Pringle steps in, steps up for Austin volleyball
Fort Bend Austin's volleyball team has had its share of adversity this season, leading to an inauspicious start for the Bulldogs, who boast legitimate district title aspirations.
It took a couple of weeks for the UIL to clear junior transfer Carli Banks, expected to play a significant role on the outside for Austin. Banks' absence contributed to four losses in the first five games. Stud sophomore middle Adell Murray, who had 122 kills and 30 blocks in 2020, suffered a knee injury during the summer and is out for the season.
Fortunately, one of the bright spots for coach Kristin Goodman has been the rapid emergence of junior middle Ellie Pringle.
When Goodman learned in early August of Murray's season-ending injury, she immediately fired off a text message to Pringle. "Hey, you're the next one up," Goodman wrote. "You've got this."
Pringle, who is also a track and field and soccer standout, was ready.
"It made me process that this was really it," Pringle said. "This was my time. I haven't really had that much volleyball experience, and it made me want it more and practice harder. It made me realize I could actually do something with this. Being there, stepping up and being a leader on the team has been big for me."
Pringle has 43 kills and 29 total blocks through 19 games this season. Not shabby for someone who doesn't play club volleyball and only started playing the sport four years ago.
"It's easy with her because she wants it," Goodman said. "She's got the drive. I think the other girls supporting her and being there for her is also big. They don't think any less of her just because she doesn't have that club experience. She's always in the gym and working. As long as she has that confidence, I knew she'd be able to step right in."
It's been no easy task trying to replace the production of Murray, a first-team all-district talent. But Pringle has performed admirably.
A natural athlete, Pringle is one of three team captains because of her work ethic. Goodman said players see how hard Pringle works, and "when you do the right thing and do what's expected of you, you get to reap the rewards."
"For me, it's been about giving my all in practice," Pringle said. "That's the only place I know I can continue to improve, since I'm not going to private lessons or doing club. Pushing myself and asking coach for advice, tips and recommendations have been important for me."
Goodman said Pringle has shown improved shot selection and better aggressiveness. Pringle gets on top of the ball so well because of her considerable vertical leap and can get up in the air and get a touch on almost every block.
"Her energy is such a boost, but she's also aggressive," Goodman said. "She's very smart, so she can quickly read the court and not go up and swing every time. I've been pushing her to get her confidence up and up, and she knows next year, when (star senior middle) Gabby (Johnson) is gone, it's her and Adell. This is a great opportunity for her to step up."
Murray had knee surgery Aug. 17. She is expected to return in time for club season.
In the meantime, Murray, revered for a beyond-her-years volleyball IQ, is serving as an unofficial assistant coach to Goodman, who will leave the team in October on maternity leave, and is an invaluable mentor to Pringle, who has risen from third on the depth chart last year to prominent contributor this year.
"Who knows at this point, right?" Pringle said. "As long as I keep pushing myself, I think the sky's the limit."