Robert E. Lee volleyball faces White Oak at 6 p.m. Tuesday in its season opener at REL High School Varsity Gymnasium.
The Lady Raiders lost nearly all of their offense, most of their blocking, a relentless server and team leader. That is what Mallory Kuechle meant to REL last season, but the All-East Texas and all-state performer is now at Texas Woman’s University.
“We graduated nine seniors, including a lot of starters,” REL coach Melissa Lee said. “We returned a middle blocker and three defensive players, including the libero. I was concerned about the offense with one hitter coming back, but we basically built a whole new team.”
Coach Lee expects to use most, if not her entire roster each game saying, “No one plays all the way around. I guess I have a starting 12.”
It begins with defense as Taylor Winchester returns at libero after earning second-team all-district honors last year. The junior is one of three returning defensive specialists back for the Lady Raiders, along with senior Mallori Dike and junior Jamesha Hutton.
“We are really strong defensively because they all have experience coming back and they play really hard,” Lee said.
Senior Rebekah Bowden is REL’s other returning starter after she also earned second-team all district honors last year at middle blocker. She is joined by two varsity newcomers who have been known for their basketball prowess, seniors Dominique Thomas and Dajah Thompson.
“Rebekah has been reading the ball real well; we need to work on her foot speed, but other than that, she’s doing real well,” Lee said of Bowden. “We hope her offense will pick up more.”
Lee said Thompson suffered an injury in the first days of practice, so she hasn’t been to her full potential while Thomas continues to make strides as a varsity middle.
On offense, REL will turn to six varsity newcomers — Faythe Guillory, Claire Himes, Caroline Lynch, Gabby Shackelford, Emily Star and Jamie Mills. Lee also believes Hutton can provide some offense as an outside hitter, along with her defensive skills.
“(We have so many), so it gives me options,” Lee said. “If one is (not on that game), I can run another one in there. We’re a little deeper on the front row than I have been in the past. When you have a player like Mallory graduate, you’re a little worried about who can put the ball down, but this year we can spread the ball all around so much.
“I have pretty good hitters at every spot, so that may turn out to be an advantage for us.”
The three players responsible for getting the ball to those hitters are Alexa Winfrey (So.), Genesis Borens (Jr.) and Nicole Trpkosh. Lee said both Trpkosh and Borens will trade off as starters after both played junior varsity and club volleyball.
Raider Rap: The Lady Raiders finished last season with a 30-13 record. … REL snapped a five-year drought against White Oak in last season’s dual opener, winning in five games. … REL has two new assistant volleyball coaches, Carey Crabtree and Shun McGill.
2013 Lady Raiders Volleyball
Head Coach: Melissa Lee
Assistants: Carey Crabtree, Shun McGill
Lee Volleyball Schedule
Aug. 10ScrimmageRobert E. Lee HS9 a.m.
Aug. 13White OakLee HS6 p.m.
Aug. 16-17Longview TournamentLongview TBA
Aug. 20at Pine TreeLongview6 p.m.
Aug. 23Texas HighLee HS6 p.m.
Aug. 27HallsvilleLee HS6 p.m.
Aug. 29-31Tyler InvitationalJohn Tyler HSTBA
Sept. 3JT/QuitmanJT HS6 p.m.
Sept. 6-7White Oak TournamentWhite OakTBA
Sept. 10New DianaLee HS6 p.m.
Sept. 13*at LongviewLongview6:30 p.m.
Sept. 17at Carthage/MarshallCarthage6 p.m.
Sept. 20*Rockwall-HeathLee HS6:30 p.m.
Sept. 24*RockwallLee HS6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27*at Mesquite HornMesquite6:30
Oct. 1*at MesquiteMesquite6:30 p.m.
Oct. 4*North MesquiteLee HS6:30 p.m.
Oct. 8*LongviewLee HS6:30 p.m.
Oct. 15*atRockwall-HeathRockwall6:30 p.m.
Oct. 18*at RockwallRockwall6:30 p.m.
Oct. 22*Mesquite HornLee HS6:30 p.m.
Oct. 25**MesquiteLee HS6:30 p.m.
Oct. 29*at North MesquiteMesquite6:30 p.m.
* — District 12-5A game
** — Senior Night