The clean slate and fresh perspective that district play offers the Sherman Lady Bearcats is a welcome one.
Three separate losing streaks during the first two months of the season have overshadowed some pockets of success and progress.
But with the final 10 matches of the season upcoming to determine which teams will make the playoffs, the Lady Bearcats can look forward in an attempt to make the playoffs once again.
The first step in that direction comes as Sherman (5-26) hosts Princeton to open District 10-5A action on Friday.
“It starts the real thing. It’s the live show,” Sherman head coach Chelsea Beal said. “We’ve learned a lot this preseason. We’ve gotten a lot better strategically. They’ve improved a lot about communicating. They’re taking the instruction and applying it. I think they’re prepared and ready to go.”
The Lady Bearcats are trying for three consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since a run of four straight from 2002-05 and understand that the rest of the district might look at them as vulnerable when it comes to holding their spot in the top four of the standings.
Last year Sherman was 17-22 and lost in the bi-district round to Frisco Liberty, which was eliminated by Lovejoy in the region quarterfinals. The postseason berth was in doubt until the last week of the regular season but the Lady Bearcats held off Princeton to clinch.
A pair of seniors, Kylie Jackman and Avery Charske, lead the team in kills while junior Ryan Dobbs does her best work in the middle. Samantha Graham, a sophomore setter, continues to run the offense.
“Everybody has a part. Everybody has a role and they’re equally important,” Beal said.
There have been a couple of newcomers to the lineup who have made contributions during their senior year.
Savanna Hall has provided another option at the net.
“We started off with her on the right side and moved her to the middle,” Beal said. “And I think she’s really owned that position.”
In the back row, libero Jazmyne Aguilar has become a defensive leader.
“She’s really stepped into that role,” Beal said. “She’s calm, collected.”
And while the results have been in stops and starts — Sherman opened the season with seven losses to go with an eight-match losing streak and another skid of six matches — the Lady Bearcats believe the best is yet to come, and come at the right time.
Last season it was a crowded race for second place behind district champion — and eventual state runner-up — Lovejoy, which is the top-ranked team in the Class 5A poll.
McKinney North and Wylie East tied for second at 6-4, which was four games out of first place, and Sherman was one game back. Princeton was fifth with Denison in last place.
Beal is new to the group after taking over this off-season after serving as an assistant at Frisco Independence. But she was at Wylie East before that and familiar with most of the opponents.
“I’ve watched a lot of film, get the girls involved so they know what they’re getting into,” Beal said. “We’re going to have good competition. It’s going to be a playoff before the playoffs.”