FRIENDSWOOD — On her first day as Friendswood volleyball coach, Kylie Kerlin made it a priority to get to know each and every member of the team, putting a name with a face.
Having made such a lasting initial impression, Kerlin, who came to Friendswood from Georgetown East View, was able to put her imprint on a program fresh off its second straight trip to the Class 4A state semifinals. Despite the fact the Lady Mustangs lost their season opener against Ridge Point on Tuesday, Kerlin feels good about her squad as it moves up to a very rugged District 24-6A.
“We wanted a better outcome, but until you get into games where the scoreboard matters, you really don’t know what you need to work on,” Kerlin said. “You just have to work to get better, so we went out and had a great practice (Wednesday) to follow up on that. It’s about getting better each day, and the girls understand that.”
One of the things the Mustangs want to work on entering today’s adidas Volleyball Invitational in Pearland is a more consistent offense. While Friendswood showed flashes of its scoring potential during a 25-23 loss in the second game Tuesday, the Mustangs managed just 16 and 18 points in games 1 and 3, respectively.
“I know that we can be more versatile,” Kerlin said. “Our outside hitters did a good job, but our goal is make sure we get everyone involved.”
Kerlin’s progress has been helped by having longtime Friendswood coach Jerry Linch as a guiding hand. Linch, who coaches the freshman team, remains a presence in a program that has captured seven Region III-4A titles since 2000.
While the Mustangs did lose nine seniors from last year’s squad, including 24-4A Most Valuable Player Harley Kelly, Friendswood brought back first team all-district performer Sarah Redding and second-teamer Bailee Whitmarsh. Kerlin is also high on outside hitter Kelly Colwell, who led the team Tuesday with 12 kills.
“The returning players have done such a great job in getting our younger players in focus,” Kerlin said. “Several of them were sophomores last year, and now, they’re being asked to become leaders.
“They’ve responded very well. Everyone has been very responsive. From the first day, they have come in and worked very hard from start to finish.”
To prepare for the 24-6A schedule, the Mustangs will embark on a daunting schedule. Besides taking part in the prestigious adidas tourney this weekend, Friendswood will also take part in the Northwest ISD tourney next weekend and the challenging Kingwood Tournament to close out the month. The lady Mustangs will take on College Park on Sept. 9 before opening district play against Clear Falls, who reached the 5A state semifinals last season, on Sept. 12.
“Our preseason is going to be crazy, but it is the perfect way for us to get ready for a district that is one of the toughest in the state,” Kerlin said. “We have to go out there each night knowing that there won’t any time the schedule will let up on us.
“The players are stepping up each day, and as long as they continue to do so, I love our chances in district.”
Friendswood Lady Mustangs
COACH: Kylie Kerlin
KEY RETURNERS: Kelly Colwell (So.), Sarah Redding (Sr.), Bailee Whitmarsh (Jr.), Sarah Thomas (Jr.)