By JUSTIN RAINS
Coming into the 2012 season, those surrounding the Cayuga volleyball program weren’t completely sure where the team’s offensive firepower was going to come from.
The team’s leading attacker from its past two seasons, Shawnta Knox, was coming off of a knee injury sustained during basketball, and wasn’t going to be 100 percent to start the year.
But, the Ladycats were coming off of two-straight state tournament appearances, with eyes on making it three-in-a-row. So, where would the kills come from?
Enter junior Danielle Anderson.
“From Day 1, she knew she had to step up and make some plays happen with Shawnta hurt,” CHS coach Magen Humphreys said. “Danielle has improved and now I think they’re going to lead the team evenly.”
Anderson was already a big member of the Ladycat team, finishing second on the team in kills in both her freshman and sophomore campaigns. But, 2012 has been different for her.
She said she knew from the outset that her team needed her to step up offensively, and she has taken the ball and run with it.
“I’ve felt like I’ve been more effective for the team,” Anderson said. “That’s been my main role, to be more effective to start the year off since Shawnta had to come back from injury.
“I just knew I had to step my game up to take on some of her role.”
Her increased maturity level has shown all season long for Cayuga, and she leads the team in kills as the regular season nears its end.
Her new-found presence culminated Friday, when Anderson tallied a career-best 30 kills in 48 attempts against Hubbard.
“Danielle has grown up a lot from the first years she came out,” Cayuga setter Molly Griffey said. “She’s progressed a lot and now she’s getting more kills than the whole team. She’s worked a lot.”
Anderson’s improvement also took the onus off of Knox to have to rush back to provide Cayuga with that attacking spark. With Anderson leading the way, Knox has been able to slowly work her way back.
“If you feel like you have to do it on your own, then you get down on yourself and do a lot worse,” Knox said. “Knowing that Danielle has stepped up so much has been a blessing.”
With Anderson’s increase in confidence attacking the net — and Knox’s return to almost full-strength — the Ladycats have something that’s a bit rare for a Class 1A volleyball program: Two legitimate No. 1 attackers.
Now, Humphreys said she doesn’t know which player will lead her in kills going into each game, and that makes the Ladycats a tougher out.
Also getting into the attacking mix has been Griffey.
Most setters do just that — set up the kills for their hitters. But, Griffey has added another element to her game, and has continually tallied kills of her own by dumping the ball over the net while opponents expect her to set up a hitter.
“It’s fun,” Griffey said. “I love to see my libero’s (Cory McCulloch) reaction the most, because she gets so excited when I do that. It just makes me feel good.”
The Ladycats have eased through district play so far this season, dropping only one game — the first in their 3-1 over Hubbard Friday — en route to a 9-10-0 district record.
Cayuga continued that dominant run Tuesday, rolling over Trinidad, 3-0 (25-4, 25-3, 25-6).
Anderson led the team with eight kills, while Knox had five. Both Meagan Poland and Griffey had three, and Griffey finished with 16 assists.
Knox had a team-high seven aces, while Cory McCulloch had four and a kill.
As a whole, the Cayuga team — which entered this week ranked No. 7 in the latest Texas Girls’ Coaches Association poll — has turned Knox’s early season rehabilitation into a positive for the team.
To a player, they think that it’s made them better overall, and a lot tougher out in the playoffs. Now, they all just can’t wait to get there.
“I just really can’t wait to get out of district and get into the playoffs,” Anderson said.
Cayuga returns to action Saturday when they travel to Dawson. Matches begin at 10 a.m.
WHS 3, Groveton 0
The Westwood volleyball team remained perfect in District 19-2A play Tuesday, sweeping Groveton, 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-8).
Mi’Kayla Benson led the way for Westwood — which has yet to drop a single game in district play — with 13 kills, while Courtney Stanhope had 10.
Marialle Boles had a big overall night. The senior middle blocker had seven kills and three aces, and was responsible for 18 points from the serving line.
Heather Wooden had 25 assists, while Neeli Hardison had 16 of her own. Lacey Wooden finished with 28 digs.
The Lady Panthers (26-8, 6-0) host Crockett Saturday, with subvarsity action beginning at 10 a.m.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com