Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

August 9, 2013

GC Volleyball Preview: Corsicana has speed, high hopes

New York — Speed.

They say it kills.

That’s just fine with the Corsicana volleyball team. After all, that’s the whole idea this year — speed up the game and produce more kills.

It’s fast and furious with a touch of bump-set-kill.

“Our game is so much faster,’’ said Briana Biltz, the team’s senior setter and one of the leaders for the Tigers. “And it’s so much better.’’

Biltz even talks fast about the new game at Corsicana, her words a metaphor to just how fast things have changed for the Tigers.

“Quicker passes, quicker sets, quicker kills,’’ Biltz said in rapid speech, spitting out the words like a machine gun, tat-tat-tat.

Blame the new NASCAR approach to volleyball on Ashley Grace, a smart and savvy coach who has brought a new strategy and a new energy to Corsicana’s program — and a winning mentality.

“I feel like it’s a new beginning for the program because of the new coach,’’ said MaKenzie Lee, a senior and one of the leaders of the team. “I like her mindset. It’s the mindset we needed to win.’’

Grace, 33, grew up in Kerens and coached as an assistant at Mildred before going to Mineola and turning the program around there. Mineola’s program was struggling when Grace arrived, and three years later her team had made back-to-back trips to the playoffs and was ranked 15th in the state.

She left Mineola when her husband Cody got a job as an assistant coach at Corsicana. She was hired and she coached the JV team last year. That team went 17-4.

“We’re excited about the new season,’’ Biltz said. “The new offense is something different for all of us to learn, but on the first day of practice we were killing it.’’

Grace changed the defense, too, and the kids on her team want to change — they want to win.

“They all have to buy into the program,’’ Grace said. “And I think they have. After the first practice you could see the energy was there, and the want-to-do-more and the want-to-get-better was extremely present.’’

Biltz and Lee both started last year and will be counted on to lead the team this year, and the Tigers bring back Cecilia Lopez, a 5-4 senior, and Jenny Garcia, a 5-3 senior, who are defensive specialists.

Mckala Goodwin, a 5-9 senior, played some at outside hitter last year and sophomores Mychellette Andrews, a 5-9 hitter, and Teleia Braziel, a defensive specialist, both moved up from the JV team to the varsity last year and played during the second half of the season.

Biltz’s younger sister, Caroline, is a 5-9 freshmen who could help the team as an outside hitter. Caroline played for the Waco 14-and-under club team that finished third in a national tournament this summer.

“She’s an up and coming freshman who could have an impact on our season as an outside hitter,’’ Grace said. “They all have a role on the team, and they are all important to the program.’’

Corsicana will have 12 players and Grace said she is going to go with, “Whatever combination it takes to get the best six on the court.’’

The Tigers finished fifth in District 16-4A last year, but the feeling at Corsicana is that those days are over.

“One of our goals is to win the district and make the playoffs,’’ Lee said. “That’s one of our goals. Our whole mindset has changed. We went from believing we can do it to actually knowing we can do it.’’

Lee said in the new defensive alignment she can read the opponents so much better, seeing what’s going to happen before it happens — having a sense of where the ball is going.

The Tigers all know where they want to be heading, optimism mingling with a new sense of purpose.

“There’s a new level of confidence that just wasn’t here,’’ Lee said.

Briana Biltz said even though the team is going through a learning period that everyone feels the end result will produce a season no one will forget.

“The atmosphere is different,’’ she said. “As a group we feel like we can meet our expectations. We’re more confident. Just the fact she has confidence in us to do what we need to do to win gives us confidence.’’

They will have time to adjust to the new offense and new defense. The season begins Tuesday with a pair of home games against Waco and Fairfield and the Tigers play in the Fairfield Tournament, beginning Thursday, but the first district game isn’t until Sept. 27 at home against Whitehouse.

Full speed ahead...

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