SHINER -- A Nolan Ryan fastball may not have anything on one of Alyssa Straussí or Shelby Bernshausenís serves.
Alyssa Strauss is Shinerís No. 1 server this season and leads the Advocate area with 80 aces. Photo Credit: Paul Ebner/Advocate Staff
The Shiner Lady Comanche seniors are two of the top three servers in the Advocate area and have played big roles in helping their team earn at least a share of the District 29-1A title this season.
The Lady Comanches can earn the title outright today (Tuesday) when they host the Flatonia Lady Bulldogs in a district contest 6 p.m.
Shiner (24-6, 9-0) enters the contest having served up over 300 aces this season and a big factor behind that number has been Strauss and Bernshausen. The duo has served up almost half that total, with Strauss leading the area for the second straight year with 80 aces. Bernshausen is third with 71.
"Our No. 1 server for the last four years has been Alyssa," Lady Comanche coach Michelle Winkenwerder said. "We started off the year putting her in the No. 4 spot because sheís also one of our better hitters, but we ran into trouble as we were always trying to catch up with her serve rather than staying ahead in ball games. Thatís part of the reason sheís No. 1 in the area."
The other reasons may be the power and time she puts into her serve.
"We are constantly working on serving," Strauss said. "The key is you have to be relaxed at the line and try not to do something youíre not capable of doing. Be confident and just get the ball over the net."
According to Winkenwerder, Strauss has a serve that is like a bullet coming across the net and Bernshausen has a jump serve thatís very difficult to handle.
"They could hurt you if youíre not ready," Winkenwerder said. Thatís the big reason why they are our No. 1 and 2."
Strauss was last yearís Advocate all-area first-team server and the year before teammate Maci Schaefer received the honor. So itís no fluke this season that the Lady Comanches have two of the top three servers in the area.
The Lady Comanches begin early working on perfecting that part of the game that may not be as glamorous as rising off the floor at the net and slamming down a kill shot, but is a lot more vital to winning the game.
"If you canít get the ball over the net you canít get points and it makes it that much tougher to win games," Bernshausen said. "Each serve is a point for you or your opponent."
Winkenwerder stresses the importance of serving and serve receive in junior high to prepare her players when they reach the high school level.
"The two big things we work on at junior high is serve receive and serving because if you canít receive a serve, it doesnít matter how big of a hitter you have, they are not going to be able to set the ball or hit the ball," Winkenwerder said. "And if you canít get the ball over the net on the serve youíre probably not going to win many games.
"Thatís why we concentrate a lot on those aspects because if you donít have those two things, thereís nothing else you can do."
How serious Winkenwerder takes serving is obvious in the goals she sets for her players each game.
"Our goal is to score two-plus points every time we go to the line and serve," Winkenwerder said. "That doesnít include rally points. The girls are then given a run down after every game of how many runs theyíve had that are two-plus points.
"On the other side, we want to stop other teams from scoring two or more points on us. If you can control those two parameters in a ballgame you should be able to win."
And that is definitely something the fifth-ranked Lady Comanches have been able to do again this year in reaching the playoffs for the 12th straight year.
Serve it up Following are the top six servers for the Lady Comanches and the number of aces they have this season: Alyssa Strauss ........ 80 Shelby Bernshausen .... 71 Ieisha Flowers ........ 36 Amber Shimek .......... 35 Amanda Hibbs .......... 33 Caitlin Kalich ........ 33
Paul Ebner is the assistant sports editor for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6507 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.