be set. That includes the team's aim at multiple postseason appearances by the time Behl and Tello graduate in 2023 and Tello's push for the program dig record.
"Our goal for that first senior class is to at least make playoffs and get into the area playoff round," said Jones. "If we can continue to grow with the strength that these young ladies have so far, we definitely have a shot getting out of the area playoffs. Our goal ultimately is state, but that's everybody's goal. In the district that we're in, it's definitely setting a high expectation. We're trying to remain realistic. With this being our first year, our goal is to be in that top four and show everybody what we can bring to the table."
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