CIBOLO, Texas – The 2017 season was a year of transition for the Steele volleyball program. Under first-year head coach Jordan Madill, the Knights finished with an 18-22 overall record, going 5-9 in District 27-6A play, good for fifth in the district standings.
That experience served as motivation and laid the foundation for Steele in 2018.
"We really built last year and over the summer," said Madill. "They were here every morning from 6:30 to 8:30, Monday through Thursday for strength and conditioning. We really built our strength and we rebuilt our schedule to have some tough competition to start the season strong going into our really tough district."
The Knights rose to the challenge, entering district play with a 21-7 overall record, posting three more wins than they did all of last season. The team credits coaching for getting them to this point.
"It's definitely been a whole change of culture and encouragement, how we run practice and how we hold ourselves up," explained senior setter Harlan Maurial. "Coach Madill gives us more faith in ourselves. She gives us pride in ourselves and in our school. We're all a family. Everyone gets along and wants everyone else to do better. When we're talking about games, we just get excited. Three days before game day we'll get excited about the game coming up. I think that's what helps us out a lot, is our whole world is volleyball, our whole world is Steele and just winning for our coach and each other."
With four seniors and eight juniors on this year's roster, the Knights have plenty of experience and leadership to draw from, and their main goal has been to hold the entire team accountable.
"We push ourselves personally and we really encourage and push each other to be better," said senior middle blocker Abby Blevins. "In the past we haven't really had that, and this year I feel like we have some really strong leaders on this team. We started focusing on ourselves first and bettered ourselves as athletes, and I feel like we're really ready this year."
The Knights have cooled off a bit in recent weeks, posting a 4-5 record in District 26-6A so far this year. Still, they're only a game out from third in the district standings and only one win away from tying their record from last season. After a tough early-season schedule, the team is confident they'll be able to persevere.
"It was great competition for us because that is what we see every night in district," Madill said. "We don't have a night off in our district, so if anything, we learned that we've got to play to win every point. We can't take any points off and we'll continue to work to get better at that."
"You have to stay encouraging," Blevins said. "I think that's the big thing for our team, staying positive and always uplifting each other. We need to keep pushing each other, telling each other that we're doing good and helping each other see what's on the court. I think that's what's most important in district, just staying together all the time."
The Knights return to action on the road Tuesday, taking on San Marcos at 7 p.m.