Last volleyball season was a transitional year for the Uvalde Lobos.
They went into the 2018 season facing lots of changes, including competition in a new, tough district, new players, and the challenge of playing a tough pre-district schedule.
Though they competed well in most of their matches, the Lobos finished toward the bottom third of new District 28-5A.
In their season finale, they played a competitive match against the playoff-bound Southside Lady Cardinals, but lost a 25-21, 25-11, and 25-22 decision.
The Lobos lost close district matches against Floresville and Somerset.
“Against some of the top teams in our district, we played some of our best volleyball. We did not win some of those matches, but we pushed those teams to the limit,” said UHS head volleyball coach Russell McElroy.
“We could have won a few more district matches, but we are still learning how to maintain a high level of play and to finish,” said McElroy.
Though the Lobos did not win many matches last season, they did accomplish a lot of positives.
“Our overall team defense got better as we played more selflessly and played more consistently,” said McElroy. “We saw an increase in offensive production.”
Gone from last year’s Lobos volleyball club are 2019 UHS seniors Deandra Vera, Jessica Guzman, Zaneta Salazar, Kylie Sendejo, Morgan Kenney, Nadia Gonzales, Michaela Contreras, and Makayla Perez.
Led by the return of 2018 volleyball varsity lettermen Shyann Dockal, Makayla Barboza, Tina Guedea, and Shelby Colvin, the Lobos look to improve on last season’s performance.
McElroy will be counting on the development of players coming up from last year’s UHS junior varsity and freshman teams.
Some of the top young prospects going into the 2019 campaign include Ashtyn Leigh, Alexa Luna, Gisselle Martinez, Natalia Santos, Abby Kone, Alexis Silva, and Mia Velasquez.
“There will be eight spots open on the varsity team going into the start of the season. I will be looking to fill those spots with some of our younger players,” said McElroy.
“We played in a tough volleyball district,” said McElroy. “Teams that compete and come through the season at the top of our district have a chance to make a good run in the playoffs.”
Besides the rigorous 16-match district schedule, the Lobos will face a pre-district slate in 2019 that will include matches against Eagle Pass and Bandera, and tournament action at Wimberley, Floresville and San Antonio Christian Academy.
“This summer, we need for our girls to play a lot of volleyball. We need them to commit to being more physically fit,” said McElroy. “The girls need to utilize our summer strength and conditioning program to become quicker, stronger, and able to jump higher.
“We are tying to advance our style to play to a fast up-tempo type of offense, so the kids have to have good ball control and be explosive in their footwork, and be fast with their arm swings,” said McElroy.
Besides physical work, McElroy would like to see his players improve on their mental toughness.
“Being a finisher requires a particular type of frame of mind which goes back to mental toughness, but also to sport IQ,” said McElroy. “Attackers have to know when to swing, when to tip, when to roll, and when to just get the ball across the net however they can so that the team can defend and have another shot at it.
“Other than direct coaching and being put into position for higher level of play, I feel like an athlete who really works to be a student of the game can watch video,” said McElroy. “Even if that video is found online. Watching higher-level teams like Stanford, Nebraska, and Texas. It can be helpful to watch, picking out little things that a player, players, and the team are doing.”
McElroy is optimistic about the UHS program.
“I believe the future of UHS volleyball looks bright,” said McElroy.
“We have a lot of athletes who are hungry to do more than the group ahead of them did,” said McElroy. “Some of our hard-working younger athletes are in the process of maturing and figuring out what it takes to be a real Lobo.
“Our coaches at the junior high level have been working hard to get our upcoming young athletes headed on the correct path,” said McElroy. “Some of those players could impact our program.”
McElroy praised the school district for the support his volleyball program has received.
“We have great support from the district, including everyone at the central office, the athletic office, from our administrators to the classroom teachers, and from the custodial department and transportation department,” said McElroy.
“Thanks go to all of the people in the community who support us though coming to our matches to participating in our fundraising events. Thanks to the booster club, as well,” said McElroy. “Without the support, it would be a real struggle to work toward success, much less to achieve it.”
On May 20, the Lobos will have an end-of-the-year parent-player meeting at 6 p.m. in Harvey Kinchlow Gym.
At the meeting, Coach McElroy and his staff will talk to parents and players about summer expectations, upcoming fund-raising events, and the 2019 season ahead.