After losing half of their rotation from the most successful season in more than a decade, the Lady Bearcats proved to be resilient and talented enough to return to the playoffs.
And while graduation took its toll again, this time Sherman’s quest for another postseason berth will come with a coaching change as well.
But the talent on the roster has become accustomed to success and will take its first steps towards remaining in the top half of the district as Sherman opens the season in a dual match with Sulphur Springs at North Lamar on Tuesday.
“We have six seniors and they really lead the team. A lot of them have played at the varsity level before so they know what to expect,” Sherman head coach Chelsea Beal said.
The Lady Bearcats are coming off a second straight playoff appearance after going 17-22 with a fourth-place finish in the 10-5A standings and a bi-district loss to Frisco Liberty.
In 2017, Sherman went 29-11 and lost in the first round against eventual state semifinalist Aledo. It was the program’s first playoff appearance since 2005. Becoming a playoff regular hasn’t been easy and the Bearcats understand how tenuous their hold on one of the fourth postseason slots can be.
Beal will look to continue that success after inheriting the run from Ashley Aleman, who stepped down after four seasons.
“There’s a couple of changes we’ve already established and that hasn’t been an issue. My serve-receive is a little different,” Beal said. “Early on it’s been all about character building, who wants it more, who is showing the most heart. The girls have exceeded my expectations in that regard.”
Beal, who played in high school at Crandall, has a dozen years of experience at the big school level but is getting her first chance to lead a program. She spent the past four seasons as an assistant at Frisco Independence, making the playoffs twice. She previously served as an assistant at Wylie East, starting from when it opened, for eight years.
“I’m not set in my ways or stick to something after one time,” Beal said. “Making adjustments and what’s best for the team is most important. Through August there will be a lot of back and forth. I didn’t want to come in with any bias or preconceived notions.”
Among those lost to graduation include libero Cameron Wecker and hitters Sarah Graham and Alexis Jackman. Both Wecker and Jackman were first-team all-district selections while Graham was a second-team all-district pick.
Senior Kylie Jackman returns after being named the district’s Offensive MVP with 452 kills, 370 digs and 63 total blocks.
She is once again joined by classmate Avery Charske, an outside hitter who finished with 125 kills as a junior, junior Ryan Dobbs, who was honorable mention all-district at middle blocker with 21 kills and 40 blocks, and sophomore Samantha Graham, who stepped right into the setter role as a freshman and was named second-team all-district after totaling 876 assists and 261 digs.
“Those four have really stepped with a lot of leadership,” Beal said.
Seniors Autumn Frazer and Jazmyne Aguilar saw limited varsity time and classmates Madison Aleman and Savanna Hall will also vie for a spot on the floor as well. The rest of the varsity roster will come from juniors Jenica Fielder and Emma Jones and and sophomores Nikki Jackman and Alyssa Arnold.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Beal said. “We want full scrimmages in practices so ideally we’ll have 12 on varsity.”
In addition to non-district matches against Sanger, Chisholm Trail, Community, Little Elm, Paris, Gainesville, Denton Braswell, Celina, Denton Ryan and Gunter, Sherman will compete in tournaments at Princeton, Granbury and Argyle. The Lady Bearcats kick off 10-5A play on Sept. 27 and are once again in a district with Denison, Lovejoy, which was the Class 5A runner-up last season, McKinney North, Princeton and Wylie East.
“Regardless of the schedule, it’s making sure we’re doing what we’re doing to be prepared,” Beal said. “I’m not as familiar with the pre-district teams as I am with the district teams. We’re going to play hard and work hard no matter who we play.”