VYPE Media visits Aldine MacArthur High School as we bring in Generals head volleyball coach Lynda Eastland and stars, Sarahangel Bazan and Jasmine Rutledge, to discuss the state of the program heading into 2019.
VYPE Media presents Aldine MacArthur Volleyball 2019
Throughout the offseason, MacArthur has had a motto it has pretty much come to live by in everything they do.
"We Work" is the phrase shouted as the team breaks in anything it is doing. But the work isn't just being done on the court.
"Basically, we work," MacArthur coach Lynda Eastland said. "We do what it takes whether it's on the court, off the court, classroom, community, offseason or the summer... they put in the work."
Last season, MacArthur finished 20-17 overall and went 10-4 in District 16-6A play, tying them for second place with Aldine Davis. It marked the 10th-straight playoff appearance for the program.
"We had a lot of mistakes when it came to schools that we don't usually lose to," Aaliyah Callaway said. "So, this year we want to better ourselves in the areas that we were weak in. For district, that's what we want to focus on."
Coming off that year, MacArthur does have to replace District 16-6A Hitter of the Year Myracle Lettries and first teamers April Price and Xaviera Urrabazo.
Despite having to replace those pieces, Eastland (12th season at MacArthur) is excited about the group coming back, especially on defense.
"I have a really athletic, strong bunch that is coming back," Eastland said. "They put in a lot of work. We will be led by our defense. Our liberos and defensive specialists are seniors, so they've been around the game. We'll be able to defend a lot better. We have bigger girls that are coming in strong."
Defensively, MacArthur returns first-team, all-district selection Sarahangel Bazan (libero/defensive specialist) to lead the group. On the offensive side, there is a youth movement, which is good for Eastland and the Big Mac future.
Setter Jasmine Rutledge can play anywhere on the court, according to Eastland. She was one of only two freshmen to make an all-district team. The other was Spring's Casey Sessions.
"She definitely came in stronger and more of a role model," Eastland said. "She's able to pave the way for other freshmen who are coming in. They can see what she did and they want to emulate her. They want to do the same thing,
if not better. She's developed a lot and I'm kind of deciding where I'm going to play her."
When she does set. Rutledge will be firing it towards junior Laila Holmes and Callaway. Callaway says that the team has put in the work this offseason with hopes of being the top squad in district.
"We just went the extra mile to be greater than everyone else," Callaway said. "Whether it's on or off the court. Whether it's within ourselves or as a team. We're putting in that extra mile to have that mental health so we can endure through the season and be our best."
Other players to watch this year at MacArthur include Jacqueline Gonzalez (DS), Alicia Lofton (S) and Lorena Gomez (S).
In this district, to be the best you must beat the best, which of late has been Spring. The Lions went 14-0 a year ago and only lost five of its 49 sets played in district contests.
"Spring won the district, but I wouldn't bet on it," Eastland said. "I believe in my girls and they believe in me. We believe in each other as a program. It's a sisterhood, it's a family. A family that works together, stays together."
"It's our time, it's our season."
District-mate Aldine Davis brings back firepower to contend for that top spot as well. Having this kind of competition fuels Eastland's squad, which has two goals in mind for 2019.
District championship. First round playoff victory.
"We don't frown on the competition, we enjoy competition," Eastland said. "But we've really set our sights past that. We've talked about this all offseason. I think they're hungry for it.
"They want that district championship. They want to play in the Campbell Center and want to get out of the first round."