Lady Bearkats hit the court for first practice

RAYMONDVILLE – It’s not going to be easy staying apart on the volleyball court, where teams tend to huddle after every point.

But the Raymondville Lady Bearkats aren’t going to let the “new normal” get in their way.

The Lady Bearkats had their first practice Monday, and even if things are different, they felt fortunate to be back on the court.

“The girls are so excited,” Raymondville coach Norma Rodriguez said. “They were all texting me, they had been asking, ‘When are we starting?’ and of course we had to wait until (Willacy County and school administrators) made a decision, but it’s exciting and I’m so glad we’re getting started. I had girls show up to practice almost an hour before because they’re so happy.”

Raymondville football coach and athletic director Frank Cantu got things started by emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask, being honest about self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms and making smart decisions outside of practice.

Rodriguez walked the girls through some of the new protocols and told them that though some things might be hard, it will be worth it to have a season.

“(I told them) just continue playing hard. I know there’s going to be obstacles, but we just have to overcome them as best we can,” Rodriguez said.

Around 40 girls showed up for Day 1, which is about 20 less than Rodriguez said she has in a typical year. The Lady Bearkats were split into three groups that they’ll be staying in all week to minimize exposure between athletes.

Rodriguez’s returning varsity players and varsity hopefuls were grouped together. Two standouts in the bunch are Caitlynn Brooks and Miranda Hernandez, who both play every rotation and will anchor a young squad.

“It’s going to be a little tough because we have a lot of young ones coming up, but I’ve seen how they play and they’ve done well. I’m looking forward to it,” Rodriguez said. “(Brooks and Hernandez) are good setters and hitters and they’re all-around players, so I’m pretty excited about them.”

Brooks is entering her second varsity season, and Hernandez said she expects the junior to be a leader because “she’s a big part of the team and she’s someone you can depend on.”

Brooks said it’s going to be difficult for the close Lady Bearkats squad to not high-five and celebrate after points, but she’s glad to be back on the court and thinks a successful season is ahead.

“I was super excited and so ready (to get to practice.) I’ve been waiting forever, it feels like,” Brooks said. “It’s hard not being able to be close to your teammates. But I just hope we have a good season. I hope we’re great and we go to playoffs. I think getting started early will make us better for the season.”

Hernandez is a senior, and though she said the safety protocols in place make this year feel different, she’s just thankful to get one last season with her teammates and she’s going to soak up every minute.

“I’m very happy we get to do this, Hernandez said. “I was super excited to come out and be with the team again. I’m just hoping to play as long as we can, especially with all this COVID stuff. We don’t know how many games we’ll be able to play, so I’m just all in for however long we get.”