It’s the dog days of summer and inside the gym at Lifegate Christian, it’s like a sauna.
There is no air conditioning in the gym at the small christian school outside of Seguin, but that won’t stop head coach Jinny McCulloch and her Lady Falcons from getting in the work for the upcoming volleyball season.
The girls were practicing with drills on Monday, prepping for another run to the title in the Texas Christian Athletic League.
“It works to our advantage, we’re very well conditioned because we have to be,” McCulloch said when asked about practicing in the heat. “It’s all the kids know, so they get in there they work hard and never complain.
“We take lots of water breaks in between drills, or cardio sessions — they’re really acclimated to the heat. They’re conditioned and they’ll stay that way for quite some time.”
The Lady Falcons won the 2A crown in the league last season, finishing the year 13-6 overall, and winning the state championship over BACH in three games.
McCulloch led the girls to the title in her first year as the head coach, a side gig for the lifelong employee at the Guadalupe Regional Medical Center.
“We went in and did what we were supposed to do, committed our season to the Lord, and played really good ball,” McCulloch said. “We played well as a unit, were able to capitalize on our setters working with our hitters, and were able to get great offense and defense from everyone.”
The Falcons lost just two starters to graduation but return seven players that either started or saw significant playing time last season.
With that many returning, McCulloch is optimistic about the team’s chances to repeat this season.
“I think we have every potential to win another championship behind our two seniors this season,” McCulloch said.
Senior setter Kayla Hallmark and outside hitter Gracie Peters look to lead the squad, which includes three juniors, two sophomores and six incoming freshmen.
“Kayla has great hands, helps with the ball and also can hit outside,” McCulloch said. “It’s nice to have a setter that can hit. Gracie is 6-foot-2 and can really hit outside. She’s taken on the leadership role and will step up her game as the season gets started.”
The five underclassmen include junior setter Hailee McCulloch (the coach’s daughter), defensive specialist Hannah Osborne and outside hitter Daniela Ablin, and sophomores Hannah Green (S/OH) and Sarinna Skrzycki (OH).
“We have some fantastic juniors and sophomores that played for me last year,” McCulloch said. “Hannah (Osborne) can pass, plays on the back row and will be a great asset this season. Hailee will be back from injury soon.
“She tore her ACL in the state championship basketball game, but is three months ahead of schedule in her recovery.
“Sarinna is persistent, active on the ball and hustles all the time. Hannah (Green) will get a lot of playing time this season as a setter. We’re a very well-oiled unit.
“I can’t say enough about these kids. They work hard and love volleyball, so it really helps when they are as committed as you are.”
Incoming freshmen Madisyne Rice, Olivia Castillo, Kimbree Wrinkle, Ashley Ostby, Nayli Schmidt and Catalina Feldman give the Lady Falcons some added depth.
“They’re eager to play and will be fine under the leadership of our older players,” McCulloch said.
The coach has high expectations for her squad this season.
“We definitely want to play for another championship, it’s our first and foremost goal,” McCulloch said. “But our main goal in all of this is to glorify the Lord in all that we do and say, always showing outwardly how much our love for him is and our love for the game.
“If we put those things one and two, and representing Lifegate as a whole will get us where we need to be.”
The Lady Falcons open the season next Tuesday, traveling to Salem Sayers, before a five-game stretch at home.
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .