A year ago Lindi Boling, Sydney Ingram, Torin Riddick and Micah Welch had wrapped up their final middle school volleyball season and were anxious just to watch the 2015 Lady Panthers in playoff action.
Middle school games, where parents cared a lot more about the outcome than some of the players, gave way to the first year of varsity ball for these girls.
The fans got louder, the lights got brighter and the game came a lot faster.
Van Alstyne coach LeQuia Collins saw something in the four freshmen that stood out and she plugged them right into varsity play.
“They have a certain swag and competitiveness about them that won’t let them be mediocre,” Collins said.
Collins had a line in a pre-season interview that seems quite fitting considering where her 2016 team is right now.
“It’s not where you start, but where you finish,” she said.
The Lady Panthers will finish second or third in District 10-3A volleyball, but did not get above the .500 mark for the season until they beat Lone Oak, 3-2, on Oct. 4.
A lot of the credit for that late push goes to the play of these four young ladies who entered the season hopeful, but still nervous about varsity life.
“The game is a lot quicker at this level and every player you see is so competitive,” Boling said after the Whitewright game.
Boling, along with Welch, has had some noticeable success at the service line for Van Alstyne, while Ingram and Riddick are very aggressive front row players.
Ingram, who probably gets the trait from her sister Sadie, a senior on this team, is demonstrative when she puts down a kill.
“It’s exciting playing in front of our fans and when I make a block or get a shot in it pumps me up,” Ingram said.
Riddick is now more aware of how important footwork and communication are to the varsity game.
“Getting into the right position for blocking and hitting is so important, you have to listen to your teammates and see the other side of the court,” Riddick said.
Welch and Ingram get the thrill of playing with sisters as senior Peyton Welch is also a senior on this team.
“We work with each other on setting the ball before the match begins and she definitely helps me on the court,” Micah Welch said.
Ingram too sees the benefits of playing along side her sister.
“We don’t always see it the same way but I think that’s just a sister thing,” she said.
Two of the players, Ingram and Boling, have moms on the coaching staff, and that can be difficult.
“I think moms expect more from you and they push you as hard or harder than anyone else, but that’s kind of what you expect,” Ingram said.
Coach Collins believes the first-year players have fit in well.
“I knew from the start that these freshmen were a special group — knew they would work hard and do whatever I asked without hesitation.” Collins said. “They definitely earned the right to be out there and they are the future of the Van Alstyne volleyball program.”
Collins does not hesitate to put any of these four into pressure situations.
“They need to face anything the opposition is going to throw at them and by the second or third time it will be second nature to them,” Collins said.
The players have their own expectations about playoff pressure situations.
“We went to the games last year and saw that it was a different level of excitement, it’s kind of nerve racking, but exciting at the same time,” Riddick said.
Boling said that there’s pressure every day just to keep a spot on the team, so playoff pressure will be about the same.
“I want to stay focused on game day and be competent doing my job and know that everyone else will do the same,” Welch said.
All have other sports on their agenda. Riddick and Welch both want to play basketball and softball while Ingram will participate in track and field, specifically the long and triple jump.
Boling plans to play softball this season.
They are 30 games into their first year of high school volleyball and they are playoff bound.
We like to call them freshmores.