By Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star
In his second year at Clements, volleyball coach Chris Simmons is expecting the Rangers to be competitive within District 20-6A.
“Last year we just missed out on the playoffs and graduated 11 seniors from the program. Those seniors will be missed, but the four returning members of varsity bring a lot of court time and experience to blend with the others,” Simmons said.
Volleyball at Clements can sometimes take a back seat to a number of other activities.
“Most of the team did not play club volleyball this summer because they were busy with their other activities. Several are returning to the team after taking a year off to do something else. Everyone at Clements seems to be in a dozen other activities, which can make scheduling practice tough at times,” Simmons said. “Several of our seniors spent the summer filling out college applications and searching for academic scholarships.”
Because the players may not have played together as much as other teams, Simmons intends to use the pre-district season to settle on a line-up and build team chemistry.
“We have a team-building activity scheduled for this weekend. We have a lot of seniors and some sophomores, so we need to learn to trust each other,” Simmons said.
To be competitive, Clements will need to be strong on defense.
“Our district has a lot of big hitters in it. We need to understand that we will be playing long rallies. They will get their kills, but there are going to be rallies where we will dig it up and we will frustrate them. That is when we need to be aggressive and attack,” Simmons said. “We are probably one of the shorter teams in the district, so we need to play smart defense.”
Clements’ smart defense will start with senior Jenna Wong.
“I am looking for Jenna to be our defensive leader on the court. She was our defensive specialist last year, so she is familiar with the pace of the game and is comfortable talking to her teammates on the court. She will also take any opportunity to hit from the back row. She really plays fearless,” Simmons said.
“We need to use the preseason to find our unity and working as a team. When the district starts we will be able to trust each other and play with confidence,” Wong said.
To run the offense, Simmons is counting on senior Isabella Ferrer.
“Isabella was one of two varsity setters last year. She stepped in and at times had to take over a match. She is capable of running the offense, and leads on and off the court,” Simmons said.
Ferrer likes the intensity of being a setter.
“I am always looking to see where the defense is, which determines who I will set the ball to,” Ferrer said. “It can be really tough against the good teams.”
The Rangers’ other two returnees are Jenna Kabot and Emily Price. ”Jenna is just a junior, but she has developed into a six-rotation player who will be a key to our success this year,” Simmons said. “Emily is our big blocker who can swing effectively from the middle or right side. Her hard work on the court and in the off season will be her strength.”
Kabot, a former dancer, enjoys the competitiveness and teamwork of volleyball.
“I am a really competitive person, and volleyball can be really competitive. Once I started playing volleyball, I gave up dancing,” Kabot said.
Kabot is involved in Best Buddies, Paws and is raising a pig for FFA, which she will show at the Fort Bend County Fair.
“My brother got me interested in FFA and I have been involved since I was a freshman,” Kabot said.
She is a junior but has already decided she wants to study business and finance.
“That’s what interests me the most,” Kabot said.
“My job is to try and get as many kills and blocks as I can,” Emily Price said.
Price, a senior, is active in Best Buddies and Paws at Clements, and she intends to enter nursing school after she graduates.
“I have always been super interested in the healthcare field,” Price said.
Riley Spengeman, a senior, sat out last year to concentrate on softball and prepare for her college entrance exams, but is back for her senior year. Spengeman is an outside hitter.
“We face a lot of tall blockers, so we have to be really creative with our hits,” Spengeman said.
To be successful, Clements will need Emme Le, Kaitlin Dinh and Abigail Gutierrez to be solid contributors.
“Emme, Kaitlin and Abigail are seniors that were solid leaders for our junior varsity last year. They have put in a lot of work this summer during open gyms and summer fitness,” Simmons said. “They are leading the way by their words and their actions.”
Last year, the Rangers finished in fifth place in the district with a 7-7 record, one game out of the playoffs.