HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL: Lady Panthers excited to be back in the playoffs

For most teams, graduating 10 seniors from the previous year would be too difficult to recover from and get back to the playoffs.

That wasn’t the case with the Permian volleyball team this year.

This year, despite only returning two varsity players (Jade Workman and Ariyana Garcia) from a year ago, the Lady Panthers managed to return to the playoffs for a third consecutive year, finishing fourth in the District 2-6A standings with a 24-13 overall record (4-6 in district).

“It says that this team is a great group of young ladies that are an extremely hard working group,” Permian head coach Gillian Herrera said. “They’re willing to learn. We did a lot of talking through the games this year and being students of the game and finding out how to get to 25 before our opponent does. These girls are very coachable and have stepped up to get us here.”

Now, Permian faces District 1-6A co-champion El Paso Coronado in the bidistrict round at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Coronado High School.

The Coronado Thunderbirds (31-9, 14-2) shared the District 1-6A title with El Paso Franklin.

“They’re defensively sound,” Herrera said of Coronado. “A lot of times, it comes down to serve and receive. They pass the ball well and they are consistent.”

Still, despite the challenges the Lady Panthers face next week, they are eager to once again be playing in the postseason.

“We’re extremely excited,” Herrera said. “It’s been a roller-coaster three months, but we only had two returners. We knew it was going to be a season of growth. I’m very proud of our players’ growth from the beginning of the season to now. That growth doesn’t stop at district. I’m excited to see them play on Tuesday.”

Garcia and Workman are looking forward to having the opportunity to play in the playoffs one last time before they graduate as they look to help the team make a deep run.

“I’m very thankful,” Garcia said. “We’re just really grateful that we get this opportunity to play and hopefully we can make it further than last year.”

Workman echoed those thoughts.

“I’m really excited,” Workman said. “It was my goal to be back in the playoffs for the third year in a row and hopefully we can win the first round again.”

Last year, the Lady Panthers defeated El Paso Montwood in four sets in the bidistrict round before losing to Southlake Carroll in a sweep.

This year’s team may have struggled at times, but the Lady Panthers have also posted key wins including a five-set win over a talented San Angelo Central team that also clinched a spot in the playoffs.

Permian defeated San Angelo Central back on Oct. 17 and nearly defeated Midland Legacy, losing to the Lady Rebels in five sets on Oct. 13.

“Before San Angelo Central, we had two tough five sets against Midland Legacy and Midland High,” Herrera said. “You have to be able to put pressure on people. if we can come out and put pressure on Coronado, it can help us grab a set and take the match.”

Knowing that the Lady Panthers can defeat quality teams gives the players even more confidence.

“It gives us a lot of confidence because we were down two sets against San Angelo Central,” Garcia said. “We came back and won the next three sets. No matter what, anything is possible. We kept going. We picked up our momentum. We shifted our momentum and played like we were capable of.”