John Tyler volleyball coach La’Messa Derrett was “very impressed” with her team’s effort and execution Tuesday on Day 1 of practice.
Those feelings continued Wednesday at the Lions Den, with the Lady Lions split up into multiple gyms in preparation for scrimmages on Thursday and Friday. The Lady Lions had 55 athletes accept volleyball gear Tuesday, all with dreams of contributing to one of JT’s teams.
She put the girls through several passing, setting and spiking drills Tuesday, along with having them run a couple miles on the track for conditioning and working out in the weight room.
Everyone returned at 7 a.m. Wednesday, despite the rain, and got to work again.
“We had a pretty great practice and had some good conditioning,” Derrett said. “They don’t like me right now (because of these early morning practices), but we want to be ready to go.”
The varsity team is currently penciled in with returners Erynn Henderson (junior), Talia Smith (junior), Lacorria Rollins (junior) and Lanikka Hawthorne (senior) leading the way for a team that Derrett has made it clear is on a mission to make sizeable strides from a year ago.
“I have 14 girls on varsity at the moment and I am looking at a couple others,” Derrett said. “We’ve had (some) pretty great practices and I’ve told them we will not have another year like last year; we cannot have another year like that.
“Last year we were doing well and had high hopes and then got to the Van tournament and my big middle stepped on a volleyball (and she was lost for a while), and we struggled with (that injury).”
John Tyler went winless in league play in its first year up a class in District 11-6A. Each year, Derrett shows her team the gold ball she helped win as a player, JT’s last district championship in 1997.
Derrett says every year she challenges her team to be the next one to add another gold ball to the office. She acknowledges it is a mountain to climb because of the district JT plays in - a district which includes state powerhouses Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath, along with rival Robert E. Lee.
“We can do all the skills known to man, but we’ve got to put them in play and progress (on the court),” Derrett said. “I am relying a lot on Talia Smith. She is going to be a junior middle blocker this year and she is going to be someone to watch.
“I’ve got some youngsters; some sophomores playing in positions and I have a freshman who is going to start and she’s playing all the way around. It’s looking good if we can keep everybody healthy and keep everybody mentally tough.”
John Tyler will be a part of a group scrimmage session Thursday in Lindale and again on Friday at Robert E. Lee. The Lady Lions open their season Tuesday at Nacogdoches.