SANTA FE — The Santa Fe volleyball team lost seven seniors from last year’s 24-15 squad, including District 24-4A Offensive Player of the Year Haley Henderson and All-District First-Teamer Allyssa Webb. While the process of filling the void will prove challenging for veteran coach Anna Marie Milligan, there is a returning foundation that will help ease the newcomers through a challenging nondistrict schedule.
First-Team 24-4A standouts Cayla Hockenbury and Keegan Nelms come back for their junior seasons, while senior Madison Ogden comes off a 2013 campaign that saw her earn All-District Second Team honors, giving Milligan a trio chock-full of experience. Nelms is coming off a summer in which she was named Most Valuable Player at the USA Girls Junior Volleyball Championships, giving her a huge boost coming into camp.
“Give us some time,” Milligan said. “We will be a competitive team, but we’re going to need some time to develop.”
The Lady Indians’ biggest issue will be filling the middle after the departures of Kayleen Hadley and Briana Silva. Milligan is excited about the potential coming up from subvarsity, yet is fully aware their process will face its share of speed bumps along with way.
“Obviously, they played well on JV, but varsity play is so much faster,” she said. “There are going to be some struggles here and there.”
The learning curve will be faced with a daunting nondistrict schedule, which begins Tuesday against Manvel before the lady Indians take part in the Pearland Tournament next weekend. From there, Santa Fe will head to Fort Worth to participate in one of the metroplex’s premier tourneys (Aug. 21-23) and come back to play Barbers Hill and end the month hosting their annual tournament.
“There’s no question it’s pretty tough,” said Milligan. “At the same time, it’s going to prepare us very well when we begin district (at Texas City on Sept. 9).”
Santa Fe will be part of the new District 23-5A, along with longtime district foes Galveston Ball and Texas City. All three teams will joined by four Fort Bend schools Bush, Elkins, Marshall and Ridge Point.
Milligan feels the biggest challenge will come from Ridge Point, which comes off a 23-15 season with a berth into the Region III semifinals before being eliminated by Friendswood. While the Lady Panthers lost four seniors, they remain deep in talent, including a pair of Division I prospects.
“They’re the team to beat,” she said. “They have a lot returning, and they will be deeper than most of the other teams in the district. Texas City continues to get better each year, and Galveston Ball made some good strides in their program last year.”
Santa Fe Lady Indians
COACH: Anna Marie Milligan
2013 RECORD: 24-15; lost in second round of playoffs to Tomball Memorial
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Keegan Nelms (Jr.), Cayla Hockenbury (Jr.), Madison Ogden (Sr.)