Each year, the start of the school year coincides with the return of high school football.
But before the helmets and pads come out, and weeks before practice even begins for teams across the state, volleyball teams were already well into the season.
“When I first got here, and I was coaching volleyball, we would have games, and you’d see three or four people in the stands,” Shoemaker head coach Merdith Shaw-Moore recalled. “A lot of times when it’s football season, other sports go unnoticed.”
The Lady Grey Wolves hosted Ellison in the first round of District 12-6A play earlier this month, and the crowd was unlike anything either head coach ever witnessed.
“I’ve never seen a crowd like that,” Lady Eagles head coach Sarah Stolley said. “Big props to Shoemaker on that. They had them out.
“It was fun, and the girls deserve it.”
A crowded gym can make all the difference, according to Killeen head coach Crystal Bennett.
“The football players come out, and we love their support,” she noted after the crowd got her team pumped late during a recent match against Belton. “We’re glad they come to the games and cheer us on.”
“That’s the culture we’re trying to build here -- keep going, keep cheering, keep lifting yourself up -- because we almost had that set,” Bennett pointed out as the Lady Kangaroos lost 25-22 in the final set.
The support and recognition is something local coaches feel is long overdue.
“This is how it should be every volleyball game,” Stolley said. “The girls work hard.”
And while the added noise might be distracting to opposing players, it’s a part of the game Stolley enjoys seeing her team battle through.
“Again, the volleyball girls in the area deserve that,” she said. “But for the girls who have never seen that, and then to play through it was pretty cool to watch.”
After playing Ellison, Shaw-Moore was overwhelmed by the environment.
“To have that many people here just speaks volumes to how people are becoming more in-tune with the sport of volleyball.
“It meant a lot to me and our girls, but it just speak volumes to where this program was when I got here to where it is now.”