There’s a youth movement at Midway High School.
After the volleyball program graduated a rarity of a senior class – with six players signing with Division I schools – the Pantherettes are reloading as the volleyball season begins Monday. Notice the reloading. Midway isn’t rebuilding.
“We’re in a good place,” Midway coach Ryan Porter said. “We’re putting in a new defense and trying to figure out everyone’s new role after a great group of girls left. We do have three returning starting varsity players that will be seniors. They’re carrying the young ones while they’re still trying to figure everything out and their role on the team.”
Those three are Kennedy Childers, Emery Judkins and Madison Rohre. Childers and Judkins are adjusting to play outside hitter instead of right side. Rohre will be the starting setter.
“Madison has already committed to go to Abilene Christian,” Porter said. “She’s more than capable of running a great offense. She’s our leader right now. We’ve got a lot of young kids who are trying to get caught up to the speed of varsity play at our level. We don’t play weak teams. We try to play the best teams that are around and see how we match up against them.”
While new faces prepare to continue the winning ways over at Midway, Crawford doesn’t have to deal with shuffling positions and introducing new players to the system. Crawford didn’t graduate anyone from last year’s team that advanced to area.
“It’s a good group of kids,” Crawford coach Jeff Coker said. “They’re kids that get along and like each other. That’s always helpful. With having everyone back and not having to replace anyone, we really can pick up where we left off. We’ve been able to do a lot of things this year early on that normally we would have had to wait a while to do.”
Crawford is already working in different plays and schemes that usually, with new players entering the mix, they weren’t able to do until later on in the season. With that advanced jump in the playbook, Coker hopes it brings some confidence to his team.
“I want them to believe in themselves,” Coker said. “They’re such a talented group of kids. Sometimes maybe last year they didn’t exactly know how good they could be. I just hope they gain confidence throughout the year and keep working hard. Trust the process.”
That message is synonymous with the one being preached over at Midway as the Pantherettes prepare to open their 2017 campaign at Aledo on Monday.
“Our program has been established as one of the best in Central Texas, especially in the Waco area,” Porter said. “When the girls come to play for us, they understand what that means. They understand how hard they’re going to have to work, how competitive it is and the expectations on them. It’s nice to see a group of young kids step into this team and not only understand those roles and already exceeding my expectations for them. I’m incredibly proud of them so far and excited to see what they do this season.”
Crawford’s season begins with a match at West on Tuesday. Along with growing in confidence, Coker hopes to see his squad build off the success of last year.
“We want to win our district,” Coker said. “Then it’s our goal to advance to the playoffs. If we can do that, we’re hoping to make a good run. We’ll see where that takes us.”
For Crawford, it’s all about capitalizing on experience to harness a belief that can further extend its season.
For Midway, it’s about new pieces claiming their territory.
“You can’t replace a group that we just lost,” Porter said. “The group we lost last year is a rarity. A group like that does not come along ever in high school. We were a great college team. But you have to move forward. These are not those girls. They’re a different set. … We’re not trying to replace the group that left. We’re grateful for them. Now I’m going to coach this group of girls to the fullest of their potential and hopefully by the end of the season everyone will be talking about how great this group is instead of last year’s.”