Killeen junior setter Crystal Innocent used much of last season to watch teammate Madison Sapp help run the offense and give out assists to outside hitters for points.
But with Sapp missing during the opening day of the 2014 regular season, there was no time for nerves or apprehension. The opportunity presented itself and Innocent was ready.
“I knew that I would get more touches than I have ever gotten, so I knew this would be the opportunity for me to take,” Innocent said. “I hope that she gets better and comes back so we can get to play together.”
Innocent’s play at the Austin ISD Jason Landers Tournament over the weekend was a big reason why the Lady Roos won two games and helped the team gain some valuable experience at the event.
“Crystal’s stepping up,” Killeen head coach Joanne Knowles said. “This is her first time running the court in a 5-1 and she’s being a leader.”
As a sophomore in 2013, Innocent finished with 25 assists, 20 kills and 11 aces in 65 sets played.
Sapp sustained a minor injury and did not play at the Austin Tournament as a precaution. That opened the door for Innocent to showcase her skills and fill in for the returning All-District 8-5A junior setter.
“It’s been hard, but my teammates and my coaches have been helping me get up there and show myself that I can do this,” Innocent said. “It just takes time in practice; I can do the sets and get it through.”
The Lady Roos got off to a hopping start in Austin with wins over Waco and Austin Reagan. Innocent helped Killeen beat Waco 2-1 (25-8, 23-25, 25-14) with 26 assists and added nine helpers in a 2-0 (25-13, 25-19) loss to Austin Ann Richards.
What’s most surprising about the start is that Innocent didn’t have a full week of preseason practice.
“I had to get up and go,” Innocent said. “I went to practice and games. I just gradually got on board with everyone else.”
And teammates have taken notice of her play.
“She was trying her hardest to make sure that all of us got our hits in and everybody got a touch on the ball,” junior middle blocker Nadia Richardson said. “I think she did really well.”
Innocent didn’t start playing volleyball until middle school, when she was trying out different sports and activities.
She said things started clicking on the volleyball court during her freshman year and, to her, wearing the uniform and being a Lady Roo means a great deal.
“Representing my school means a lot,” Innocent said. “Having good grades, showing that I’m good means a lot.”