SHINER -- It doesnít seem logical that a perennial playoff program coming off six regional final appearances in the last eight years would have a problem with recognition. But that very well may be the case for Shiner volleyball.
Shiner High School photos
The Lady Comanches ended last season by playing in their fourth straight 1A Region IV championship. En route to that match, Shiner beat 2009 state champ Louise twice in district and once again in the regional quarterfinals.
"We got a lot of immediate media coverage last year every time that we beat Louise, but very little media coverage when we advanced on to the Regional Tournament," said Shiner head coach Michelle Winkenwerder. "Itís funny because the recurring question each time was how does it feel to beat the defending state champions, never focusing or crediting our programís rich history of playing this game."
"All Shiner teams, regardless of graduation losses, injuries, and all other distractions that surround high school athletics, are expected to get out and make choices to be successful. Itís not about beating the defending state champions three times or your opposing rival, it is about your work ethic, dedication to maintaining high standards, and the bonds that you build with your teammates."
The Lady Comanches fell in their last match to Round Top-Carmine in three close games, losing 25-22, 25-18, 25-17. While obviously disappointed with the loss, Winkenwerder said the outcome had no bearing on her teamís effort.
"On that particular day, the best team won," she said. "The best team always does. This is why every year it does not matter about your ranking or media predictions, you still have to go out on the floor and prove that you can get to 25 points before your opponent."
"We have beaten top-ranked teams multiple times and we have been the top-ranked team that has fallen. This is part of the lessons that athletics has to teach and hopefully one can apply it later in life."
The Lady Comanches lost seven all-district players to graduation including League MVP and All-Stater Ashley Shimek and Offensive MVP Jessica Arledge. Randi Berkovsky, Danielle Curtis, Shauntae Hights, Hilary Jaehne and Laurie Morkovsky round out the group.
As usual, the cupboard is far from bare as eight lettermen return including five seniors in Cassie Stafford, Ryah Michalec, Michelle Hamiliton, Kaylyn Benes and Jordan Pietsch. Winkenwerder said she is also expecting good things from Lauren Oden, LaNeshia Hunt, Kristin Schacherl, Emmalie Berkovsky, Ciara Harper, Julianna Rankin, Amanise Coleman and Meagan Chumchal.
While most coaches use their non-district schedule as a way to gauge their teamís progress, Winkenwerder takes amore intellectual approach.
"The classroom is a great evaluator of an athlete," she said. "Athletes need to be dependable and have a strong work ethic. Their consciousness of their grades, whether they turn in work on time and are punctual to class are key indicators of work ethic."
"Discipline in the classroom will tell you if they are coachable and the level of respect they have for someone in authority. If they are engaged and asking questions during lessons, then they are not afraid to communicate questions at practices. Many of the more successful teams in my 14 years made choices in the classroom to be successful and thus carried over to the court."
The outcome of her check-up from the neck-up are coupled with assessments of the girlsí performance on the court to help pinpoint where each athlete needs the most help in their development.
"Usually games will expose a weakness or series of weaknesses that need to be addressed so they become strengths," she explained. "Therefore, each game is very important to the growth and progress of our teamís success."
"Afer every game, our girls are given a game summary sheet that shows our teamís strengths and weaknesses on offense and defense. They understand where each point went and why the outcome of the game occurred. They also receive individual gamestats that include a total breakdown of skills that occurred during a game and how many points were won and lost on an individual level. These sheets, along with video of these games, help our players understand the complexity of the game."
The Lady Comanches will need to be hitting on all cylinders come district time in order to repeat as District 29-1A champs.