Shay Douglas has already been a part of one state volleyball championship in Stephenville — as a player. Now she’s excited to have the chance to work toward that goal as the head coach of the Honeybees.

Douglas was hired in March from a field of six candidates as the team’s new head coach after the retirement of longtime coach Fran Metzger. In 2003, Metzger’s Honeybees won the only state volleyball championship in SHS history, with Douglas (then Shay Gracy) as one of the key players. Douglas, an all-state performer who also earned academic all-state recognition as a Honeybee, has been the head volleyball coach at Giddings the last four years.

The Honeybees had their first practice under Douglas last Wednesday, then had scrimmages at home Friday and in Gatesville Saturday. They took on Abilene Cooper, Fort Worth Paschall and Krum Friday. Saturday, they scrimmaged Abilene High, Killeen Shoemaker and Gatesville.

The Honeybees were scheduled to open their regular-season schedule last night (Tuesday) at Burleson High School.

Previously, Douglas stated that landing the SHS coaching job was a dream come true.

She said last Friday that when she rolled out the ball carts a week ago, she recalled coming into the gym as a player, wearing her backpack and getting ready for practice.

“It was really cool when I got here Wednesday morning,” said Douglas, who is starting her ninth season as a head coach and will be seeking to make the playoffs for the sixth time. “I was sitting here thinking, ‘I’m really here. Wake up, Shay.’ It’s cool having a little memory of that.”

Of the 12 players who were on the SHS varsity last season, nine are returning this year.

Although the 2018 Honeybees don’t have dominant height, their versatility overall is a big plus, according to Douglas.

“I’m definitely excited about what we have,” Douglas said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that can do multiple things — defensive players that can play different positions and take on different roles.

“The challenge right now is to find where I should put the puzzle pieces together. So it’s a good problem.”

Flexibility at various positions should mean the squad can have more dimensions.

“We’re not going to have to do the same thing every rotation,” Douglas said. “I do feel like we have the athleticism to be creative.”

Douglas said it is “super important” for this group to improve on first-contact balls — serve and return of serve — and “being more consistent and confident passers and keying on the opponent’s weaknesses.”

Douglas described her coaching style as being “interactive,” adding, “I jump up and down and try to be as vocal as possible. Hopefully we will see a very up-tempo style on offense, and the defense will be very scrappy.”

Douglas is still learning her new team’s strengths, but noted that key team leaders so far have been junior setter Hannah Huckabee, senior outside middle hitter Jayci Morton and junior outside hitter Salette Rios.

Morton and Huckabee were first-team all-district performers in 2017. Gabie Lucero of SHS was voted as the district’s Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore. Outside hitter Chloe Goodman received all-district honorable mention, and is now a senior.

Douglas said Huckabee “has been real impressive with her work ethic over the summer. She’s pretty eager to have a good junior year. She’ll be definitely one of our vocal leaders, and a consistent player. She is very coachable.”

Douglas said Morton “is probably going to be one of our go-to kids. She’s so athletic and so competitive. She hits the ball hard.”

Of Rios, Douglas said, “She is another one who is super athletic, and volleyball-savvy. She just does things right. She’s all over the place. I’m excited to see how she grows. She is super smart.”

Last year’s squad finished the season with a 21-22 overall record under Metzger. The Honeybees were third in their district and made the playoffs before being eliminated in the bi-district round by Kennedale.

Stephenville’s new five-school District 7-4A alignment includes Brownwood, Glen Rose, Godley and Mineral Wells.

Defending district champion Glen Rose set several school records last year in going 48-2 on the way to the state tournament before falling in the semifinals. The Lady Tigers are likely to be the favorite again this season, having won 32 of their last 35 district contests.

“I see a bright future. It’s just going to take some time,” Douglas said of her Honeybees. “I think we’ll be ready when it counts.”