Wildcats’ volleyball program in good hands under Torres
In their first year in Class 6A and under the guidance of a new head coach, Tomball Memorial volleyball exceeded people’s expectations this past 2018 season.
The program was able to get the recognition it deserves for working hard against all odds under head coach Keia Torres.
It wasn’t Torres’ first year as a head coach, but it was her first year being Tomball Memorial’s head coach and the first year for both the team and her to be in Class 6A.
“I was told that we would go through some growing pains and to be patient, and the girls had everyone around them saying we wouldn’t make playoffs,” Torres said.
Because of being in a tough district and being in 6A for the first time, no one really expected for them to be too successful.
The Wildcats went 26-13 overall and 13-3 in District 14-6A, finishing as Co-district champions along with Cypress Ranch. The team finished as Area finalists after beating Vista Ridge in the first round.
The program reached 25 wins for the first time since 2015.
After winning their first playoff match in 6A, the Wildcats took The Woodlands, ranked No. 1 in the state and No.11 in the nation at the time, to five sets.
“We came up short in the end of that face-off but left absolutely every ounce of ourselves on the court that night,” Torres said. “And that is all I will ever ask of my players.”
Torres knew it would be a battle to get in the playoffs with talented and experienced district teams in seven CFISD schools and Bryan.
“Thankfully, the girls and I didn’t care much of what anyone else’s standards or expectations of us were, and our goal was to make playoffs to prove people wrong,” Torres said.
Tomball Memorial started upsetting 6A teams in preseason that they weren’t supposed to beat, including regional quarterfinalist Katy and Klein Collins, and that gave the team the confidence that they can compete with anyone.
“We endured quite a bit of adversity during the season, and each mountain that presented itself, we overcame together,” Torres said.
The leaders off and on the court that led the way were senior Karli Rose, senior Lauren Wright, senior Mariena Garcia, sophomore Lorelai Stramrood and junior Payton Torres.
“We will miss our senior leadership, but I am thankful and looking forward to the leaders returning and to the ones that will step up,” Torres said.
Torres recognizes that the Wildcats needed every single player on the team to make it as far as they did.
“So frequently we would say, ‘It’s going to take all 14 of us if we want to win,’ and it was true,” Torres said. “Not because all 14 played every game, but because we thrived off of the energy, intensity, and support from our teammates.
“From the sixth rotation player to the player who didn’t see the court on game day - when we were in the right mindset about the team, we were unstoppable. 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, the chemistry and trust built between each other is impenetrable.”
Torres, of course, can’t go without talking about the District 14-6A MVP in senior right side/setter Rose, who received a full scholarship to play for LSU.
“Rose was our biggest offensive weapon,” Torres said.
Rose had 400 kills, in district, with a hitting percentage of .362 and still had 223 assists, and 196 digs, No. 6 in district for digs.
Other key players that contributed to the success were the first-team All-District players in junior libero, Megan Chinn, who took on the role of libero. Chinn accumulated 256 digs putting her as the No. 4 player in the district for digs, and sophomore six rotation outside hitter, Stramrood, who contributed both offensively with 111 kills and defensively with 182 digs in district.
Under the leadership of Torres, the culture of the team and the program has been: ‘We Are One.’
Once everyone bought into that, and not being about anything other than the team, they refused to lose and went on a 12-game winning streak in district.
The motto has been one of the keys to success for the Wildcats; as have executing offensive and defensive game plans that were prepared for each opponent and adjusting when the opposing teams adjusted.
“The team was most successful when it was one,” Torres said.
Even though the volleyball season was only three months long, offseason is nine months long.
“Success in those three months, come from the dedication and work we put in during the nine,” Torres said.
In the end, despite experiencing success, Torres knows the Wildcats still have plenty of work to do.
“Although we will always remember and cherish this season, wins don’t carry over,” Torres said. “Next season will be brand new and we will have a brand new opportunity. Offseason is what prepares us to take those opportunities.”