For the past month, Class 5A and 6A volleyball teams have eagerly awaited their opportunity to officially get back on the court.
Under the UIL’s fall COVID-19 guidelines, smaller classifications (4A and under) were able to start practicing the first week of August. Larger schools, however, were forced to wait until at least Sept. 7.
Now, that wait is finally over.
Denton ISD teams were able to hold their first practice of the year on Tuesday, as the 5A and 6A seasons got underway.
“I think the girls are just excited,” Guyer coach Heather Van Noy said. “They are genuinely already meshing well together. For being gone for so long from each other, I think that says a lot. It’s almost been a blessing for this group. They had to spend so much time apart. Now they finally get to be together. It’s like this wonderful reunion I get to watch.”
The past six months have been a whirlwind for Guyer, Braswell, Denton and Ryan, as the state of high school athletics hung in the balance until the end of July.
Teams were able to participate in summer conditioning, but some were forced to shut down for at least two weeks due to a positive COVID-19 case. Braswell was one of those schools that had to suspend summer workouts, as a member of its volleyball program tested positive in mid-June.
But Braswell coach Corey Jenkins said, ultimately, he is proud of how his team has persevered.
“What a ride we’ve been on since March,” Jenkins said. “The girls I coach never wavered and never complained. They worked and worked all summer, whether at workouts, the gym, in their yard or on a sand court.
“COVID-19 didn’t set us back; it brought us closer as a family. I’ve got a very hungry group ready to send some messages and make some statements, and that is their words. I’m proud of my crew more than they know.”
After moving up from 5A to 6A during February’s realignment, Braswell will now compete in District 5-6A along with Guyer.
The Lady Bengals finished sixth in District 8-5A last season. Denton was the 8-5A champion and finished the season 36-10, falling in the third round of the playoffs to Grapevine.
The Lady Broncos are expected to be among the favorites in District 6-5A again this year and return senior Taylor Thomas.
Thomas was the Denton Record-Chronicle’s All-Area Co-Offensive Player of the Year last season, tallying 514 kills. The Texas Girls Coaches Association all-state selection averaged 13.1 digs per set and was the 8-5A MVP.
Guyer also returns an all-state selection of its own in senior setter Brooke Slusser, who was the Record-Chronicle’s All-Area MVP in 2019. The Alabama commit was a 6A TGCA all-state selection and averaged a triple-double.
Kentucky commit Jordyn Williams and sophomore Kyndal Stowers make up the other part of the Lady Wildcats’ formidable lineup. Guyer is ranked No. 4 nationally in the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association/USA Today Super 25 poll.
“It’s just great to finally be back with our kids full-time,” Van Noy said. “I think that this whole thing was a lot harder on them and their mental health, more than anything. I think that will be my No. 1 focus coming back, just getting them in the right mindset. Physically, my kids have taken care of business on the strength and conditioning side of everything, and we have been using our summer skills time. But it’s been hard. They want to go 100%.”
Guyer hosts Frisco Lebanon Trail at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday to open the season. Braswell will travel to Lake Dallas.
Denton starts the season at home next Tuesday against Prosper Rock Hill, while Ryan travels to Lewisville.