By Taylor Grafft
There is an excitement building in the Liberty Hill Junior High School gym and on the volleyball courts as the coaches and teams are gearing up for their 2014 season.
On the second day of school, the coaches will hold tryouts and run drills and stations to test a variety of skills of the seventh and eighth grade girls. Those tryouts usually run for three to four days while the coaches decide the teams.
Coach David Mechell tries not to worry too much about who makes the team or what the team’s record will be, but more about teaching the girls the basics and fundamentals of volleyball, as well as putting them in the best position to succeed once they get to the high school level.
“I try not to worry too much about records and all,” said Mechell. “We just try to teach the girls as much as they can handle and get them as prepared for high school/varsity as much as we can and our record will hopefully take care of itself.”
This season, the Panthers will be adding Taylor and Salado to their districts, which will provide different faces and new challenges. Mechell believes that they have a solid district schedule with the new additions and expects all their opponents to be tough throughout the season. One in particular is a tournament in Georgetown, which has always been a good test for the teams in the past and shown them some areas where they are doing well, and areas they need to improve.
Mechell said that he’s not sure who will be a key player for him this season on the eighth grade team because there is a lot of maturing and growing between seventh and eighth grade, but he is excited to see their improvement and offseason work.
“The biggest (thing) I feel the girls need to know and need to do desperately is to make their own name for themselves and make a statement that is unique to them,” Mechell said. “Last year and even teams from the past have no bearing on what takes place this year. They need to own this year and make the best of every practice, every game, and every opportunity.”
One of Mechell’s biggest draws to coaching at Liberty Hill, and the reason he loves his job, has been the support that the parents and community have proved to him and the elite athletes that the area has produced over the years.
“I love being at Liberty Hill because we have such a great following from the parents and the community,” Mechell said. “Everyone really pulls together and supports one another on and off the floor and it makes being here such a joy and privilege.”
Mechell has also had the support from his assistant coaches who he says do a great job of preparing the girls for the season and play a big role in their progess and development.
“Coach Pinkus and Coach Pollet will be here this year and they both have done a great job in volleyball camp and two-a-days and I know that will translate into pushing the players at the junior high to perform to their greatest potential,” Mechell said. “That’s one of the many great things about Liberty Hill, we have some of the best coaches around and they put in the hours and the effort to make our program a success year in and year out.”
Once the teams are decided and put together in the first week of school, the girls and coaches will look to improve on their records from last season and try to win a district title against the solid new district that has been formed by the realignment.