Roach aims to lead Lady Tigers on deep playoff run

MARK WILSON mwilson@empiretribune.com
Hico volleyball player Kaylee Roach has big expectations for her team this season.

Senior outside hitter Kaylee Roach hasn't been a force on the Hico girls volleyball team forever, but it probably seems that way to the Lady Tigers' opponents.

Roach seems to be headed for all-district honors for a fourth consecutive year as the Lady Tigers attempt to go undefeated in district for the second year in a row.

Hico overcame rival Hamilton in four sets on Tuesday night to gain sole possession of first place in the district. They improved to 6-0 in district and 22-8 overall. The Lady Tigers were 14-0 in district last season.

In those first six district games, Roach has a team-leading 65 kills, plus 86 passing assists. Last season Roach was voted Most Valuable Player in the district. She was an all-district performer her freshman and sophmore years, and has been academic all-district each season.

Coach Julia Plaster will no longer have Roach or her other four seniors to depend on next year, so the team's slogan - "Today, not tomorrow" - seems fitting.

"She has been a standout player for me since her freshman year for multiple reasons beyond just being a great athlete," Plaster said of Roach. "Her attitude toward sports, commitment toward the Hico athletic program, and respect she has for her teammates make her an athlete any coach would be lucky to have. As far as her athletic ability in volleyball goes, I had high expectations for her (and) she exceeded them."

The Lady Tigers won a bi-district title last season but were eliminted by Archer City in the area round of the playoffs, so Roach feels the urgency of extending the 2016 season even further.

"If we don't do it this year, there's not going to be a next year," said Roach, who lifted weights and worked on improving her vertical jump to ramp up her effectiveness around the net coming into this season. "I think we're trying to stay on the same pace as last year, and then focus on going to the playoffs."

Roach also plays basketball and runs track for the Lady Tigers. As a point guard and wing her junior year in basketball, she was co-MVP along with teammate Marissa Warren. Roach was voted Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore.

In track last season, Roach qualified for regional in the 400-meter run and also as a member of Hico's 1,600-meter relay team.

Roach recalled her freshman volleyball season, which was the first for Plaster as head coach of the Lady Tigers, as a rough time for the Lady Tigers. Victories were rare, to say the least. But with experience came a higher level of performance, and led to an even greater love for volleyball.

"We started out our freshman year and we only won one game. We bring it up sometimes as a joke," said Roach, who became a full-time starter as a sophomore. "I think I matured a lot from my sophomore year to my junior year and I got more confident with my hitting. I think that transition made me love it even more because I got more confident with it."

Roach said that the Lady Tigers are enjoying their success and having fun, but they don't allow that detract from their mission.

"We definitely like to have fun, especially in practice, but we know when it's time to get serious," said Roach, a National Honor Society member. "We do our job. I think it is the chemistry of working together for four years."

Roach said the team's starters communicate well on the court, and always seem to know what to expect from each other during the heat of battle.

"Volleyball is a big communication sport," Roach said. "You definitely rely on your back row and your setter so you can do your job. We have five seniors, so we have played together since the seventh grade and we are really close."