SHINER - After falling twice in the last three years in the regional finals Shiner coach Michelle Winkenwerder decided to try a more relaxed approached to the game this season and the move paid off for her squad.
Excitement abounded on the Shiner High School campus this week as the Lady Comanches prepared for their first-ever state volleyball tournament appearance. The Lady Comanches will face Windthorst Friday in the Class 1A semifinals at 11 a.m. at Strahan Coliseum on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos. Photo Credit: Roni Gendler/Advocate Staff Photographer
The Lady Comanches captured their first Region IV-1A title and earned the school's first berth to the state volleyball tournament. Now Winkwenwerder hopes that approach will pay even more dividends starting today when the Lady Comanches face Windthorst in the state semifinals.
"I think in the year's past we put kind of put too much emphasis on what we were getting ready to do and we played it up too much rather than relaxing and doing what we do all season long, and that's going out and executing whatever game plan we have for whatever team we're playing and just go play the game," Winkenwerder said.
"That's the approach we took this time and it worked so we're not going to put anymore pressure on them than what needs to be."
The fourth-ranked Lady Comanches know they will have their work cut out for them when they face No. 3 Windthorst in an 11 a.m. semifinal at Strahan Coliseum on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos.
Top-ranked Albany meets No. 2 Iola in the other semifinal at 9 a.m., with the winners meeting in the title game on Saturday at 9 a.m.
Winkenwerder said she would approach this week just like last week and allow her team to follow its routine as much as possible.
"It (regional) was more like we had won a tournament because that is the way we approached it," Winkenwerder said. "It didn't sink in right away on what we had done.
"Our goal for this week is to keep things as normal as possible for these girls. Keep them in their routine as much as possible because a lot of teams will be out of their routines this week because of travel time. We're lucky in that aspect because we're so close."
The Lady Comanches come into the contest with a 16-match win streak and have not lost since falling in four games to Poth on October 12.
A lot of the success has fallen on the shoulders of three seniors - Ieisha Flowers, Alyssa Stauss and Shelby Bernshausen - who have started since they were freshmen.
"They all work well together, they're a tandum," said Winkenwerder. "They have a good work ethic that has helped mold these younger girls and shaping them into our future."
The trio leads the team in nearly every statistical category this season. Flowers has 318 kills, 234 digs, 85 blocks and 39 aces, while Strauss has 237 kills, 197 digs and 87 aces, and Bernshausen 234 digs, 140 kills and 75 aces.
Lauren Michalec and Amber Shimek are the team's other two seniors on the squad.
Windthorst may be the Lady Comanches' biggest challenge so far this season. The Trojanettes have won the Class 1A title three of the last four years and ousted the Lady Comanches' district-rival Flatonia Lady Bulldogs in the semifinals the last two.
The Trojanettes will also be making their 20th straight state appearance as well.
"They have a wonderful tradition and I look for a great game," Winkenwerder said. "We're going to get as much information to the girls hands as we possibly can.
"We'll walk through and take a look at specific hitters and where they like to put the ball and I know they have a very good leader on the floor in their setter. Hopefully our game plan will work and we'll be there on Saturday."
NOTE: The game will be broadcast on KYKM, 92.5 FM and KTXM 99.9 FM.
Paul Ebner is the assistant sports editor for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6507 or by e-mail at email@example.com.