SHINER - When Amanda Hibbs and the three other Shiner seniors got together in the summer to choose a shirt design for the 2009 season, they wanted something that would reflect on the new look of the team.
Shiner senior Amanda Hibbs dives for a dig during practice as Brittany Roller follows the action from the back row. Photo Credit: Victoria Advocate
After making the Class 1A state tournament semifinals a year ago the Lady Comanches lost four starters to graduation, and were likely faced with a rebuilding season and youthful challenges.
That's why a design with the words "Something to Prove" on the back fit perfectly.
"Going into this year, we all know it would be hard with what we lost," Hibbs said. "So when we saw that shirt, we knew that's what we wanted to represent.
""We take pride in wearing those shirts and we want people to read them."
Instead of rebuilding, the Lady Comanches reloaded, went 28-8 and are two wins away from a second consecutive trip to the state tournament.
Coach Michelle Winkenwerder said replacing missing pieces is just part of the process at Shiner.
"We have a big tradition here, so we try not to rebuild," she said. "We try to move people into spots that have been vacated by seniors and just try to keep it going year after year."
Hibbs was one of those moving up. After the departure of libero/backliner Amber Shimek, the senior Hibbs was called upon to take her spot and be a defensive specialist. She has also improved her leadership skills as a result of being thrusted into the role.
"We knew going in that we would have some big shoes to fill, losing four starters," Hibbs said. "During the summer, us seniors had a discussion about what we need from the people coming up and what we're looking for. The underclassmen have worked hard and it's been a lot of fun working with them."
Other key losses from last year's squad include stars Ieisha Flowers, Alyssa Strauss and Shelby Bernhausen. Lauren Haynes, another senior, has taken up Flowers spot as the lead hitter. Winkenwerder said they have similar styles.
"We've gotten really comfortable with each other," Haynes said. "Since last year we've been doubted a lot, so we've just had to prove ourselves."
Junior Ashley Shimek, who rose to a starting role after seeing little time last year, has filled in for Strauss.
"We all have things that we're very good at on this team, and it unites into something that works very well," Shimek said. "I think we're good as last year. We have a lot of smart players and hard hitters."
The Lady Comanches swept Kingsville 3-0 in the regional quarterfinals, a game that a lot of the players said they weren't expected to win. They are hoping to surprise the three other teams in the regional tournament in Brenham, starting with Granger at 7 p.m. on Friday. The winner will play the winner of Round Top Carmine-Louise.
The team said the key is a quick start and building a big lead early, just like they did against Kingsville.
"We're going to try to get in their heads a little bit and work hard to get a comfortable lead," Hibbs said. "To get back to the state tournament is going to take a lot of concentration and work. We've been working hard, we just need to keep that focus."
Winkenwerder said that a major change about the team this year is their toughness, having to overcome more obstacles than last year's squad. She said that mental state makes them more than prepared for a run at the state championship.
"If I had to differentiate this team from others, I'd say they've had to work a little harder than past teams to get here," "They're younger and were put together quicker than last year. They have a peace about them. They know what needs to be done, and when it gets tough, they get tougher."
Jack Molitor is a sports reporter for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6507 or by e-mail at email@example.com.