Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

October 8, 2012

Tiger Tuesday: Moving up

Tigers’ improvement finds volleyball team in playoff hunt

By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — A new week doesn’t mean the Tigers volleyball team needs to forget about the one that has passed.

No, they need to embrace it and build on it.

A Tiger team that had started out 0-3 in District 16-4A catapulted into fourth place in district last week with wins over Nacogdoches and Jacksonville. Four teams make the playoffs, so Corsicana would be back in the postseason for a second straight year if the regular season ended today.

What a difference a week makes.

Actually, what a different 23 matches make. That’s how many times the Tigers have played — they’re 13-10 overall, 2-3 in district — and players on Amber Feist’s roster have either improved on the varsity, or played their way into the rotation from the junior varsity.

The Tigers are better, and Feist said she sees it being a trend for the rest of the season.

“I’m confident we can take care of our business in the second round of district,” Feist said.

The Tigers lost their first three district matches to the three teams ahead of them in the standings — first-place Lindale (5-0), who the Tigers play on the road Tuesday; second-place Tyler John Tyler (4-1), who comes to Tiger Gym on Friday; and the team directly in front of Corsicana in the standings, Whitehouse (3-2), who comes to Tiger Gym next Tuesday.

The Tigers will finish out on the road their final two district matches against Nacogdoches (1-4) and Jacksonville (0-5). If the second half holds to form, wins in those two matches should clinch at least the fourth playoff spot.

Feist wants more and believes her team can do it. She sees the improvement across her roster.

“I definitely do (think we’re better),” Feist said. “We’ve also changed the lineup so it’s helped us tremendously.”

Rebecca Bentz moved from the middle to the left, and that has opened up her game from an attacking standpoint. She leads the Tigers in kills.

That allowed Tamera White to move to middle blocker and her game has taken off. She had 11 blocks in last week’s win over Nacogdoches, playing a central role in that victory.

I’m a volleyball novice, but from covering the sport, I’ve always found blocking to be the most underrated part of the game. A solid blocking team controls a match defensively and can change the momentum. White did that last week.

“She’s just better,” Feist said. “It’s all starting to click for her. She’s very determined. She’s also hitting well.”

Outside hitter Briana Biltz, a junior, also has made big strides. Kenzie Lee plays the block setter and does it well, often teaming up with White to make a difference.

Maddie Andrews, one of the team’s best servers and a senior, found her game last week.

“She’s playing better and better every game,” Feist said.

Jessica Hasugulig, a senior, took over at libero when Cecelia Lopez sustained a concussion and has taken over the position. Lopez is still a key player because she is an excellent server.

“Jessica keeps are energy up,” Feist said. “She talks to everybody. It’s a collective effort really.”

Feist is right. The Saipongis, Jennifer and Josey, have made key contributions. As have juniors Jennifer Garcia, Jordan Terry and McKala Goodwin.

Then there are the freshmen. Feist brought up Mychell Andrews, Jasmine Estelle and Teleia Braziel from the junior varsity during the season and all have made impacts.

Mychell Andrews is quick footed and has filled in at middle blocker when White is out. Estelle and Braziel have meshed well with their teammates and have helped the Tigers as defensive specialists.

Add it all up and this is a Tigers group playing their best volleyball as the matches get more important, starting Tuesday.

It’s helped deal with the challenge of a tough district, one that’s been just as competitive as the nine-team one the Tigers played in the last two seasons.

“It’s been exactly what I thought it would be,” Feist said. “I never thought it would be easy when I switched. My belief was it’s a challenge and that’s what it’s been.”