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20110924-Sharyland-v-Mission-Volleyball_dy-114For the casual observer, all the tired tropes about teamwork seem to vanish the minute there’s a change in the score. But coaches will tell you that it isn’t just the wide-receiver who dances into the end-zone or the big bats in baseball that determine a team’s success.  It’s the blocker or the catcher. It’s the specialist. For the Sharyland Lady Rattlers, it’s their setter Jenna Garza.

Sharyland’s 25-7, 25-12, 25-17 dismantling of a strong up-and-coming Mission team last Saturday encapsulated exactly how integral their stalwart setter is to the Rattlers, currently ranked No. 24 by the Texas Girls Coaches Association’s top 25 state volleyball poll.  Time and time again, Garza found her big hitters with sublime sets swinging high left and right, or just placed quick and short.

The Sharyland hitters coolly did what has come to be expected of them. The ever-dominating duo of Elise Smith and Laura Eberly had 20 and 16 kills respectively. Any time either one of them is in the air points seem to follow. But Garza’s 45 assists was truly the stat that stood out.

Garza’s philosophy is pretty simple, if not perhaps too modest.

“I like to make Laura look good,” said Garza. “If the pass is off I tell the girls I need a better one to set Laura up because she’s amazing. I always have to know between my hitters who is on fire and who’s not having a good game.”

Coach Torres isn’t quite as shackled by modesty when talking about the 5’3” junior.

“I believe Jenna’s the best setter in the league, by far,” said Sharyland Volleyball Coach Lizette Torres. “When Jenna was on the freshman team, she ran the court and that’s what she does now. Anything I tell her to do, she’s going to do it. I tell her she has to be the leader. She’s very intelligent and has made significant changes in the attitude of our team and getting the girls together.”

This is just one aspect of the mental game Garza plays when the Lady Rattlers take the court.

“To be a good setter you, of course, have to know how to set the ball and know who your best hitters are,” said Garza. “But you also have to know what the defense is doing and what the other defense is doing and I have to let the players know what we’re going to run.”

Garza, a junior who has been playing volleyball since she was in the fourth grade, admits it can be tricky to direct her teammates on the court.

“Everyone knows girls are feisty,” said Garza. “I’ll say stuff that sounds like I’m being mean but I don’t mean it in a mean way. We all know we’re just being brutally honest.”

Coach Torres attributes the success and evolution of the team’s attitude to how long they’ve been going about their business on the court.

“This particular team has been together for so long now that they can tell each other in a very matter-of-fact way to get certain things done,” said Torres. “They know they’re accountable for their mistakes and they’re very honest and open with each other.”

Garza’s pride in her position is one that she’s actively trying to pass along as she leads a meeting of Sharyland setters on Fridays to prime the next generation of specialists.

Sharyland’s next test will be 12 p.m. Saturday at McHi.

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