Keller sophomore setter Kate Lang still remembers one particular game last season, when Arlington High middle Katie Clark, a TCU commit and one of the state’s best players, was terrorizing her on the volleyball court.
“It became a challenge and lit a fire under my butt,” Lang said. “It just made me want to play and be better and go all-out. I like being able to play older kids. I feel like it just makes me better.”
Lang hopes to bring some momentum from her summer into the fall volleyball season. Lang, along with Lady Indians teammate Jayden Nembhard, won a national title with her club team and wants a Texas UIL title to go with it.
One major difference between club and school, though, is that club ball is a more defined age group. Instead of playing other 15- and 16-year-old girls, Lang will face plenty of 17- and 18-year-old girls this fall.
“It’s Texas high school volleyball and it’s very strong in the Metroplex,” Keller coach Jamie Siegel said. “It’s a different game, in a way. There’s a different approach.”
But Lang is ready for the challenge. In fact, she’s looking forward to it.
Lang, who began last season on the JV as a freshman, eventually made the jump to the varsity squad.
“At first it was really nerve-wracking,” Lang said. “By the end of the season, I could run a 5-1 with the girls. It was honestly all about chemistry off the court. The girls were welcoming from day one. They’re probably my best friends right now. I love all of them.”
At first it was really nerve-wracking.
Kate Lang on playing varsity as a freshman
It was that off-court connection that made the difference for Lang.
“It helps so much with a team to be able to hang out off the court,” she added. “It helps you on the court to be able to talk to each other and settle down and be calm. If you have chemistry off the court, you’re going to have it on. It’s just a game-changer.”
Along with the chemistry she developed last year, Lang has increased confidence coming into this season after her experience in Minnesota in June, where her TAV 15 club won gold in the Open division of the 2017 Girls Junior National Championships.
“It gives me a lot of confidence, honestly,” Lang said, adding that playing with Nembhard in club volleyball gives them additional comfort together. “At the end of the day, no one in school volleyball cares, because that was club. But it helps me and Jayden on the court. It really helps us on our mental side of the game.”
Siegel agrees that her sophomore duo’s success this summer can only help.
“Club helps high school and I think high school helps club,” Siegel said. “With those girls playing together on a very high-level team and winning an Open championship, that does nothing but propel them into this high school season.”
The Lady Indians are coming off a 2016 season in which they won a district title and reached the regional semifinals. Losing only one starter to graduation, expectations will he high this year.
“We’re excited about this coming high school season,” Siegel said. “We had a good season last year, but the past is the past and all the girls are excited and ready to work.”
With team camp wrapped and Aug. 1 tryouts looming, the season is nigh. For Lang, the transition back into school volleyball was a pleasant one.
“I saw all my friends again and it just made me feel at home because I’m really comfortable with all of them — they’re all my best friends. It made me excited for school ball to start again.”