Carl Albert High School has been a home champions in several sports over the years. And the Lady Titans volleyball team believes this could be their chance.
With a strong returning cast and energetic new coach, expectations are sky for the team that came up one win shy of the state tournament last season.
“We’re trying to change the culture here and instill a tradition of winning that the school has in other sports,” said head coach Toriano Lands. “The girls are responding great and I really see us making a strong run to a state title this year.”
Lands is a Carl Albert graduate and veteran club and beach volleyball coach. He is entering his fifth year as director of the of Stingray VBA.
Senior Emily Norman said they agree with Lands’ assessment and hope to put the sport on the map with a big 2016 campaign.
“We have a lot of pride in our program and people support us but we’ve never been a powerhouse,” she said. “And we have a lot of drive to change that.”
The Lady Titans will be led by a large senior class and a handful of talented underclassmen. The returning cast includes; seniors Matt Hunter, Sydney Breckenridge, Cali Walker, Madi Schroeder, Kenzie Holland, Mariah Carter and Norman, who all started or saw significant varsity action last season. Amare Weary is back after missing last season with injury.
Carl Albert should be a tough at the net. Hunter, Breckenridge and sophomore Renee McBride-Rogers are solid outside hitters. Walker, Holland and Weary give them a lot of size in the middle.
“Cali Walker keeps things light with the team and is a hard worker,” Lands said. “And teams are going to have a lot of trouble hitting around Amar’e Weary and Kenzie Holland.”
The team will rely on Carter, Norman and Schroeder to anchor the back row.
Freshmen Abby Boyer and Christin Fox will also figure in the mix. Boyer is a hard hitter on the outside. Fox will give the Lady Titans toughness in the back row. Lands said both have the talent to play on varsity but need to improve their
consistency and technique.
“Abby has a heavy hand. Anything she touches is hit hard,” Lands said. “And Christin Fox is the type of player you look for in the back row. She’s willing to step in front of any ball.”
Lands believes the team’s blend of experience, athleticism and depth will make them a tough matchup for anyone. The key to making a long run will be discipline and unity.
“We have a ton of hitters that can step in and great setters to get it going,” he said. “The only reason we wouldn’t win state is if someone has a meltdown. Our main thing is staying together as a team.”
The Lady Titans experienced flashes of success a year ago. After an up and down regular season, they upset Collinsville in the first round of regionals only to fall to Southeast in the finals.
“That (loss to Southeast) drives use even more,” Hunter said. “We came so close and now we know we can get there. And with so many seniors on the team, we want to go out with a bang.”
Carl Albert opens its season at home Aug. 8 against Midwest City.