High expectations: Titans planning run to playoffs with experience at net

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, August 3, 2017

Taking a step down to 5A from 6A is one thing, but playing volleyball in District 22-5A is another.

Port Arthur Memorial gladly welcomes the latter challenge for a second year.

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“We are expecting a lot of good things,” fourth-year coach Bianca Dixon said. “We have some new players who will be moving up this year that we expect some big things from, but we also are expecting our returners to come back and dominate.”

Memorial finished 13-19-1 overall and was fifth in 22-5A, nearly earning a long-awaited playoff berth, but the Titans build plenty of confidence along the way. They won eight more matches than in the previous season, and they built a formidable front line that could give offenses some trouble.

“Despite our past records at Memorial, the fact that we almost made it to the playoffs, that was a big deal for us,” senior La’Ericca Lambert said.

Dixon was unsure if Memorial has ever made the playoffs since the school opened in 2002.

The Titans sought to finish the 2016 season strong after four straight defeats and won two of three, scoring season sweeps of Ozen and Vidor in the process. But Nederland beat Memorial in the finale to earn its share of the 22-5A title.

Memorial did not win a set during the costly skid, something Dixon isn’t expecting to happen in 2017.

“I’m expecting our offense to be a little more dominant and our defense to be much more consistent,” she said.

Seniors Nayla Bazile and Lambert team with junior Diamond Newsome up front as the Titans’ nucleus.

“I really like to dominate other teams with my friends that I’ve been with since my freshman year,” Bazile said.

Three seniors have graduated from the 2016 team, including all-district blocker Riyah Collins, who’s going to Jarvis Christian College, so Memorial returns an experienced group from their first year playing alongside the likes of Port Neches-Groves and Nederland.

What’s better news for the Titans is that Bazile, like her teammates, believes they improved in all aspects of their game.

“A lot better,” she said. “I believe everything went up 100 percent. We come out here, day by day, swinging, working our hardest, making sure we’re undefeated in this district.”

That is the expectation the Titans, who start the season Tuesday at Houston Chavez — have set for themselves — among other objectives.

“Trusting your teammates and trusting your surroundings. You’ve got to trust your people and actually believe you can win,” Newsome said. “It’s mind over matter. If you believe you can do it, you’re going to do it.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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