Connally at Gatesville Volleyball

Gatesville’s Kate Lovejoy (16) hits against Waco Connally last fall.

The Gatesville Hornets volleyball team was so young in 2015, head coach Rickey Phillips considered serving baby food on the team bus.

“Actually, no, that didn’t happen,” said Phillips with a hearty laugh. “We never did serve baby food. But we were very young. And now, it’s nice that we have nine returning players coming back this fall.

“But I also always make it clear that youth is never an excuse for losing a volleyball match. When you’re on the varsity, regardless of how young you are, you must be ready to perform.”

Gatesville has been to the playoffs 13 straight seasons. In six of the past eight years, the Hornets have won 30-plus contests.

In 2015, the youthful Hornets finished 21-20 and were defeated by Fairfield in the bi-district round.

This fall, expectations are high.

“I felt this spring was good for our volleyball team,” Phillips said. “We had so many kids doing other sports and that’s extra time that they’re out there competing and working out. Plus, we’ve had some of our kids playing club volleyball and that is good for the player and our program.”

Phillips is counting on his nine returning varsity players to perform at a high level.

Seven of his nine returners will be seniors: setter Madison Carpenter, outside hitters Kate Lovejoy, Sadie Swindall, Maci Snively and Rosie Lee, defensive specialist Corie Tunnell and middle blocker Gracie Lee.

Also returning are junior setter/defensive specialist Katelyn Brown and sophomore outside hitter Maci Matthews.

“We have a strong nucleus returning and we are waiting for some kids to step up and take leadership roles,” Phillips said. “I do hope that happens.

“Plus, we have some very talented newcomers to our varsity team so I am planning on us having a very strong gym when we begin our practices on Aug. 1.”

Gatesville routinely packs its gym for home games.

“Our kids and our teams in the past have built a really good foundation for success,” said Phillips, who will begin his 16th year as head coach of the Hornets this fall. “And Gatesville fans are used to winning and there is a lot of buzz around our program. Our players and coaches work at volleyball all year round and our fans care about us all year round, too — and that’s a very good thing.”

Contact Allan Mandell at amandell@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com

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