By Jeff Harrison
Experienced and talented were two words to describe the Carl Albert volleyball team the past few seasons.
The Lady Titans advanced to the regional finals the past two years with help of a strong group of upperclassmen.
While the team still has talent, graduation wiped out nearly all of their experience. The team lost 10 seniors from last year including Mat Hunter, an all-state selection.
“Those girls (last year’s senior class) worked hard and set the tone for our program moving forward,” said coach Toriano Lands. “This year we’ll be extremely young and we’ll take some lumps.”
Renee McBride-Rogers is the team’s only returning starter. The junior has been one of the team’s top players the past two seasons. She will continue to be a force at outside hitter, while assuming new leadership duties.
“This year is different because I haven’t played with a lot of the younger girls before,” she said. “And now those girls are looking up to me.”
Lands believes McBride-Rogers can help continue the positive momentum from last year with the younger players.
“I really expect her to flourish this year,” he said. “She’s played since she was a freshman and had to take a backseat to the older girls.”
The team will also look for leadership from seniors Chae Morbley, Becca Bond, Summer Schultz, Hannah Abla and Amber Garcia. Of the group, Morbley is the only one that saw much varsity action last year.
The Lady Titans have made strides this offseason through workouts, conditioning and a summer league they hosted. Several players have also improved through club volleyball and beach volleyball.
“The whole thing started that Monday after the regional tournament,” Lands said. “One thing I love about this group is when you give them a task, whatever it is, they do it. They have been tearing it up in the weight room and tearing it up in workouts. They know that’s what it’s going to take to get where we want to be.”
Carl Albert will likely find many of tests in their schedule this season. Lands expects defending state champion Mount St. Mary, Shawnee and Noble to be among the top teams in Class 5A this fall.
The Lady Titans open their season Tuesday at Midwest City.