The end of the last volleyball season proved a tantalizing disappointment for Sherman. But at the same time it gave the Lady Bearcats plenty of hope for the future.

The Lady Cats entered the final match of the 2016 schedule with a chance to keep their season alive by forcing a play-in, and they very nearly pulled it off. They led Denton High at home two sets to one and rallied to tie the fifth set at 10-all.

But alas, the visiting Lady Broncos went on to take the match in five sets and the Lady Cats missed the postseason for the 11th straight year, finishing 17-22 and in fifth place in District 5-5A.

Coming that close has been a motivational tool that third-year head coach Ashley Aleman has not hesitated to use this off-season.

“We feel like we’re starting the season off with a lot of momentum and a lot of energy,” Aleman said. “The girls are hungry. They’re hungry to be one of the top (teams) in the district and try to make our season last as long as it can.”

This year’s version of the Lady Cats takes the court this afternoon in a tri-match at Sulphur Springs with almost all of their leading hitters back. Only three seniors graduated, giving Sherman an experienced roster as the Lady Cats bid to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

“We’ve got a good, solid core of kids coming back that have worked really hard over the off-season,” Aleman said. “They have made tremendous improvement. I feel like we’re going to have a lot of depth and a lot of options in our lineup.”

Senior outside hitter and middle blocker Madi Gladen, a second-team all-District 5-5A honoree, returns and is Sherman’s top scorer, averaging 9.1 kills and 6.5 digs per match while throwing in 24 service aces. She is joined by senior setter Dallas Aleman.

Seniors Rylie Bernard and Averie Young, juniors Cameron Wecker and Sarah Graham, and sophomore Kylie Jackman are all returnees who will help.

“I can’t just name six kids,” Aleman said. “All of our returning kids will see the floor a lot and they are going to contribute to the success of this season.”

Wecker and Young are both getting looks at libero. Either will have big shoes to fill in replacing the graduated Lourden Bell, a three-year starter.

“They’re really experienced on the back row,” Aleman said. “They’ve played with the team the past two years, and Cameron plays with (Austin College head volleyball coach) Ed Garza in the offseason. Either one will do a great job.”

Sophomore Kamdyn Klingsick, an outstanding all-around athlete, leads the newcomers who’ve earned a varsity spot and will be asked to contribute in multiple positions, Aleman said.

If the name sounds familiar, Kamdyn is the daughter of Sherman head boys basketball coach Marcus Klingsick.

Following today’s tri-match with Sulphur Springs and Paris North Lamar, the Lady Cats will play in the Princeton tournament this weekend, with tournaments at Granbury and Whitesboro in each of the weekends to follow.

Also sprinkled in are regular-season non-district matches at Celina on Aug. 15 and at Wylie East on Aug. 22. The Lady Cats’ first home match of the season will be Aug. 25 against Paris High.

The University Interscholastic League this year relaxed some of its scheduling restrictions, permitting volleyball teams to play 23 matches and three tournaments in the regular season.

“We want to take advantage of any opportunity to get on the court,” Aleman said. “Especially in the preseason, we want to get some good momentum going into district.”

Sherman will wrap up the pre-district portion of its schedule by traveling to Community and hosting Anna and Greenville. The District 5-5A opener is set for Sept. 8 at Wichita Falls.

“It’s going to be a great mix of competition,” Aleman said. “It’s challenging, but at the same time we should come out of there successful. Every game on our schedule is a winnable game and we’re going to approach it with that mentality.”