By: JOHN CANNON
(MCALLEN) – Prior to the start of the 2016 High School Volleyball Season, McAllen Memorial head coach Lorena Lopez admitted she was having nightmares.
“I can tell you that I start having volleyball nightmares a couple of weeks before the season begins,” said Lopez. “Basically everything that could possibly go wrong you dream about.”
However, those nightmares quickly end once the season starts and Lopez begins to really enjoy doing what she has been doing for quite some time now.
“I absolutely love what I do and have been fortunate to be here at Memorial for 15 years,” said Lopez. “It’s always exciting to get a new year started and this year is no different.”
Lopez and the Lady Mustangs were just one of many Rio Grande Valley Volleyball teams to officially hit the court for the 2016 season on Monday morning and like each and every one of them, she has high hopes for her team.
“Expectations are always high here at Memorial,” said Lopez. “We come into each and every season setting the bar high and this year is no exception.”
“We strive to do better in all facets of the game and want to make a nice run in the postseason as well.”
Last year was definitely a season for the ages for Memorial as they advanced to the Class 6A Regional Tournament for the first time since 2010.
Memorial had a tremendous senior group who was led by Draik Banks and as a result, became one of the last teams standing in 2015.
Coming into day one of the 2016 season, the Lady Mustangs find themselves looking to replace Banks and some seniors who played at some key positions.
“I definitely lost some key seniors and starters as well,” said Lopez. “I lost Draik who was a Division-I middle, a starting libero and a starting defensive specialist as well. All three of those girls provided some excellent defensive skills and passing and they are definitely going to be tough to replace.”
“Hitters always come a dime a dozen. But passers to that level are hard to come by. So that is probably the biggest thing we have to replace right now which is the defensive players and the service players.”
Besides looking to fill some key roles, Lopez uses day one to test the girls on certain skills that will help them once the season begins.
“The biggest thing on day one is to gauge how physically fit the girls are,” said Lopez. “We come in and time miles, take a vertical test and lift also.”
“I spend a lot of the preseason getting them into shape. Even though a lot of them played over the summer, it’s not the same as running and lifting or running sprints. A lot of these girls come in with good skills so it’s about making the skill match the physical level that they are at.”
Lopez feels that her girls will step up in 2016 and feels her Lady Mustangs won’t skip a beat.
“I feel all the returning girls are right where they need to be,” said Lopez. “Aside from a couple of injuries we have here and there, we should come out of the gates pretty strong.”
“It’s a matter of how this team is going to mesh. Last year’s team chemistry was second to none and I feel it’s what helped us go far. If our team chemistry can match what it was last season, I have no doubt our team can do great things in 2016.”