Newcomer Lee adds elite talent to loaded Tigers
One of the newest faces for the Katy High volleyball team is a familiar one.
Senior outside hitter Chandler Lee transferred to the Tigers from rival Katy Taylor during the spring. Not even a week into this season, she's already made a considerable impact.
Lee, who averaged 3.7 kills and 2.7 digs per set to go with 21 aces and 20 blocks for the Mustangs last year, adds another versatile, skilled hitter to an already loaded Katy team ranked No. 8 in VYPE's Class 6A preseason rankings. She was named to the Greater Houston Volleyball Coaches Association Class 6A postseason team last year.
The rich is richer.
"What's great about Chandler is she lets things go," coach Karen Paxton said. "It's just volleyball, and I think that's helped her blend in right away. It's easy for someone with her talent to step in and just play."
Paxton said Lee's smile is "contagious," which is notable because Lee has a lot to smile about these days.
"I feel I have less pressure on me," Lee said. "I'm able to work more with my teammates and there's others who can share the load. One thing we do a lot here is move the ball around, which I'm not used to. There's so many more different plays. It's a good thing being able to play with people like me."
Lee, who can touch a 10-foot-high basketball rim, has a knack for innate ball placement and "tooling" blockers, which means strategically placing a hit to get the ball deflected off the bodies or hands of opponents.
Paxton said Lee has worked hard on her all-around game. As a result, Paxton uses Lee in multiple positions.
"She's so good, and I'm so excited to play with her instead of against her," senior setter Maddie Waak said. "She jumps so high and hits the ball hard from a high contact point. She hits balls that not a lot of people are ready for."
Lee stepped into an ideal situation. Because she moved to the Katy High zone with months to spare before the start of a new season, she had ample time getting acclimated to her new teammates and new environment. She is also familiar with program stalwarts Waak and senior middle Jordan Gamble, having played club volleyball with them.
"When you're a new player moving to a new school, I feel like a big thing is to help the other players here get better," Lee said. "I'm just trying to bring up the competition here at the school."
Indeed, Paxton said she is excited about how competitive the team is on a daily basis.
The Tigers were great without Lee. They made it to the regional final for the first time since 1993 last season, and nine returners are back, including LSU commit Waak (a four-year letterman), Northwestern State commit Gamble (three-year letterman), senior libero Izzy Denton (three-year letterman), and senior Kailey Wyckoff, a two-year letterman and another NCAA DI athlete with state championship experience in softball.
Paxton said with the foundation, tradition and culture put in place by those nine returners, newcomers just have to come in and play their game. Nothing more, nothing less.
With Lee, however, the Tigers have the potential to be flat-out dominant. Lee's leadership skills and consistent, efficient power hitting add more and more to a team with great expectations.
"I've never experienced going to the playoffs as a high school volleyball player," Lee said. "I truly believe this is a team that can go far in the playoffs, and hopefully make it to state. That's my main goal."