There’s a youth movement at Midway High School.
Last year’s Midway volleyball team was stocked with senior Division I signees. When they graduated, they took their lofty state ranking as a parting gift.
Filling their old spots on the court is a collection of fresh-faced newbies and former backups. But even in the midst of a growth spurt, these Pantherettes are showing they’re not ready to abdicate the District 8-6A throne.
Behind a match-leading 10 kills from senior Kennady Childers, Midway dispatched visiting Killeen with ease, 25-18, 25-14, 25-12, to improve to 2-0 in district play on Tuesday night at the MHS arena.
A sign perched above one of the gym doors asks a question of the Pantherettes (10-13, 2-0): “Did you get better today?” The message acts as both a tribute to Ryan Murphy, a former Round Rock student who died in a car accident three years ago and had several friends at Midway, and also as a perpetual reminder to the Pantherette players to constantly strive for improvement.
Midway coach Ryan Porter said he can see the message sinking in.
“We’ve shown glimpses of getting really good at times,” Porter said. “The consistency is just not there. We’re still showing our age. But we are getting better each time we play. Hopefully in the next month we’ll be where we need to be when the real season (the postseason) starts.”
Against Killeen (7-15, 0-2), one of Midway’s most potent weapons proved to be the service game of Hannah Langerman. Porter said that the junior has spent a hefty chunk of time working with Midway’s assistant coaches after practice on her serve, and the results are paying off in matches.
Keeping the Kangaroos on their heels with a mix of net-tickling floaters and harder bullets to the back row, Langerman tagged a match-high six aces. She frequently facilitated Midway runs of five or six points in a row whenever she stepped behind the service line.
“(Assistant coach Shannon Strumlauf) has been working out with them a whole lot, and she calls all of her serves for all of our players and lets them go fist occasionally, just lets them go after it,” Porter said. “Tonight she let (Langerman) go after it, and she did a great job.”
Midway maintained a four to five-point lead for most of the first set, then stretched it out for a 25-18 win after a well-struck Emery Judkins kill and an errant Killeen return on the final two points.
The Pantherettes bounced out to a quick 6-1 lead in set No. 2, controlling the net and forcing the issue. Killeen trailed 21-6 late before putting together an 8-2 run with its most cohesive stretch of play of the match. But the Lady Roos couldn’t make the miraculous comeback, as the Pantherettes eventually closed out the set at 25-14 on a Langerman ace.
Midway displayed some ragged passing at the start of the third set, and fell behind 5-1. Then Childers found her groove, taking a steady array of deliveries from Midway’s setting duo of Madison Rohre and Reese Rhodes and depositing them across the net for winners.
Childers’ high-flying efforts look even more impressive when one takes into account the fact that the senior has been saddled with a meniscus injury throughout the season.
Langerman added four kills to go with her aces, while Kaitlyn Hankins neutralized Killeen’s attacking with five blocks.
Porter said that he and his coaches are still toying with different lineups and trying to determine everyone’s most comfortable spot on the court. Usually, the non-district season reveals such information, but this season has admittedly played out differently, the coach said.
“Normally we have that done by now,” Porter said. “But, with that being said, when we tackle district we’re looking to just continually improve as a team. As long as we put the best group out we can by playoffs, that’s all we can really do.”