The Lady Cougars, the number four seed from Region 3-AA, will take on Region 1-AA champion Monsignor Donovan.
Game time is 11 a.m., and the winner then advances to play on Oct. 26.
Coach Rene Gomez has been coaching volleyball for 16 years and is in his ninth year as the Lady Cougar’ volleyball coach after starting the program in 2004.
Gomez was facing a huge challenge coming into the season after the team lost four seniors to graduation, who Gomez also said were among the most skilled players on the team.
“Not only did we have to bring up four JV players, but the girls returning had to learn new roles,” Gomez explained. “We wanted to try and be as competitive as possible. These girls have exceeded all expectations. They have really come to play hard. We have won some great games and the games and the games that we did lose we competed and battled well.”
Gomez credits the girls for having enough flexibility to try and eventually succeed in their new roles while adapting to a change in offensive and defensive philosophy.
“All we had was improvement, improvement, improvement,” Gomez said.
The Cougars are led by the lone senior and team captain, Kathryn Lee, who brings seven years of volleyball experience to the team and she also has one other distinction.
She is the only player in school history to be a starter on the team when she was just an eighth grader. Students can participate in varsity sports as eighth graders under GISA rules.
Lee said during a break in practice on Thursday she was a little unsure if she would be a good team captain, but it didn’t take her long to realize it was a role she relished and embraced.
“It was difficult at first, because I never had that role before,” Lee said. “I had to learn to be more of a leader. Then I ended up loving that in the end.”
Lee says she would like to major in veterinary medicine after high school, but is currently undecided about where to attend college.
In prior years, Lee was the team’s setter, meaning she’s the player who sets up teammates on the front row for a kill attempt.
This season, Gomez moved Lee to outside hitter due to her maturity, skill and experience level, along with her team captain responsibilities. It’s been a move that has paid dividends for everyone involved.
“It’s been outstanding,” Gomez said of the decision. “This year we had to move her, because we needed her to be more of a participant because in our offense a setter doesn’t do as much as a person does with her type of skills. She’s been a trooper. She took on the new role, she’s progressed in it beautifully from the beginning of the year and she’s really turned it on and she has led by example. You can talk a lot, but if you don’t do it, then the other kids won’t respect you and follow that leadership and Kathryn has been a great leader by example.”
The Cougars will face one of their toughest opponents this year in Monsignor Donovan.
“They’ll be tough,” Gomez said. “They finished first in their region, but we feel like we should be able to play with them. We feel like we can play with anybody as long as we’re able to play our game and our intensity level is high.”