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Burnet volleyball looks to add another district crown

CAPTION: Senior Zaria Solis (right) watches to time her jump to the set so she can end a rally. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

A mix of teams on the court at The Doghouse Aug. 1 said plenty about the Burnet High School volleyball program.

First, a range of talented players were on each side of the net with the ability to play strong defense, serve well and end rallies. Second, the players each showed the enthusiasm head coach Crystal Shipley wants in her program complete with cheering each other on, eagerness to learn and perform a drill, and strengthening bonds with one another. And finally, the Lady Dawgs relish the opportunity to improve.

The Lady Dawgs arrived for two-days in shape, which means spending less time getting match ready and more time working on the skills that has led Burnet to winning two district titles in a row. Much like their coach, the Lady Dawgs display a toughness that comes from getting every opponents’ best efforts and having an answer.

“With the kids I have, I think they’re earning that respect,” Shipley said. “I’ve seen some of them at summer workouts. Several are playing club of any sport, not just volleyball. I think I’m most happy about the excitement. They’re coming to open gyms, they’re playing in different leagues.”

The decision to play when opportunities come illustrate why the Lady Dawgs are aiming for their third consecutive district title and why they have reached at least the third round of the playoffs in 2021 and 2022. To better help her players prepare, Shipley divided her varsity roster into two for the Marble Falls May and June leagues. She purposely evened out the rosters in natural abilities. knowing full well the players were forced to play other positions they may not be used to. The goal was to help strengthen the team by creating depth. At the same, the athletes showed each other their commitment to play with one another, which in turn helped build better rapport one and off the court. Those off-court bonds, according to Shipley, help explain why the program continues to be so successful in the gym.

Burnet returns starting setter Camryn Courtney, who is entering her second year on the varsity. Courtney was the District 24-4A Newcomer of the Year in 2022.

“I made her a setter last year,” Shipley said. “I told her, ‘This is what I need you to do.’ She accepted it and worked on it.”

A year ago, coaches saw that Courtney had “great hands,” meaning she has great touch with the ball and can put it high enough and in the right spot for her teammates to end rallies. Burnet utilizes a quick offense with weapons spread throughout the floor. A setter must be able to quickly process information and properly match up her hitters to blockers that give her team the advantage. Courtney has all the necessary tools and believes she is capable of being the lone setter on the floor.

“There was a lot I put on her,” Shipley said.

The program also returns senior Zaria Solis, one of the finest front row players in the region, whose natural athletic ability can be used in different positions. Solis is great at blocking, is difficult to block and isn’t afraid to hit the floor for digs. During practice, she served three aces in a row. Shipley noted Solis has added one element to her game that makes her even more dangerous.

“The main thing is confidence,” the coach said. “Zaria has developed into a leader. She’s not afraid to speak up. She knows the competition. She wants to be a college player in whichever sport she fits. She can play in every position I put her in. She’s swinging it well.”

Courtney and Solis have a trust in one another that fans will see this season, Shipley said, and the goals of the program remain. Two years ago, Burnet reached the Class 4A Region III tournament. Now the Lady Dawgs continue their quest for the Class 4A state tournament.

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