Lady Titans replacing seniors, coach from state semifinalist team
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
There are some new faces around the Carl Albert volleyball team.
The Lady Titans graduated seven seniors and replaced their coach from last year’s state semifinalist team. But the expectations remain high for the team that’s reached the state tournament five years in a row.
“There have been a lot of changes, but we have a lot of good and talented girls here,” said sophomore Kaleigh Stuart. “We’ll make the best of it and push each other to get back to state.”
Tabitha McCray was named the head coach after Hayden Robbins left for a job at Yukon High School. McCray coached Midwest City High School for the past two years as well as club volleyball. She said it was hard to leave MCHS but believes it was the right move.
“I wasn’t looking to move but Hayden Robbins told me she was leaving and encouraged me to apply,” McCray said. “And it couldn’t have been more of a blessing. The environment has been welcoming from the moment I stepped in. The drive and compassion the team has is something that I knew I needed to be part of.”
McCray has been impressed with the team’s focus and chemistry.
“These girls have a drive and are believing in themselves this season,” she said. “I’ve seen from May until now, how they’ve leveled up every single day. If they do not win state, I’d be shocked.”
The Lady Titans have several girls ready to step into leadership roles this season.
Juniors Eden Schroeder and Kristin Stoeser will play on the outside. Both saw playing time last year and have stepped up their game this offseason.
“They will be a force to be reckoned with this year,” McCray said. “They’re leaders, they’re loud and they want to be here. When they’re on the back row they help guide setters to get around blocks. And they take constructive criticism and can instantly put it in place.”
Stuart played varsity last year alongside her sister Madison who graduated in May. This year she’ll fill in at setter.
“I can’t say enough great things about her,” McCray said. “She’s one of the best setters I’ve seen in a long time. She can swing as well as has a powerful serve.”
Senior Kamryn Flynt will play libero for the Lady Titans.
“She’s stepped up and become a vocal leader for us,” McCray said. “She gets here early and stays late and is encouraging for our freshman.”
Senior Rylee Reese also returns after working her way into the lineup last year. Reese, who also plays tennis at CAHS, will play middle blocker this year.
“She has improved leaps and bounds from May until now,” McCray said. “She wants to work hard and brings a competitive mentality from tennis.”
Sophomore Chandler Cordray also saw playing time last year and will help as a flex player.
The team also welcomed two newcomers in sophomore Cherish Watson and senior Leighanne Reimer. Both played at Midwest City last year.
The Lady Titans believe they have the talent on the court to succeed and are working hard to develop the mental side of the game.
“The mental game is a big part of volleyball. We need to be mentally strong and not get drained and tear each other down,” Flynt said.
McCray wants her team to develop more confidence when they face top teams.
“We need to be mentally prepared for every game,” McCray said. “The only thing that will keep this team back is mental toughness.”
McCray said she saw flashes of that during the recent OBU team camp. She said the girls got down during scrimmages before rallying together.
The Lady Titans had a pair of scrimmages this week against Cache and the Putnam City schools. They open the regular season Aug. 10 at OCS followed by the Coweta Tournament on Aug. 11-12.