By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Sandiettes are hungry. For the last few years, the Iola Lady Bulldogs have ruled the Class AA volleyball world and they have been unwilling to share. In 2016, they won state and in 2017 they finished as the state runners-up. Both years, the Sandiettes shared the same district.

The 2018 season is different, however, and with a strong returning cast of players, a new district, a new attitude and a new coach, Sandiette volleyball just may make a return trip to the playoffs.

When asked what he thought the team’s greatest strength might be, Coach Anthony DeCello said, “Hustle. Covering the floor, defensively these kids really get after it. Speed, anticipation and quickness – they really can cover a lot of ground.”

With it being the very first day of volleyball practice, DeCello said the team appeared a little rusty on the fundamentals, but “… progressed nicely throughout the day. Our main emphasis today was on our passing and setting.”

As far as weaknesses, DeCello said the main thing was to gain some continuity in the team.

“We are going to have to play with a new setter, so that’s going to take some time. The hitting will get better as we progress because the setting will get better every day,” he said.

Grapeland will be in District 21 AA along with: the Cayuga Lady Wildcats; the Kerens Lady Bobcats; the Latexo Lady Tigers; the Cross Roads Lady Bobcats; the Neches Lady Tigers; the Oakwood Lady Panthers; and the Trinidad Lady Trojans.

A player to watch, according to the coach is Hannah Chipman.

“Being that this is her last year, I think she is going to want to go out with a bang. She seemed so relaxed today and played like she enjoyed it.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.