After just one practice, Stephanie Dillard knew she had made the correct choice.

Mere weeks removed from being hired as Harker Heights new head volleyball coach, Dillard found herself in the midst of a whirlwind as more than 80 kids descended for the first day of tryouts Monday.

Although she was surrounded by countless new faces and taxed with the job of evaluating all the unknown potential before today’s season-opening scrimmage at Georgetown Eastview, Dillard also knew it was exactly where she needed to be.

“When you are upset about the time being up for practice,” Dillard said, “or you get goosebumps because of seeing something the girls do and getting excited about it, you’re in the right place and things are going in the right direction.

“That is how it has been so far. I look up at the clock and just think, ‘No, I don’t want to be done yet. I want to keep going.’ But unfortunately, we reach that point, and that’s when we get excited about the possibilities of tomorrow.”

While her first few days of practice with the Lady Knights have been encouraging, admittedly, they have been overwhelming as well.

Coming from Magnolia West, where she spent the previous three seasons as an assistant, Dillard must quickly construct a varsity roster, implement philosophies and teach techniques in just a matter of days. Additionally, she is still attempting to simply learn the players’ names and familiarize herself with their personalities.

But Dillard views the situation as a challenge more than a problem.

“With the short amount of time we have,” she said, “it is all about staying positive, being a great teammate and working hard, and they have been doing that beyond my expectations.

“It’s a fun environment, and we have a great staff that works really well together. … We are already establishing trust, and that is a huge part of the process.”

The Lady Knights open the regular season Monday in a dual match at China Spring against the Lady Cougars and Whitney before taking part in the three-day Austin tournament Thursday. Harker Heights begins District 8-6A play Sept. 12 at Shoemaker.

Like most teams, the Lady Knights intend to conclude their season in the playoffs, and Dillard knows there is a lot of work to do in order to make the goal a reality, but she already feels certain it is possible.

“I wasn’t prepared for the amount of athletic ability and volleyball skill these girls have,” Dillard said, “but I also didn’t expect to see the amount of positivity and support the girls have for each other.

“It is just phenomenal, and I’m really excited about that.”

After traveling for its debut tonight, Harker Heights hosts a home scrimmage Saturday at 9 a.m. Then, the real work begins with a pair of tournaments scheduled during the first two weeks of the regular season.

Although Dillard’s time with the Lady Knights has been limited, her confidence in the team’s ability is not.

“They are blowing my mind with how they are responding to everything I’ve thrown at them,” Dillard said. “It’s not just the drills or the different tempo than what they are accustom to, but I’m seeing them compete against each other.

“They all want their team or their group to win, because they see the reward within each win, and that is awesome.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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