LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY — Winning was not the only priority.

During the previous three seasons, Harker Heights players experienced lots of change as they constantly adjusted to new principles and philosophies as the program’s staff repeatedly changed.

After Shelly Harris departed following a trio of years as the Lady Knights’ head coach, Stephanie Dillard took over the team for one season before leaving in the offseason.

Tuesday afternoon, new Harker Heights head coach Alina Wilder led the team for the first time as the Lady Knights participated in a dual match against China Spring and Academy, and although she hoped her debut would be successful, it was not the only priority.

“This time is about putting everybody together and building relationships,” Wilder said. “A lot of what we are doing now is just setting my expectations within the team and establishing how we’re going to come together as one.”

Harker Heights lost twice on its opening day of the

season, falling to China Spring 25-21, 25-10, 25-13 before being defeated by Academy 25-23, 25-16, 28-26.

Like Wilder, however, Lady Knights libero Jada Dye was not overly concerned with either outcome because the team has more pressing priorities.

“Coach Wilder pushes us a lot so that we are always working hard,” she said, “and it’s very important that we adjust to that because we be a successful team and make it to the playoffs.”

But against the Lady Cougars, Harker Heights struggled to find cohesion.

China Spring scored the match’s first three points before a 6-2 outburst helped create a 19-15 cushion. Thanks in part to a series of blocks by outside hitter Sorcha Dunn, the Lady Knights rallied, taking a one-point lead at 20-19.

The momentum was short-lived, though, as the Lady Cougars capitalized on several Harker Heights errors to win six of the next seven points.

While the outcome was disappointing, Dunn believes comeback attempt was significant.

“The passing was great during that stretch,” the senior said, “but we just have to work on little things so we can concentrate on setting and putting it down.

“It’s reassuring to know its just minor stuff we have to focus on.”

Against the host squad, the Lady Knights kept things much closer, but serving miscues routinely plagued them during the sweep.

Although improvements occurred against the Lady Bumblebees, Wilder believes one of the most important lessons of the day emerged during the team’s loss to China Spring.

“We cannot afford to dig ourselves into a hole,” she said. “What I love, though, is that when they do get down, they try to come back. These girls are not going to lay down and die. They are going to work.”

The Lady Knights will certainly receive a challenge this weekend as they take part in the three-day, 42-team Austin ISD Jason Landers Invitational, beginning with three pool-play matches Thursday.

While the competition will be tough, Dye will not be focusing solely on the opponent.

“The main thing is for us to become for confident in our abilities,” she said. “We just need to keep playing together and keep having fun.”


  • China Spring def. Harker Heights 25-21, 25-10, 25-13
  • Troy def. Salado 25-22, 25-16, 25-23

Contact Clay Whittington at

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