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CYPRESS — The CFISD HS #12 Bear volleyball team dipped its toe into the varsity pool for the first time and held commanding leads over Clear Brook, but that grip slipped just too much in the season opener Tuesday (Aug. 7, 2018).
The Bears took their first loss of the 2018 season as a learning experience, 29-27, 25-18, 25-23.
“We’re coming away with that every time we play a team, it’s going to a good match and it’s going to be a game that we have to fight it out,” said Verena Khalil, the Bears’ head coach. “Nobody wants to lose to a young, up and coming school. So they’re going to be putting their best match forth, so we have to get onto that. We have to start playing varsity speed.”
Since CFISD HS #12’s inception, the Bears have only been able to play at the sub-varsity levels. That all changed with the season opener.
“With one match in the books, I’m excited for the growth that we can have this season,” Khalil added. “When you have a team that is all freshmen, sophomores and juniors, there is exponential room for us to improve and gain on skills and realize what the difference is from what we were playing before as a JV team — some of these girls were in 8th grade last year — to what kind of speed varsity is, and the kind of intensity and power we’re going to get from varsity hitters.”
While proud of her entire roster, Khalil pointed to the outstanding efforts from a handful of her players: Emily Adams, team captain Katie Kessler, Emerson Sykes, Jessica Frannea and libero Makensie Garner.
Team captain Garner’s on-the-court leadership paid off, as she boldly pleaded her team’s case to the referee and got two calls overturned and into the Bears’ favor.
“She’s a leader on and off the court,” Khalil said of the junior. “Whatever she does in life, she does to the fullest extent.”
Garner might have some experience leading the way, as her freshman sister, Mallorie, is also on the varsity squad.
“The older I get, the more that I’ve learned to focus on defense,” the elder Garner sister said after the season opener. “I know that in my future, I’m most likely going to have to focus in on (defense). I try to be the best defender on my team because I know that it all starts with the pass. I’m there to support my team and be there for my team, and help get some digs to get them the kills.”
For a non-perennial powerhouse to open its season with pleasantly filled bleachers is a testament to the CFISD HS #12 and Cypress community.
“(The fans) are so great and super supportive,” said outside hitter Katie Kessler. “I know a lot of them like to come out and watch us and be part of our (CFISD HS #12) community.”
The CFISD HS #12 boys constantly cheered on the spikers for three long games. Then the JV squad settled in and apparent veteran cheerleaders got their corner of the stands loud and proud.
With CFISD HS #12’s first class still in 11th grade, the spikers have no worries of losing starters with 2019 rolls around.
“We tried our hardest, and we know it’s our first varsity game (today), and last year we played on JV,” said Adams, a sophomore outside hitter. “But next year, and the year after, will be our best years, because we will all be juniors and seniors. Even though this game didn’t go as planned, we can rise up in the next few games.”
Khalil and staff built the team’s schedule around getting ready for a grueling league season, filled with playoff-quality teams in District 14-6A.
“We tried to find a bunch of teams that were in the playoffs last year, so that we could get that competition and set us up for our best path,” Khalil explained. “We’re a varsity team this year, and we have to step it up, and show that we have the ability. This is a very talented group of girls that play club (volleyball) all year round. They can do whatever they set their minds to.”
Up next for the Bears — and several other Cypress-Fairbanks ISD teams — is the Katy tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday. The tournament brackets will send teams through several gyms and high school locations, so parents and fans of any CFISD team need to stay attuned to their team’s progress after the opening salvo of action on Thursday.
“I’m looking forward to a great season, and I think these girls can show Cy-Fair and Houston what they’re made of and compete this year,” Khalil concluded.