40-9 — that was the Prosper volleyball team's overall record in their 2016 campaign. They were also undefeated in District 14-5A, but their 16-game unbeaten streak came to a close on Nov. 8, 2016 when the Lady Eagles dropped a heartbreaker to neighboring Frisco Wakeland 3-2 in the Regional Quarterfinals.
With the 2016 season in the past, head coach Erin Kauffman can only look forward and learn from previous matches.
As the long-awaited season opener quickly approaches, the Lady Eagles are eager to pick up where they left off last year. They will play Monday, Aug. 7 against two familiar opponents: the Waxahachie Lady Indians and the Wakeland Lady Wolverines. In their previous matchups, Prosper split with Waxahachie as each team stole a victory, and lost twice to Wakeland — once early in the season and again in the playoffs.
Add JJ Pearce, Frisco Liberty, Keller and other high-caliber volleyball teams into the mix, and you've got a recipe for a long and challenging 2017 campaign for the Lady Eagles.
Despite the tough schedule and losing a few key players, however, Kauffman, who is now entering her seventh year of coaching at Prosper High, is confident going forward.
“I am very optimistic about the season,” she said. “We are very talented and have a hungry senior class.”
Among those seniors is returning outside hitter Haley Killinger. From the moment she stepped onto the court for the varsity volleyball team, Killinger has been an offensive threat, posting 399 kills and 33 aces in her sophomore campaign. She tallied another 671 kills and 46 aces last year, and heading into her senior season she is ready to add to that count. Killinger is committed to Texas Tech. Adding to the offensive mix is another outside hitter, junior Ciera Hecht, who added 414 kills, and senior middle blockers Cloe Hancock and Hope Gramly who posted a combined 214 kills and 123 blocks, an article in SportsDayHS said. And with the graduation of all-state setter Abby Gargus, junior Madi Whitmore, who is committed to the University of Connecticut, has some big shoes to fill. Lastly, newcomer and freshman Sami Jacobs will add some interesting depth to the Prosper roster. Jacobs recently took home the bronze medal at the USAV Girls Junior National Championships with her club team, and Kauffman noted that she has started to look more comfortable on the court.
Scheduling and returning players aside, the Lady Eagles do have a few kinks to work out if they are going to make a true run towards a State Championship. Although it is still early in the pre-season, Kauffman has already identified the keys to their success this season.
“In order to go deep into the playoffs, we need to work on consistent, aggressive serves as well as more aggressive blocking,” Kauffman said. “We would still have an extremely tough road in the playoffs. … If we are fortunate enough to make it to the Regional Tournament, we would again have to go through (some) very tough teams.”
But adjusting and adapting is what Kauffman thinks sets the girls apart. In fact, she finds that this team is ready to take on the challenge.
“I think that this team, more so than any other I have coached here (at Prosper), is ready for the spotlight,” Kauffman said. “They have their heads on straight, they are extremely selfless and just love playing the game. It is so much fun coaching them.”
In the end, the ultimate goal is a state championship. Taking down some of the top teams in the state won't be easy, but with a strong leader in Kauffman, and dedicated players like Killinger, the possibilities are endless.