FISCHER — For Canyon Lake senior setter Cassidy Felps, portions of the 2018 volleyball season left she and her teammates feeling a bit underwhelmed.
“Last year at the end we began to struggle and we lost a couple of games that we shouldn’t have lost,” Felps said.
The Lady Hawks didn’t have a bad year by any means, as head coach Kimberly Clemons’ team won 18 matches, made another trip to the postseason and added a bi-district championship trophy to the case outside the gym. Still, Felps and the team’s other three returning seniors — Caroline Kullberg, Kayla Wunderlich and Lainee Moses — are committed to doing whatever it takes to avoid another late-season lull.
That’s because they witnessed firsthand what they felt was lacking throughout the 2018 campaign.
“Leadership definitely played a big role,” Wunderlich said. “No one took action. We depended on our seniors to do that, and they just didn’t step in.”
Moses said it came as no surprise that the team never truly found its groove.
“Our games were never perfect,” Moses said. “Either our defense would be on and our offense would be off, or our offense would be on and our defense would be off. Honestly, I think it never really clicked the way we wanted it to.
“All four of us have taken on leadership roles for these girls, and so I think that’s one big thing that will help this year.”
Due to the abbreviated period of time for tryouts this season, Canyon Lake will lean on the quartet of Felps, Kullberg, Wunderlich and Moses in the early going.
Felps posted a team-high 421 assists last year and hauled in all-district honorable mention honors, while Moses patrolled the back row and notched 380 digs as a libero/defensive specialist in addition to earning all-district second team designation. Kullberg and Wunderlich, both outside hitters, provided 131 and 105 kills, respectively, while each claiming honorable mention from District 28-4A.
Also due back on the court for the Lady Hawks this year are letterwinners Megan Vorhis, a sophomore middle blocker, and Kaylee Moore, a junior defensive specialist. Vorhis burst onto the scene as a freshman and claimed honorable mention after providing 131 kills and 66 blocks.
Canyon Lake will also see senior Taylor Fillinger move up to the varsity squad. The remaining roster spots will be decided over the coming days and weeks, but Clemons said she’s been thrilled by what she’s seen from the program’s freshest faces.
“A lot of the girls have put in a lot of work leading up to this season and it’s just really exciting,” the coach said. “We have 21 freshmen this year, which is one of our biggest numbers for freshmen coming in for volleyball. We’ve had several move-ins. I’m really excited about the diversity we have with our players — the versatile options for front row and back row, different lineup combinations and such. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Lady Hawks’ talent across the board will likely create battles for certain positions. Clemons said the most effective performers will earn the most court time — period.
“We’re going to put the strongest players in the right positions,” Clemons said. “If that means that they play all the way around, then they’ll play all the way around. If that means someone else plays back row for them, that’s what that means.”
Wunderlich and Kullberg are early candidates to play both front and back row, but a mix of players could emerge from Canyon Lake’s crop of underclassmen as the season progresses.
“Our team is mostly made up of younger girls,” Felps said. “Then it’s us as the four leading seniors, but I’m excited for our season because all the young girls are pretty talented and they’ve been playing club for a while.”
When the Lady Hawks begin district play on Sept. 27, they’ll attempt to climb back near the top of the standings against a field that includes defending champion Wimberley, Boerne, Fredericksburg, Bandera and Llano. Canyon Lake’s seniors expect the Lady Texans and Lady Greyhounds to once again be very formidable foes.
“We’re going to have to work hard to make it to playoffs,” Kullberg said.
Following a round of scrimmages on Saturday, the Lady Hawks are set to raise the curtain on the 2019 season this coming Tuesday with a dual match against Liberty Hill and Clemens in Fischer. Match times are set for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
Until Clemons gets her rotations set, Canyon Lake will likely rely upon a mix of senior leadership and youthful exuberance in the interim.
“The freshmen are coming in with this intensity and that’s really exciting for the future of Hawk volleyball,” Clemons said. “They have a lot of good energy, which I like. It’s rubbing off on the older kids.”