HOUSTON – When a program is vaulted up to the state’s highest classification for the first time there usually are some expected growing pains to come with the move.
Tomball Memorial volleyball hasn’t experienced those.
The Lady Wildcats took the new-look District 14-6A by storm this season, going 13-3 in district play and finishing as Co-District Champions with Cypress Ranch.
“We weren't picked to make playoffs, so one of our preseason goals for district was to fight hard and make playoffs to prove people wrong,” Tomball Memorial coach Keia Torres said. “But God had even greater plans. We started upsetting 6A teams in the preseason that we ‘weren’t supposed to beat’ and that gave the girls confidence that we could compete with anyone.”
During the regular season, Tomball Memorial notched big wins early.
The Lady Wildcats beat Katy – which just advanced to the Regional Quarterfinals – back in August. Early on, Tomball Memorial also notched wins against Cy Ranch, Willis, Cy Woods, Klein Collins, which also just made the Regional Quarterfinals, and Leander Rouse.
All notable wins for a program that hadn’t won more than 25 games in a season since winning 28 in 2015.
“I think experiencing success in our first year in 6A was huge for the confidence of our school and program moving forward,” Torres said. “We now know that we can compete at a high level and can trust in the culture of our program to lead us to that success.
So what was the key to Tomball Memorial’s instant success in Class 6A – every single player.
Throughout the season Torres said she would tell her team to get the next win it was going to take all 14 players on the roster. Torres continued that it wasn’t because they would all play but the energy, intensity and support from the players not on the court was just as important as the play on it.
“When you're in the game and know that you not only have five teammates on the floor fighting with you, but you have eight teammates on the bench fighting for you,” Torres said. “Doing what they can to see the court to help you strategically, as well as being your loudest and biggest fans, the chemistry and trust built between each other is impenetrable.”
Among the players on the court this season, one of the keys has been LSU-commit Karli Rose.
Currently ranked No. 52 in the nation and No.1 right-side hitter in the Greater Houston area, Rose sits at 552 kills, 369 assists, 308 digs, 28 aces and 21 blocks for the season.
Of her more than 500 kills, 389 of them came during district play where she had a hitting percentage of .362.
Along with Rose, Megan Chinn stepped up defensively, Torres said and Lorelai Stamrood was big as their six rotation outside with 180 kills and Lauren Wright leads the team with 528 assists.
After beating Vista Ridge 3-1 in the bi-district round of the playoffs, the next challenge for Tomball Memorial comes in the form of The Woodlands.
No matter what happens in the area round showdown, Tomball Memorial has already proved everyone wrong this season.
The Lady Wildcats not only can hang with some of the best in the 6A ranks but also beat the best.
“I'm just so incredibly proud of how hard these girls have worked day in and day out, and how they refused to settle for everyone else's expectations of them,” Torres said. “Their true character was shown in the adversity, and it makes me so proud to be their coach. I love this team and all that they have accomplished this year as one.”
Tomball Memorial faces The Woodlands on Friday at 6 p.m. at Lake Creek High School in the Class 6A Region II Area Round.