CYPRESS — With the Katy-CyFair Volleyball Classic in full swing, the No. 10 team in Houston still feels like it has something to prove.
The Cy-Ranch Mustangs graduated 11 seniors this past spring, leaving only three returners on the 2018 roster.
“We’re a young team, so every (repetition) definitely counts for us — we only have three returners,” said Candice Fuchs, the Mustangs’ head volleyball coach. “I told my girls that because we only have three returners that we’re not going to start off with a bang, which we have in years past. It’s going to be more growth and figuring out how to work with each other and be disciplined in our systems so we can build on those.”
Albeit the Mustangs have four student-athletes committed to play for Division I college volleyball programs next year. Three of them made the Greater Houston Volleyball Coaches Association’s watch list. Peyton DeBello (Mississippi State commit), Sabrina Sustala (Texas A&M University commit), and Michelle Klein (Arkansas State commit) were recognized by the GHVCA, but 6-foot-3 Elayne Grisbee (University of North Carolina at Greensboro commit) towers above most of the competition.
“When you have only three returners, people love to overlook you and we love to be the underdog,” Fuchs said.
After the first day of the Katy-CyFair Volleyball Classic, the Mustangs were at a commanding 3-1 overall record, taking all three victories from the pool play action in their home gym.
“I definitely saw growth from the beginning to the end of just today,” Fuchs added. “Our preseason is so fast and furious: We had tryouts on Wednesday and scrimmage on Friday. I passed up on a scrimmage option because I’d rather have practice because we are so young. Our goal is not to hit our ceiling here, our goal is to be playing at our best in October and November, trying to get into playoffs and take a far run in playoffs.”
Last year, the Mustangs defeated Lamar in three games for a bi-district title, before falling in three to Ridge Point in the area championship round.
“We’re in a tough region — a killer region — but all of the teams are pushing us to be competitive, learn to work with one another, stick to our systems, be disciplined,” Fuchs said. “The girls definitely bought in, and they seem to be bonding really well.
With just over a week working together, the Mustangs showed how well they’ve come together on Thursday. It took Cy-Ranch three tight, back-and-forth games to win the final match over Klein Collins, 24-26, 26-24, 25-17.
“As a team, we wanted (to win) so badly,” said junior Seerdyn James. James is one of two juniors in Cy-Ranch’s volleyball program. Her class was the first class to be split off from Cy-Ranch to form neighboring CFISD HS #12 High School. “We had to fight as a whole, and we had to … fight back.”
The Mustangs had two matches earlier Thursday morning and won both of them.
“We came out strong this morning and we kept fighting,” said 6-foot-3 Elayne Grisbee, who has committed to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “We kept growing together as a team and learning how each other work on and off the court. We’re meshing really well right now, so I’m excited about the season.”
Although this will be her, and several other players’ final high school season, their volleyball careers appear to be far from over.
“A lot of us seniors are already committed (to playing college volleyball), so we’re just trying to make our mark in Cy-Ranch,” said senior libero Sabrina Sustala, who has committed to play for Texas A&M University next year. “We haven’t made it very far in the playoffs in the past couple of years, so we want to do that for our team.”
Her sentiments were echoed by fellow seniors.
“I feel like we’re coming together,” Klein said. “We’re a new team — age-wise — so it’s about getting into the gym and making connections. We’re really starting to mesh and have a lot of potential ahead of us.
“We wanted to rise up to their expectations,” Klein said of last year’s seniors. “This year, we set the same expectations. We want to emphasize that it’s our last year and we just want to go hard. Our teammates are really quick learners.”
Working with a libero’s perspective, Sustala reiterated how their younger Mustang teammates are coming right into the herd.
“I’ve learned that our team needs to communicate more, but we’re coming together very nicely,” Sustala added. “We’re all new with playing with each other. We’re going to keep fighting and win big matches.”
UPDATE: The Mustangs went 1-2 in Katy-CyFair Volleyball Classic matches during Friday bracket action, making their overall season record 4-3.
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