The Whitesboro Lady Cats volleyball team go its first couple practices under way this week and head coach Carissa Gabbert said now that the season is here, she is very excited considering a few weeks ago she wasn’t even sure if there would be a season.
“I didn’t think we’d really have a season until district, so the fact that we’re even getting to start, I’m super excited,” Gabbert said. “So whatever precautions they’re telling me to make, I’m like yeah let’s do it because we’ll do whatever we need to do to make it go.”
Gabbert said the first few practices have gone well and that more than anything she enjoys being back around her team again.
“I’ve got a lot of returners coming back and I enjoy my kids,” Gabbert said. “I’m excited to have them back and they haven’t been coming to summer pride. I haven’t seen them since March, so I’m fired up. We just worked on our normal skills like our passing, our setting and our serving to kind of see where everybody is at and what adjustments we need to make.”
The Lady Cats are taking it one week at a time because in Gabbert’s eyes they “don’t know what tomorrow holds.”
“Practice wise, as a coach your main objective is to make it to playoffs, but right now, I just want to make it through district without anybody getting sick and that’s so weird to say, but that’s what we’re shooting for,” Gabbert said. “I want to get there and get done and be as successful as possible, but I’m trying to keep everybody healthy.”
At first Gabbert worried the Lady Cats wouldn’t get a preseason and how that would affect district play if they couldn’t work out all the necessary kinks.
More than that, the University Interscholastic League recently announced that volleyball teams couldn’t have tournament play, which sent Gabbert scrambling to fill out her schedule.
“All the precautions we’re having to take, I was curious if the girls would be able to handle that and still compete and push themselves all at the same time,” Gabbert said. “I was prepared and I was still working on getting things right for my tournament, but when they announced there couldn’t be any tournaments, it was like our whole world just blew up and we were searching for games trying to do it as fast as we could.”
Now that there aren’t going to be tournaments, Gabbert said that will affect her team in myriad ways.
“The girls were upset and we use that time for team bonding,” Gabbert said. “That’s when we really grow together because we are with each other all the time. Now, we’re going to have to find other ways to do that. It is a big loss losing those games, but the fact that we’re still getting to play where some people aren’t, I’m OK with that. They did allow us to do dual games, so it’s good.”
The Lady Cats will hit the court this Friday, Aug. 7, in their first scrimmage of the season against Pottsboro, Sam Rayburn and Van Alstyne and Gabbert said it allows them not to be penalized by the win-loss record and get in some crucial practice time.
Practices this week have begun with the basics, but have progressed as each practice moves along.
The first three days are a little less intense to allow for players that have bad days, Gabbert said, but starting Thursday, Aug. 6, practices will rev up to prepare for Friday’s scrimmage.
“Everybody gets a day to have a bad day, but starting Thursday, it will be really intense, but the first three days were about seeing where everybody was at so we can see what team to put them on,” Gabbert said. “We’ll be working on our defense so everybody knows where to go and on offense with shifting and moving. A lot of them haven’t moved since March, so we have to remind them how to move in a quick amount of time.”
The scrimmages will serve as important chances for players to cement their spots in the rotations, but Gabbert doesn’t cut her team much slack and does everything she can to keep them in shape.
Whitesboro finished fifth in their district last season, so playoffs is the expectation this year, like every year, but due to the uncertain nature of how this year has gone, Gabbert isn’t looking too far in the future.
“We start hard and heavy and I expect them to be athletic and in shape,” Gabbert said. “I’ve got seven returning varsity players this year, so that helps out a little bit. It’s nice to have those returners to anchor the other ones down and I’ve got four seniors this year. We could get to district and I could lose two of my best players to COVID, but I’ve always got high expectations for my girls and they rarely let me down.”