Kiana Ware remembers that long walk off the court after the Lady Kangaroos ended the 2013 season with a 21-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-15 loss to Harker Heights in their home gym.
The Lady Roos struggled to their fourth straight loss and any postseason hopes they had fell with that final Heights point in Game 4.
“That was probably the hardest part of my junior year,” the senior defensive specialist said, “not being able to experience playoffs. So this year we’re striving to get in position for the playoffs.”
Ware and the Roos hope to learn from the experience and look to break into the postseason in 2014.
Killeen comes off a 2013 season in which it finished with a 12-16 record, including a 5-9 District 8-5A mark, and missed the playoffs by three games.
The Lady Roos may have struggled to begin district play, but looked like they were on a roll with consecutive wins against Heights, Ellison, Shoemaker and Temple. But the end of the season was not strong, as Killeen lost four straight.
“I felt like this is the team we can take further,” senior outside hitter and defensive specialist Sabrina Garcia said. “We have goals and we have major goals that we want to reach.”
Killeen fell to Waco Midway, Copperas Cove, Belton and Heights to end the season. Three of those matches were sweeps.
Despite that disappointment, some of the more seasoned players hope for a better ending in 2014.
“Since we were so close, we know we have a shot this year,” junior setter Madison Sapp said.
Though the Lady Roos enter the season with experience, they must find a replacement for outside hitter and defensive specialist Chalon Anderson. Anderson was a team captain last season and earned all-District 8-5A honors as a senior.
Killeen looks for last year’s youth to become this year’s mainstays and they have plenty of talent coming back.
Along with Anderson, Madison Sapp was also a first-team all-district selection while both Garcia and Ware made the second team.
The Lady Roos trio of Juquana Wilson, Jacen Moore and Crystal Innocent were all-district honorable mentions.
Leadership should be a big theme in 2014 as the Lady Roos adjust to new head coach Joanne Knowles.
This is Knowles’ first head coaching stint, but she did coach some of Killeen’s best players as the program’s freshmen head coach the last two seasons. She replaces Shelly Harris, who took over Heights’ program.
For Knowles, the early season stretch is a process of playing nondistrict games in preparation for District 12-6A play and fighting for a playoff spot.
“We’re really going to focus on this year is inside-out efficiency and how often we get the ball back from the opposing team,” Knowles said. “The way that we can measure our personal growth as a team is by looking at inside-out efficiency.”
If the first week of practice is any indication, the players are taking to their new coach just fine.
“We’re very excited to have coach Knowles,” Garcia said. “We were thrilled when we found out she was our coach.”
“It definitely helps,” Ware said about the familiarity with Knowles. “It’s just a sense of knowing that she’s there for us. She knows us so she knows how to work with us so I’m excited about that.”
Killeen opens the regular season on Tuesday at Lago Vista. The Lady Roos play their home opener Aug. 19 against Robinson and play in the Austin ISD, Bastrop Cedar Creek and Robinson tournaments.
Killeen opens district play on Sept. 12 at home against Shoemaker.