Rosehill Christian looks for playoff run in volleyball
The Tomball Rosehill Christian volleyball team made the playoffs last season, but their stay was short-lived.
They’re looking to stick around a while this time.
The 2017 TAPPS volleyball playoffs tip off Friday, Oct. 27.
“I don’t want it to be a stressful time for them,” coach Leslie Jennings said. “I want them to enjoy the game and play as well as we can play.
“But if we play as well as we’re capable of playing, we should go far in the playoffs.”
The Eagles were 6-4 overall and 3-3 in TAPPS District 7-3A going into the final week of the regular season.
They finish district play Thursday, Oct. 12, at Brazos Christian.
Last year, the Eagles went 10-12-1 and 6-2 in district, finishing second to Spring Frassati before falling to San Antonio Lutheran in the first round. But they graduated most of that group, leaving Jennings with a small, younger team, including three returning starters and only two seniors.
Then they lost a tournament and two non-district matches because of Hurricane Harvey, and another tourney was cancelled.
“It’s less touches on the ball,” Jennings said. “So we had to figure out rotations and everything else the first half of district play. So it’s been a rough go, but we’ve figured it out and we’re getting better.”
Jennings also had to figure out how to replace Erin Venette.
The sophomore middle blocker tore her ACL playing lacrosse over the summer, forcing her to miss the entire season.
“I had to pull in a left-side hitter, my other senior (Emily Winkler), and put her in the middle, which has worked out great,” Jennings said. “She’s done a great job in the middle. She just stepped up and did what needed to be done.”
They versatile Winkler is one of two captains, along with senior Georgia Barnhart.
Other key players include junior defensive specialists Makenna McGee and Caleigh Barbato, sophomores outside hitter Lauren Chesshir and setter Amanda Delanater, and freshman OH Alexis Swain.
Barnhart is the team’s go-to player – for anything they need.
“She’s a hard worker, a good kid on the court and a good kid off the court,” Jennings said. “She’s one of those players that coaches love to have on their team.”
The 5-9 middle supplied 23 kills in Rosehill’s five-set win over Pasadena First Baptist last Thursday, Oct. 5, at home.
She had 99 kills, 103 digs and 27 blocks through 10 matches.
“Georgia is our big, hard hitter,” Jennings said. “Emily, our other middle, is more of a placement hitter.
“She doesn’t hit as hard, but she can place the ball consistently.”
Both hitters also take on a key defensive role when they’re in the middle on the back row, along with Barbato.
“We are mostly a defensive team,” Jennings said. “We don’t have a lot of height, so we have to dig a ball and tire the other team out.”
Jennings said Chesshir is their up-and-coming hitter, and a player to keep an eye next year.
Swain, another strong outside, is transitioning to a setting role in Jennings’ 6-2 attack, which also features Delanater.
“It gives me a lot more options with … this team, and they still transition very well if I say, ‘OK, we’re going to run a 5-1 right now,’” Jennings said.
Rosehill beat First Baptist 23-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-17, 15-8 to improve to 6-4.
After closing out the regular season, the Eagles play a warm-up match with Providence on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at home.
Then it’s on to the playoffs and, hopefully, a spot in the state tourney next month in Waco.
“I have a smart team this year,” Jennings said.
“They cover each other well, they move around the court well, and they can move each other around, so I don’t have to do a whole lot on the sideline. They do it all on the court, which is great.”
Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.