By Evan Ren
Killeen Daily Herald
With noted disciplinarian Sylvia Wallace having vacated her position as coach of the Ellison volleyball team, there may be those who are expecting drastic changes in the program heading into 2005.
Don't count on it.
Wallace's replacement, Kara Clay, has no intention of running a loose ship, and openly admires the hard-nosed style which helped Wallace earn eight playoff berths in 10 years with the Lady Eagles.
"The girls need discipline and they need someone who will tell them right from wrong," Clay said. "You have to be on it and you have to believe it and Sylvia did.
"Sylvia wasn't willing to compromise on her values or what she thought was right and I totally support her."
That isn't the only Wallace legacy Clay hopes to keep alive. Consistent winning will be the other.
Of all Killeen-area volleyball programs, none has seen more postseason action in the past decade than Ellison. So as Clay sees it, nothing was broke, so nothing needs to be fixed.
"I feel like it's a great opportunity and I've got some really big shoes to fill," said Clay, who served as Wallace's assistant in 2003. "Sylvia was such a great coach and seeing how she worked really taught me a lot.
"Killeen doesn't have much of a volleyball (tradition) but Sylvia did a great job with what she had and hopefully we'll be able to build on it."
That task may be more challenging than some realize.
Returning only one varsity regular from last year's 17-18 playoff team, Clay will debut with a roster littered with first-year varsity players.
Senior middle blocker LaKeisha Robinson (5-foot-10) is the lone returnee, but several tall, athletic front-liners have Clay feeling optimistic.
"I'm really excited about the athleticism and the personality of the team," said Clay, a Cheyenne, Wyo., native who played collegiately at Northern Colorado University from 1998-2001. "They're young, but they're so athletic, if we can get their fundamentals down, everything else will take care of itself.
Players to watch include 6-foot middle blocker Angie Belford, 5-10 middle blocker Darcel Smith and 5-10 outside hitter Alesha Walker. Outside hitters Kristina Lawrence and Samantha Robinson, setters Sasha Nelson and Marquie Walker are others to keep an eye on.
The libero, a newly allowed designated defender position which isn't required to rotate, will be filled by Darlene Olarte and Leah Dantzker.
"As far as coaching philosophy and the drills we run, I don't think anything will change," Clay said. "(Actually) I might be a little harder on them.
"They're juniors and seniors, they know how the game is played, and the expectation is for them to perform well."
The Lady Eagles open their regular season at Burnet on Aug. 9, followed by their home opener against Waco on Aug. 12.
District 16-4A play begins Sept. 20 when Ellison plays host to Lampasas.
In the meantime, Clay is preparing her team with the same no-frills, no-nonsense approach as her predecessor.
"Volleyball is a game where you need to be disciplined in all aspects and they need to learn that," Clay said. "That discipline will carry over in the rest of their lives, from academics to learning to finish what they start.
"That's our big thing here. They don't get away with anything."
Contact Evan Ren at firstname.lastname@example.org