All three gyms at Robert E. Lee High School were full of serves, passes, sets and spikes Tuesday as the Lady Raiders began their season with the first day of volleyball practice under new head coach Kristee Porter.
Varsity players were practicing serve-receive in the middle “tile” gym with the remaining athletes split up and working in either the REL Varsity Gym or the K Gym.
Fastened to the back of every athlete in all three gyms was a piece of paper with a number on it. At the end of the day, players would find out if they were going to be donning a real number for the Lady Raiders.
“Day 1 is going well. This morning is our evaluations and we are looking at players and figuring out what they are capable of doing,” said Porter, who added the three gyms being used benefits the 55 athletes who came out for Lee volleyball.
“When it comes to evaluating, we want to make sure we are giving optimal amount of reps to the players, so that they can be truly be seen. So we are kind of spread out and divvying up some of the groups to hopefully create small groups, so we can get a deeper evaluation of the players.”
Rounding out the Lee staff is varsity assistant coach Hillary Shaffer, JV coach Carissa Reed and freshmen coaches Jessica Moss and Karina Uresti.
It was a one-day tryout for the Lady Raiders teams with Porter making decisions and cuts following the second practice, which ended at 4 p.m. Those who made the freshmen, JV and varsity teams met back at the school that evening.
“I have been in pretty good contact with the majority of our incoming freshmen and I have seen the players we have returning, so today is evaluation day and we will select teams (today).
“We don’t have the luxury of going through a longer tryout (period). We need to get started and get started quickly.”
Porter was hired in January after Ronda Shirley resigned to become the head coach at Navarro College. Porter graduated from John Tyler in 1998 and was a three-time All-American at UCLA before also playing for the U.S. national team. She was a member of the inaugural class (2013) of the Tyler ISD Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Lady Raiders reached the playoffs last season under Shirley, but REL hasn’t won a playoff game in 10 years despite reaching the postseason seven times in the past decade.
Senior middle blocker April Brown is back after earning first-team all-district honors last season. Joining her as an all-district returning starter is sophomore Aliyah Shirley. The setter was Newcomer of the Year last season.
REL went 27-16 last year, a double-digit improvement on 2015.
Lee will scrimmage multiple teams in Lindale Thursday and at home on Friday before the regular season begins Aug. 8 at home with a dual clash against Gilmer and White Oak.