Baytown Lee betting on youth in 2019
Building a quality high school program doesn't start at the varsity level.
The work begins down in the middle school ranks, then the continued development through the freshman and junior varsity squads. Having success at those stages usually carries up eventually to the varsity level.
"I've taken a different approach than the previous coaches and I think the girls are buying into it," Baytown Lee coach Chelsea Taylor said. "I'm visiting the middle schools. I'm definitely selling volleyball out there."
Taylor has been building the Baytown Lee program and now she enters year three with her sights set on her youngsters racking up some wins.
"I had a really successful freshman program, so we're looking into that freshman and junior varsity team to bring those girls up," Taylor said. "They'll be a young group, but they're all passionate about the sport. They all love each other, which is a huge deal in girls' athletics."
Last season, Taylor didn't have one of her better offensive players at her disposal due to a season- ending injury. Naomi Hockless tore her ACL last year. She is back for the 2019 campaign, which will help the Ganders offensively.
"She's a powerful offensive player," Taylor said. "She's been working a lot on her defense and she's doing really well. She's a huge offensive player for our program and we need that added spark. We're good defensively, but we've been missing that link. I think she'll bring that puzzle piece to the team."
Overall, Baytown Lee is bringing back four starters from a team that went 6-21 a year ago.
But don't let the record fool you. The Ganders bring back the likes of Marisa Flores, who was named second-team, all-district. Flores finished the year with 581 digs and 43 aces.
"I'm excited for her to come back and bring that defense," Taylor said. "She kind of brings all of the defense together."
Other top returners to watch include Gabrielle Lara (131 kills, 271 digs and 25 aces) and Ti'Tiana Browne (46 kills, 154 digs and 22 aces). Lara is a player that Taylor watched grow and shine last season. She is a very coachable person, Taylor continued. Who can put the ball where she wants it every time.
When talking about Browne, Taylor commended her for the ability to be able to move all over the court and have success wherever she is placed.
"Ti'Tiana is very versatile," Taylor said. "I can throw her almost anywhere and she'll work her butt off to play whatever position I tell her to. She's been a setter, right- side, middle and outside. Wherever I ask her to go, she goes and gives me 100-percent."
Defense was the main focus during the offseason. Being a slightly shorter team, Taylor said they know they must build up their defense with drills to practice protecting the net.
With the work on defense, Hockless coming back and the other top returners back, Taylor believes her program values have fully taken hold on this group.
"I think this season will be a lot different than the past ones because these were the girls I started my program with," Taylor said. "I've only been at Lee for two years, and this group that's coming up is passionate about every sport they play. That's going to be a huge difference going into two-a-days, the attitude going into games.
"If the girls enjoy playing the sport, then that'll show on the court."