Sometimes when first-year Stephenville volleyball coach Shay Douglas walks past the locker room, she can hear her players laughing.
But she knows that having fun is a good sign for a team that knows when to get serious — on the court.
The 27-17 Honeybees closed out their regular-season schedule Tuesday with a four-set win at Brownwood, and are preparing for their first-round playoff game against unranked Krum.
That bi-district matchup will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Aledo High School.
The Honeybees have won 13 of their last 15 games entering postseason play, and are ranked 20th in the state in the latest Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 4A state poll. In district play they swept Godley, which had been ranked ahead of them earlier in the season. Their only two district losses were to Glen Rose, a third-ranked powerhouse.
Douglas had served for four years as the head volleyball coach at Giddings when she learned that Fran Metzger —the woman who had coached her when she was an all-state middle blocker for the Honeybees — was retiring at the end of last season.
Metzger and Douglas (then Shay Gracy) had helped lead the Honeybees to their only state volleyball championship, in 2003. Metzger closed out her distinguished career with 646 wins.
Douglas pounced on the opportunity and got the job. She later said that it was a dream come true for her. Now, she’s approaching 200 wins on her own career.
The laughter has been a part of the winning culture for both the Honeybees under Douglas, as well as among her coaching staff that features longtime SHS assistant Patti Williams along with Katie Fulton and Melissa Lopez.
“It’s such a momentum sport. If you have fun, the momentum is going to stay on your side,” said Douglas, who was an all-Lone Star Conference player for Tarleton State University. “It’s definitely been a blast, I can tell you that. I always prided myself on being from here and being a Honeybee.
“I’m super grateful (to be coaching here). It’s really neat to work with a staff that’s always laughing. We have the best rapport. It’s so much better when you love the game. We all have the same goal, wanting to win.”
Douglas also noted that the coaches and players “can flip the switch pretty good” and get serious when game time arrives.
Krum is 17-11 overall and took third place in District 8-4A with a 2-5 mark.
The winner of Tuesday’s playoff game will advance to the area round against either Graham or Big Spring.
“I know traditionally, Krum has a very good program,” Douglas said. “It’s an exciting part of the season.
“Going into the Brownwood game, I told them their record was 0-0 now. We’ve got to continue to be us, and great things can happen. We’ve got to stay fresh and sharp — and continue to have fun.”
The Honeybees have experienced a few problems, of course including some key injuries during the middle of the season. Starters Jayci Morton (back after sitting out about 20 games), Salette Rios and Jaydi Griffin all were sidelined at times.
The Honeybees are healthy again, and rolling forward with that key word — momentum — on their side.
“There were some hiccups along the way,” Douglas said.
One thing Douglas worked hard to convey to her players from the beginning of the season was dealing with the speed of the game.
“I think one of the things is the tempo of the game,” Douglas said. “I think they’re playing at a much faster game speed now.
“I think we’ve grown a lot offensively. We’re learning to hit different types of shots. And our serve-receive defense is a lot more consistent. Their anticipation on defense is a lot better.”
Morton leads the Honeybees in kills with 73, followed by Chloe Goodman with 59. Freshman Landri Withers has 33, Jaydi Griffin has 32 and Alee McClendon and Rios have 30 each.
Libero Gabie Lucero leads in digs with 118, while Morton is second with 73. Hannah Huckabee is third with 53 and Karlee Easterling fourth with 50.
Huckabee owns the lead in assists with 160 and Easterling has 117.
McClendon leads in blocked shots with 22, followed by Morton and Griffin with 14 and 12, respectively.
Lucero and Huckabee are tied for the team lead in aces, with eight.
Douglas, who began her coaching career at Class 2A Troy, guided Class 4A Giddings to the third round (regional quarterfinals) of the playoffs the past three years. The most wins Douglas ever had in one season was 28 in 2016 at Giddings, and she can surpass that mark if the Honeybees reach the third round this year. But the ultimate goal goes beyond that, of course.
“State — that’s a given,” Douglas said. “Right now, the goal is to win every match in front of us.”