An early exit from the postseason a year ago left the Archer City Lady Cats with a bitter taste in their mouth. With more experience and a dominant junior class, ACHS hope to return to the state tournament for the first time since 2017.
Head coach Krissa Johnson begins her sixth year at the helm of the Wildcats and has high hopes for her 2020 squad.
“I want to go further than the second round of the playoffs this year,” Johnson said. “We ran into Lindsay the past two years in a row and they’re a chainsaw. Hopefully this year we will have a little bit more experience and firepower to match them. My goal is to go deeper into the playoffs. My expectations are pretty high.”
With only one senior on the roster in Delaini Hanna, Johnson knows she has a quality leader to lean on in the locker room.
“Delaini’s going to be a good leader,” Johnson added. “She’s a spark. When I say, ‘come on girls I need some energy,’ she is always willing to step up and provide that. She goes hard all the time. She has those ‘follow me’ type actions.”
The Lady Cats are loaded with offensive firepower. Juniors Mallory Maxwell and Bailey Grant in the middle are expected to make an immediate impact while Hanna and junior Chandler Clark on the outside are primed for breakout seasons. Maxwell earned District 9-2A’s offensive MVP award in 2019 while Clark and Hanna picked up second team accolades.
“I don’t feel like we should have a weak spot as we go along,” Johnson said about her offense. “I’m not saying we’re not going to make mistakes and get down, but with the experience that we have, on paper there shouldn’t be a let down.”
Maxwell and Clark are expected to be the go-to hitters for the Lady Cats with Johnson elaborating how comfortable she is with her juniors being some of the top focal points of the offense.
“Any time I need a kill, I’m comfortable saying ‘get the ball to Mallory,” Johnson said. “She’s going to be playing all the way around this year which should help us defensively. Chandler is another one of those kids I’ll rely on when we need a kill. She likes to hit a heavy ball from the outside. Her serve has gotten a lot better since last year. We’ll rely on her to get us into some runs.”
At the setter position, Johnson seems confident in the two she has pegged to run the offense. Junior Maddie Lopez and sophomore Jill Liles are charged with orchestrating what should be a high-flying offense.
“Maddie is my quarterback,” Johnson said. “She and Jill play on the court the entire time. They play defense. They hit. They block. There won’t be a rotation where one of them doesn’t touch the ball. They have to be my most consistent, steady players.”
Defensively, the Lady Cats will rely on junior Aspyn Huseman to step into the libero position after losing Lindy Reid and Bre Howard to graduation.
“When we graduated our seniors last year, I basically graduated my defensive line,” Johnson said. “Aspyn is stepping into the libero position. She’s going to have to learn how to read hitters and know where to go on defense. I anticipate her doing a good job.”
In the middle, Grant is projected to provide a wall for opposing hitters.
“I need Bailey to be a big block,” Johnson said on her middle blocker. “She needs to be a little more consistent than she was last year in hitting out of the middle. She’s worked on it a lot during two-a-days. I’m going to rely on her to be a strong front-row defender.”
On a roster loaded with talent, look for the Lady Cats to make some noise in district and postseason play.