A new season. A new district. And a different kind of pressure.
That’s what faces Amber Feist and the Tigers volleyball team as the season opener against Ferris and Waco High looms Tuesday night at Tiger Gym.
For the first time in a dozen years, the Tigers enter a season trying to repeat as a playoff team. They do so in a new district — 16-4A — as the Tigers move east to face Whitehouse, Lindale, Nacogdoches, John Tyler and Jacksonville.
The Tigers aren’t feeling extra heat about making the playoffs, Feist said Monday on the first day of workouts. And she’s told her players that she’s proud of what has been built in her first three years, turning around a program that won six district games from 2006-08, then started the turnaround in ‘09, completed by making the playoffs last year.
An up-and-coming program like Corsicana’s can’t rest on its laurels, and won’t, the Tigers coach said.
“I’m not worried about it,” Feist said. “It just can’t be an excuse if that’s why you’re not accomplishing something. You still have to get the job done.”
Feist told her team Monday that two good teams — Waxahachie and Red Oak — have been replaced by two more good teams in Whitehouse and Lindale.
So just because the percentages are better as far as making the playoffs in the new 16-4A — 66.6 percent this season as opposed to 44.4 percent last year with three less teams in the district now — it’s still difficult to make the postseason.
“It’s not a matter of harder,” Feist said. “It’s a matter of doing it.”
The Tigers have to put in the work, senior captain Maddie Andrews said. She takes over an important leadership role with the Tigers’ other captains from last year, Katie Cook and Annie Starling, both off at college now.
So who will make sure the Tigers don’t make the assumption that because of last season the entire program is over the playoff hump?
“The whole team,” Andrews said. “Most of them understand. We’re getting there. We’ll get there.”
Rebecca Bentz, who returned for the playoffs after a season-long injury, understood the message Feist sent after practice Monday about not falling back on being a playoff team last year.
“I took it that she was trying to be prophetic,” Bentz said. “And that she was telling the truth. We can’t remember what we did last year. It’s in the past and we have to forward now.”
The Tigers played together on a summer team and had success. “We got to learn each other,” Andrews said.
There’s a sense that the Tigers could be even stronger this season. Plenty of experience returns with Andrews, Bentz, Mackensie Lee and Tamera White.
“If we train hard enough,” Bentz said, “And we’re dedicated and if we don’t rest on what we did last year we can definitely make it to the playoffs and go deeper.”
Hey, it’s nothing but a positive for this year’s team that they’re coming off of a playoff season. That there is positive momentum.
It’s all good.
“People are excited,” Andrews said. “And you have to remember making the playoffs carried on over into the summer and we were excited to be together and it made it easier to play together once you’ve finally accomplished something that you’re trying to accomplish.
“Our goal this year isnt just to win the playoffs,” Andrews said. “(Coach Feist) believes and most of us believe we can win district. And going into it blind makes it even more worth it.”
Corsicana Tiger Volleyball
Coach: Amber Feist
2011 Record: 24-14, 10-6 in 15-4A
Players to Watch: Maddie Andrews, Sr., S/OH; Cecelia Lopez, Libero, Jr.; Briana Biltz, S/OH, Jr.; Makensie Lee, MB, Jr.
2012 Outlook: The Tigers will contend for one of the Top 3 spots in district.