The Lady Knights are about to take on new roles.
After a whirlwind start to the season, including the ushering in of a new head coach, two tournament appearances and a total of 20 matches within two weeks, Harker Heights hits its first lull in the schedule.
Beginning Monday, however, the Lady Knights will be more than just volleyball players — they will be fulltime students as well.
With the start of the new school year, the entire Harker Heights roster must learn to balance academics and athletics, and while schedules will undoubtedly become more hectic, there are benefits, according to Lady Knights head coach Stephanie Dillard.
“It gives us more structure,” she said. “Just knowing that from here on out that this is how things are going to be is exciting.
“A bunch of stuff is still new to them, so having a routine is going to make things easier.”
One day after returning to school, Harker Heights will return to the court, traveling to Cameron Yoe, where it will look to rebound from a disappointing home opener.
Hosting Salado, the Lady Knights were unable to capitalize on their first home-court advantage of the season, falling 27-25, 24-26, 15-25, 25-23.
Neither team could create a significant cushion on the scoreboard in the first set with the lead exchanging hands multiple times before the Lady Eagles engineered a 4-1 outburst to secure the outcome.
The second set was more of the same as the squads went back and forth before Salado produced another late run to close things out.
After trailing 23-20, the Lady Eagles won six of the next seven points en route to a 2-0 advantage.
Harker Heights proved it was capable of delivering lengthy scoring streaks as well, though.
Salado jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the third set, but the Lady Knights only allowed six more points to their opponents as they clinched the set on junior Sorcha Dunn’s terminating block.
But the lopsided affair did not continue in the fourth set as the teams played to a 21-21 tie. Moments later, Harker Heights (13-7) thwarted two match points, but it was not enough to avoid defeat.
“I couldn’t ask any more of them,” Dillard said. “Some of these girls have a tremendous competitive spirit, and it is starting to spread throughout the entire team. So, that is a positive.”
Aliyah Lockett led Harker Heights offensively with 14 kills, while teammates Sheila Borders and Valeria Cosme tallied 28 assists and three aces, respectively. Defensively, Cosme added 14 digs, while Haley Brown and Dunn finished with eight blocks apiece.
Prior to facing Salado, the Lady Knights traveled to the Bastrop ISD Classic, where they finished 19 th out of 32 teams, producing a record of 5-3.
Harker Heights lost its opener in pool play, falling to San Antonio Taft 25-22, 19-25, 25-14 before splitting its next two matches. The Lady Knights lost to Lubbock Cooper 25-14, 25-13 and beat El Paso Riverside 25-19, 25-21.
The following day, Harker Heights defeated Waco Connally (24-26, 25-10, 25-17), Elgin (25-19, 25-9) and Bastrop (18-25, 25-17, 25-18) to reach the Bronze bracket. The Lady Knights won their first-round match against Rockdale but were eliminated by eventual champion Cedar Creek in the following round.
“One of their goals was to do better than they did last year,” Dillard said, “and they finished significantly higher. I don’t like to look at rankings, but that was important mentally for them to see that.
“It was a goal they accomplished, and while we’re disappointed we lost, we lost to a very, very good team.”