Knights try to corral pesky district cats

After downing Jags on the road Friday, the Knights eye another tough feline foe tonight in the Lions of Lockhart

Junior+Brienna+Martinez+said+that+playing+and+winning+as+a+team+is+the+most+important+thing%2C+whether+she%27s+playing+libero+as+she+did+Friday+against+LBJ+or+defensive+specialist%2C+which+she%27ll+play+tonight+against+Lockhart.

Olive Embry

Junior Brienna Martinez said that playing and winning as a team is the most important thing, whether she’s playing libero as she did Friday against LBJ or defensive specialist, which she’ll play tonight against Lockhart.

MacJournalism Sports Team

The LBJ gym is an intimidating venue for a road team in any game, but it was especially daunting on Friday for the members of the varsity volleyball team. With much of the Mac sports community at House Park prior to the homecoming football game, the volleyball team was left to face a raucous Jag nation on their own.

Clad in purple and boisterously loud, the home fans screamed, jeered and taunted the visitors.

They were definitely one of the loudest crowds we have played in front of on the road. You just have to focus on one play at a time, block out the crowd, and do your best to make a positive play.”

— junior outside hitter Preslie Boswell

We are the Jaguars,” they chanted in unison at one point. “You are not the Jaguars.” 

Perhaps the obviousness of that statement was intended as one more distraction to keep the Knights from focusing on the game.

“They were definitely one of the loudest crowds we have played in front of on the road,” junior outside hitter Preslie Boswell said. “You just have to focus on one play at a time, block out the crowd, and do your best to make a positive play. Sometimes it can affect you, but if you can focus on what needs to be done on your side of the net, you can use their energy and feed off of it as if it’s your own.”

Boswell said as much to her teammate, fellow junior Brienna Martinez as she stepped up to serve in the second set, with the Knights already holding a one set advantage.

Like Martinez’ serve, the advice was on point as the crowd had adopted a new strategy: singing at the server. The Jags burst into a rendition of “That Way” by the Backstreet Boys.

NOW CHEER THIS: Varsity teammates Sophia Olivares, Alexa Fannin and Sophia Henderson celebrate after an exciting play. The varsity defeated LBJ, 3-1, on Friday in the district opener for both teams. “I believe we played as a whole during the game rather than six separate players on the court,” Fannin said. “We bonded very well and executed the ball.” Photo by Thea Cahoon.

“Them trying to distract me just made me want to do better,” Martinez told MacJournalism afterward. “I zoned them out and just focused on the ball and making my serve in the court.”

We were set on not going to a fifth set and beating our rivals in their own gym, and we made that happen.”

— junior libero/defensive specialist Brienna Martinez

The long scoring run helped the Knights to win the second set decisively, 25-10. After a let down in the third set, the Knights seized the match with a dominant fourth set. Martinez said that senior Alexa Fannin went on a serving run of her own to put the match away.

“We were set on not going to a fifth set and beating our rivals in their own gym, and we made that happen,” Martinez said. “We played a good game. Everyone did their job and we had great teamwork.”

The Knights won the match, the district opener for both teams, 25-20, 25-10, 22-25, 25-10.

The teamwork that Martinez mentioned has been something of a motif for the 2019 varsity squad. Just about every player that has spoken to MacJournalism so far this season has alluded the team’s togetherness as one of its greatest strengths. 

We lost to them twice last year, and our game at home was extremely close and exciting.”

— senior middle hitter Shaine Rozman

Why has it the team on the same page this year?

“Our overnight tournament brought us closer because we had to share rooms with each other,” Martinez said. The teams has bonded in other was off the court as well. Martinez mentioned that team dinners have been a time when the team has come together and just enjoyed each other’s company.”

Perhaps the greatest indication of the team’s chemistry is the fact that the team has two liberos, Martinez and fellow junior Bridget Russo. Since the first game of the season, the two have alternated playing libero and wearing the designated neon jersey that lets everyone watching the game know who is playing the position that night.

Against LBJ, Martinez was the libero; Russo, a defensive specialist. While both are defensive positions which require the player to hit the floor to dig the ball and keep it in play, Martinez said there are important differences. A libero can sub in for any back row player, and the substitution does not count toward the team’s allotted 12 subs per set. The libero must play on the back row where a defensive speciality can rotate to the front row. 

Our team does a good job of supporting each other even when one isn’t getting as much playing time. In the end, we all want to win and play a good game.”

— junior Brienna Martinez

While the libero is the more high profile position, Martinez said it’s been beneficial for her to learn both roles.

“I keeps me versatile,” Martinez said. “Whenever coach needs me to switch a position, I’m able to do that. 

She also said playing both roles has helped her learn the Knights new defensive strategy. Under this defense, the libero plays left back, and the defensive specialist plays right back when the setter is on the front row. If the setter isn’t able to set the ball in a rally, the libero has to do it.

Having alternate liberos could divide a volleyball the way having two quarterbacks might divide a football team, but Martinez said that absolutely is not the case with the 2019 Knights.

“In the beginning of the season, many players were competing for spots, but I think our team does a good job of supporting each other even when one isn’t getting as much playing time,” Martinez said. “In the end, we all want to win and play a good game.”

Olivia Capochiano
Junior setter Sophia Henderson raises her arms in triumph after the Knights win a key point during their four-set road victory over arch-rival LBJ on Friday.

That certainly was the case on Friday, and the team is hopeful the trend continues through Tuesday night when the team faces a district foe, the Lockhart Lions, that got the better of them last year. The returning varsity players would like to settle that score with a home victory tonight.

“We lost to them twice last year, and our game at home was extremely close and exciting,” senior middle hitter Shaine Rozman said. “We went to five sets, and we were super close to winning. I think we’ve been playing super well recently so I’m definitely looking forward to playing them.”

Graduation was tough on the Knights, who lost team captains Claire Caudill and Lindsey Wiley to graduation, but it was also rough on the Lions’ roster.

“I think they lost a few good seniors, but they still have some good players remaining,” Rozman said. “I definitely think we have a chance if we really play as a team.” 

So far this season, that’s something the Knights have done extremely well.

varsity volleyball lbj 9/13

LBJ volleyball varsity 9/13/19 (Thea Cahoon)

DECORATING/LBJVOLLEYBALL 8/15/19 Olive Embry

LBJ varsity volleyball 9/13/19 olivia escalante

LBJ Volleyball 9/13/19 Margaret Hearne