Though the thought WISD’s volleyball program houses a wealth of 5A-ready talent could be an understatement, the budding talent of this years campers and players like sophomore Audrey Nalls, junior Ryleigh Horn and seniors Hannah Ramirez and Shelby Martin who will take the stage next season, makes strides in turning the musing into fact.
The Lady Indians’ summer camp initiative does nothing less than enhance the progression of the city’s youth and feeds a pipeline that helps build campers into Horn- and Ramirez-like athletes.
WISD kicked off its ninth grade summer camp, a three-day training session built to hone the six principles of winning volleyball — passing, setting, hitting, serving, blocking and digging — on Tuesday at George W. Solis Gymnasium.
“It’s a very important part of the process, helping prepare incoming ninth graders for participation at the high school level,” said Sandy Faussett, the Lady Indians head volleyball coach. “We separated the incoming freshmen from the other camps specifically for that reason and so all the high school coaches would be available to work the camp and mentor the athletes. Despite very few, if any, play up at the varsity level considering the number of returning players and depth we have at each position, several of these kids will make the freshman team.
“We can’t really say who those kids will be until they’re in the gym during the first day of tryouts and we have a chance to see them all together, but the camps help their growth. Our job is to help them develop their skills and teach them our system.”
More than 20 Finley and Howard junior high Lady Warriors set, blocked, served and dug on the hardwood of Solis gym and under the watchful eye of Faussett and assistant coaches Bobbie Janky and Dana Scott.
One of the current players, who spent time before the second day of the camp mentoring the seventh and eighth-grade campers, is a veteran of Faussett’s system.
“The intensity level is definitely real and there are great teachers everywhere,” said Essence Clerkley, a freshman Lady Indian and one of the two 2016 Most Improved Player of the Year awardees. “The camps help you to fix what you need to work on and it lets you know that you’re going to have to work for every spot and how much hard work is needed to be successful.”
Clerkley, who moved up to the junior varsity level toward the middle of her first year at WHS, helped the Lady Indians freshmen team win 20 of 26 games as a middle blocker last season. She began playing volleyball in seventh grade, where she began her indoctrination into the Lady Indians system of cerebral and fundamental volleyball and staking her claim in the home of state champions.
“I’ve seen some of them play (the campers) when we were in junior high and they’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve gotten to WHS,” she continued. “Some of the girls who were in the same position — only having a small amount of experience playing volleyball — are already better than me at that age. I wasn’t good in junior high, but I’ve improved a lot in the three years I’ve played under the coaches here.”
Faussett said the careful evaluation of the fundamentals of junior high-level players is essential to the program, the lifeblood that’s kept the program successful during her reign as the Lady Indians’ leading lady.
During her tenure, Waxahachie has won five regional semifinals and seven regional quarterfinals.
That success, Faussett said, has been built from the consistency of a program designed to tweaking players’ form and fundamentals before entering the high school ranks instead of breaking the girls down and re-teaching the basics.
The language of each volleyball coach at Finley and Howard junior high and at the freshmen and junior varsity levels of WHS is the same, which has become the bridge to producing playoff viable and highly skilled players earlier in their high school careers.
“This is a strong group, but I felt last year we had a strong group, too,” Faussett said. “Some were so strong that we bumped them up to the ninth grade level. It’s only a three-day camp, but because of their skill level, there’s a lot we’re going to be able to do with them, learn a little more about them.
“Some of these girls have been coming to camp since they were in the third grade, so we know them and what’s needed to fine-tune everything. That’s the definition of a successful program, not having to reteach basic skills at every level.”
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