Aug. 7—HUNTSVILLE — Huntsville volleyball players are counting down the days until they hit the court for their first match of the 2022 season.
The Lady Hornets are coming off a season where they went 17-26 but went 7-5 in District 16, 5A which earned them a third-place ranking in the UIL playoffs. The Lady Hornets faced Marshall in the bi-district round where they lost 3-0.
"We have experience again," Huntsville head coach Cody Hassel said. "Last year we had two girls, one with a lot of experience, one with a little, other than that everybody was new to Huntsville varsity. We had a lot of growth at the beginning of the season and we picked it up at the end, we were just inexperienced."
As a new season is about to start, Huntsville will not have to look too far to find its core for this season. Graduating two members last season, the Lady Hornets bring back senior Madison Grekstas, Shelbee Atkins, Timiea Garrett and junior Markia Sweat.
Grekstas should return from a lower leg injury that forced her to miss 19 sets last season. Even with missing those sets, she still led the Lady Hornets in kills with 374 averaging 3.2 a set.
"Last year we had two hitters and we relied on both of them," Hassel said. "When she went down we were down to one true hitter. I feel like this year we have at least four, that's what's gonna make a team strong and hard for other teams to stop."
Atkins played a pivotal role last season for the Lady Hornets. She played in all 136 sets, according to Max Preps. She also recorded 242 kills, 74 aces, 305 digs and 650 assists. Atkins was a true multi-tool player for the Lady Hornets
Garrett is also another player for Huntsville that can do it all. She had 173 kills throughout the 136 sets she played which were third on the team last season.
"We had two freshmen on the team last year and even though they did a great job, they were freshmen at the time," Hassel said. "Now after having a year of varsity under their wing, we have both of them to count on. We only added a couple of people to the roster. Everybody has at least one year of varsity under their belt."
For the Lady Hornets, this season could be a much-needed turnaround. In the 2020 season, Huntsville landed its first district championship since the 2014 season. However, they are now in a brand new district with three new teams to face in Dayton, Humble Kingwood and New Caney Porter.
Huntsville will no longer face Whitehouse, Tyler and Jacksonville under the new district alignment. Huntsville has an 11-2 record against those three teams with the lone two losses coming to Whitehouse in 2021.
Now with Porter, Kingwood Park and Dayton in the mix, Huntsville will see stiffer competition. Of those three teams, Huntsville has a record of 9-13 against those teams. Huntsville holds a record of 2-8 against Kingwood park and 5-5 against Porter.
"Lufkin is gonna be good," Hassel said. "Kingwood Park is always good and Porter will be stronger than other teams we lost. The strength of the district is going to go up, but the good thing about that is, that you don't get to take games off. When you have to go and fight every game, it makes your team stronger. We accept the challenge and we are excited about it."
Huntsville will now continue gearing up for the season as they host the Huntsville Scrimmage with multiple teams. The Lady Hornets will open up their season Tuesday, Aug. 9 at Rudder High School with a match against Lexington High School.
"We're big, and that's gonna be exciting," Hassel said. "The last time we were this big was the year before I got here. We've got four, five or six this year. We want to frustrate opponents on the net. Defense will be improved this year, it should be fun."