Stafford High head volleyball coach Ivana Ellas is confident that her team is ready to elevate its level of play this season.
“I think we have a lot of really coachable girls,” said Ellas, now in her second season as head coach and fourth overall with the program. “They work well together for not having played alongside each other. They’ve put a lot of hard work into the program. We are looking to establish a strong program, long-term.”
The Lady Spartans return three letterwinners – senior Chiamaka Nwagboso and juniors Jayla Pratt and Kayla Alexander. Senior Khalijhia Fontenot returns to the program and into a leadership role.
Stafford graduated four seniors, including two who will take their talents to the collegiate level – Talya Monroe (Texas Southern) and Alliyah Williams (Kentucky State).
Several players gained valuable experience on the junior varsity and freshman teams last season, including junior Renata Conway, and sophomores Skylar Carrier and Asia McKenzie.
Freshmen Tristyn Reed, Madison Collins and Kendi Rushing have contributed immediately as freshmen on the varsity.
Stafford has two new volleyball coaches – Jo Nicque King will coach the junior varsity and Franchelle Hill (the SHS girls track coach and Stafford Middle School Rookie Teacher of the Year) will coach the freshman team.
Ellas has a month of non-district competition to prepare her team for the district opener on Sept. 7 vs. El Campo. The Lady Spartans will face strong competition from class 6A and 5A schools at the Dickinson Tournament (Aug. 16 and 18) and George Ranch Tournament (Aug. 23 and 25).
Ellas is excited about an Aug. 28 trip to Galveston Ball. A 2007 Ball High graduate, Ellas will face her alma mater for the first time.
“It’s always good to return home,” Ellas said. “I have a lot of support from a lot of people there and expect to see friends and family at the game. It’s a surreal feeling to coach a game in that gym. It shows how far I’ve come in my career and as a person in general.”
Stafford is focused on returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 – which was Ellas’ first season as an assistant coach at Stafford.
The new district schedule includes El Campo, Wharton, and Fulshear, with Bellville and Columbus no longer in the district. Defending champion Needville returns, along with Royal and Sealy.
The El Campo game on Sept. 7 is Middle School Night, Oct. 5 vs. Sealy is Homecoming, Oct. 12 vs. Wharton is Parent Night and the season finale on Oct. 19 vs. Fulshear is Senior Night.