Grady junior Heather Blackburn goes up for the kill during practice Tuesday. The Lady Bronchos have opened the season 8-1. (Staff photo: John Eisel)
By John Eisel
GRADY — Volleyball is no longer fall training for girls basketball at Grady.
Under the direction of first-year coach Missy Glover, the Lady Bronchos stand at 8-1 to begin the season.
Most of the matches haven’t been close, with Grady mostly sweeping in three or winning in four games. The Lady Bronchos suffered their first loss Tuesday against Clayton in a five-set marathon.
“This year’s season is more focused on fundamentals of volleyball. The past seasons, we kind of worked a little more and got in shape for basketball,” senior setter Brittany Bailey said.
Alicia Rush, who coaches girls basketball, track and is also athletic director for Grady, stepped down as volleyball coach this year and convinced Glover take the job after a few years of prodding.
Glover’s top priority was to change the mindset of the players.
“Volleyball has been a conditioning drill for basketball, in their minds,” Glover said.
Winning was nice, but not essential. The Lady Bronchos failed to advance out of district.
“It was very frustrating, because I like volleyball, and if I spend my time doing it, I want to win,” senior Taris Pond said.
Now, volleyball has become its own sport in Grady.
“Most of us are pure basketball players, but I think this year we came to realize that volleyball is really important, also,” Bailey said.
They still condition, but with much more of an emphasis on drills and technique.
“We were shocked what we can do when we actually do practice volleyball,” Pond said. “I didn’t think we do this good this year to be honest.”
Years of playing together on the basketball court is paying dividends in volleyball. Glover called her team scrappy and hustling with a very good defense, which depends communication and teamwork.
Confidence is still something the team is working on despite starting the season 8-0.
“They’ve never thought before they could win at volleyball, basketball was the sport at Grady,” she said. “My job is to try to convince them they can be just as good in volleyball as they can in basketball.”
The basketball team won district last year and has made trips to the state tournament an annual occurrence. Glover hopes that experience as basketball team will help them now as a volleyball team.
“They’ve been to Albuquerque in basketball, so they know what it takes to get there, as far as in that sport, so I’m hoping that a little bit of that experience that they gained last year in basketball will carry over into this volleyball season,” Glover said.
The fans in Grady have begun to catch on. After light home crowds to begin the season, the Lady Broncho backers have come out.
“Our fans are like ‘Wow, they can do something,’” Pond said.`