One is an old pro and the other is the new kid on the block, but for the Shiner Lady Comanches and Yorktown Kitty Kats, they are after the same goal - a berth to the UIL Class 1A state volleyball tournament.
Fifth-ranked Shiner will be making its third regional tournament appearance in four years today when they square off against No. 3 Leakey in the Region IV-1A semifinals at 7 p.m. at Brenham High School, while Yorktown returns to the regional tournament for the first time since 2000. The No. 8 Kitty Kats will face off against No. 9 Round Top-Carmine in the early game at 5 p.m.
Even though it's been eight years since the Kitty Kats have played in the regional tournament, the team still has plenty of playoff experience after being ousted in the Class 2A regional quarterfinals the last three years. The Kitty Kats have also reached the playoffs for the past 15 yards and even earned a berth to the state tournament in 1981.
Riding a 16-match winning streak, Yorktown coach Diedre Alexander just hopes the new atmosphere isn't a distraction for her squad.
"This is kind of new and I'm just hoping the nerves don't get to us," Alexander said. "We just need to come out focused and treat it like any other game like we've been doing all season.
"We've been able to tune out things around us and look at it from just game to game. I'm sure hoping we are able to maintain our focus and continue that game-to-game mentality that each night we have to win this game and not look ahead."
Alexander knows that will be her biggest challenge as a coach.
"When you get to regional people start to look at the excitement and being there and I think the biggest thing for me as a coach will be trying to keep these girls focused on that it's today only and not look ahead."
Having lost in the regional quarterfinals last year to eventual state champion Poth, the Kitty Kats have plenty of guidance fromt hat team to help make Alexander's job a little easier.
Seniors Larae Wieland and Kymber Blaschke have been the focus point of the team surrounded by a strong nucleus of Kelsey Sievers, Claire Schendel, Katie Niemeier, Casey Brysch and Alex Armstrong.
Wieland leads the teams averaging 4.3 kills and 2.8 digs a game, while Blaschke has chipped in 6.9 assists, 2.8 digs and 0.9 aces per game. Sievers provides another strong hitter at the net with 2.4 kills.
"The key is we have to reduce our errors," Alexander said. "Round Top is suppose to be very good defensively so we're going to have to cut down on hitting errors and serving errors. The other night we had quite a few serving errors and that could hurt, so we're just trying to reduce the errors we've had."
Shiner on the other hand returns a team nearly intact from last year's regional final squad that fell to district rival Flatonia, but Lady Comanches coach Michelle Winkenwerder knows it's a whole new game this time around.
"Anytime you get an opportunity to play on a big stage it helps you out and helps you be more prepared, but at the same time with the more caliber teams that we've got ahead of us, we are going to have to play our game," Winkenwerder said. "We've just got to go out and execute. That's what is all boils down to."
Shiner has reached the playoffs the past 12 years and has been to the regional tournament five of the last nine years and this season has a strong nucleus to carry on that success.
Senior returnees Shelby Bernshausen, Alyssa Strauss, Amber Shimek, Caitlin Kalich and Ieisha Flowers lead the squad. Bernshausen is averaging 2.8 digs and 0.9 aces per game, while Strauss is averaging 2.9 kills, 2.4 digs and 1.1 aces. Flowers follows averaging 3.8 kills, 2.8 digs and 1 block, while Kalich is averaging 8.2 assists and Shimek 4.5 digs.
Still, Winkenwerder knows her squad has a lot of work ahead of it to reach the state tournament.
"Our success is going to hinge on two things," Winkenwerder said, "first blocking, because Leakey has two very good hitters and we have to be able to slow them down, and second serve receive. If we can get serve receive and we can get the ball to Caitlin that means a quick offense is going to be there and that makes us a little more versatile as far as what the various things the teams on the other side of the net are going to see."
The winners of Friday's semifinals advance to Saturday's championship game at 3 p.m., with the regional winner earning a berth to the state tournament in San Marcos on Nov. 21-22.
In other regional volleyball action, Industrial goes up against Brazos Consolidated on Friday at 3 p.m. in a Region IV-2A match at Northeast Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio. The winner will face the Salado- George West winner on Saturday in the championship game at 11 a.m.
El Campo will tangle with Brenham in a 6 p.m. Region III-4A match at the Spring Branch Don Coleman Coliseum. the winner meets the Magnolia- Friendswood winner on Saturday in the final at 4 p.m.
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.