Photo: Jerry Baker, Houston Chronicle / Contributor
Last year, Bridgeland participated in its first varsity season in Class 6A under third-year head coach Verena Khalil.
They missed postseason by two games.
Heading into their third season with seniors on the roster, Khalil says the Lady Bears are finally physically ready to compete against seniors.
“They want to go to playoffs, that’s what their goal is,” Khalil said.
Bridgeland opened in 2017, participating in junior varsity with freshmen and sophomores. After two years, Bridgeland has its first senior class in 2019-20.
Khalil says the key to success is hard work the team has done just that. From taking time in their private lives to play club volleyball; in school to work hard and putting 100% into every off season practice they have; to growing themselves in the weight room, on the court and in skill training.
“They are just ready and they’re hungry this year,” Khalil said.
Bridgeland finished 20-16 overall and tied for fifth place in District 14-6A last year.
Cy Ranch and Tomball Memorial finished as co-District champs with a 13-3 record while Bryan and Langham Creek tied for third place at 11-5. Bridgeland and Cy Woods were next at 9-7.
“I think it has to be one of the toughest districts we have in the city,” Khalil said. “I know this will be a tough year for us. But I think the team is going to rise to that and fight their hardest.”
Last year was tough not only because the team had no seniors, but because it was the Lady Bears’ first year diving into the varsity competitive atmosphere.
“The girls got a reality that we have to be more competitive, we have to play faster, we have to put everything into every game,” Khalil said.
Bridgeland did take a few teams to five sets during the 2018-19 season including Cy Woods twice, Cy Ranch and Bryan.
“We fought hard, but it wasn’t quite enough last year,” Khalil said.
However, the Lady Bears’ team is unique among other district teams who graduated seniors last year. This year, every Lady Bear returns. Khalil says the girls are excited about the season.
They’re currently 12-1 in preseason play.
“I know our goal is playoffs, and that is what they are fighting for every single time they step out onto the court,” Khalil said. “So, I think we have a good chance at it.”
The Lady Bears participated in the 2019 KISD/CFISD 48-team varsity tournament, Aug. 8-10, and finished third overall with a 6-1 record.
In day one, the team swept Paetow, Cy Ridge and Klein Collins. In day two, they beat Cy-Fair (2-1) and Memorial (2-0) and swept Tompkins in round 3. In day three, they were swept by Cinco Ranch in the gold bracket but came back to beat Oak Ridge (3-2) after being down one set.
Bridgeland also had a three-game sweep of Huntsville, Waller and Carnegie Vanguard, Aug. 15, at the Spring ISD Varsity Classic.
“Finishing third gave them a lot of insight and competitive spirit for the rest of the year,” Khalil said about the KISD/CFISD tournament. “I know the girls now are driving and pushing every game to make it to that next level, get to playoffs and go beyond.”
The squad starts with senior captain libero Makensie Garner, who was named 14-6A Newcomer of the Year last year, and outside hitter Katie Kessler, who made first-team All-District.
“Those are definitely two outstanding players,” Khalil said.
Khalil says middle blocker Aidan Conner and right-side hitter Alyssa McMorris are two seniors that compete every game, are high in stat categories and make a difference on the court.
The kill leader last year and so far this year is junior outside hitter Emily Adams, who made second-team All-District in 2018 along with sophomore middle blocker Karrington Kays. Junior Jessica Frannea and Emerson Sykes are two crucial setters, according to Khalil, with both earning All-District honorable mention last year.
There’s also senior defensive specialist Hannah Groemminger, Alexis Vaughn, junior defensive specialist Izzy Serralde, sophomore right side Mallorie Garner, Emily Marks and freshman Kennedy Kays.
After opening in 2017, Khalil says the team has finally caught up in age to its competition. At the same time, Khalil recognizes that competition in Houston will still be tough.
“I want them to know that every game is a battle and every game has to be all that we have so that we get to the next level,” Khalil said.
Khalil knows this is an important year for them, and with year three of the program underway, seeing the Lady Bears accomplish their goals would be special for Khalil, who has formed a bond with her players.
“I’m excited for what the rest of the year has for them and for what they can prove to themselves that they can achieve at that next higher level,” Khalil said. “We’re hungry, respect our opponents and we just want to compete and show them what we have.”