Jordan Cochran (Sam Houston HS volleyball)

Sam Houston senior outside hitter Jordan Cochran earned all-district honors last year while leading her team to 29 wins and the Division II regional round.

For nearly three decades, the Sam Houston High School volleyball team has been one of the top teams in Division II with seven trips to the semifinals and quarterfinals and a pair of state finals appearances in 1999 and 2008.

Now the Broncos are moving up to Division I. While the players were little apprehensive at first, head coach Rene Fontenot said her team is ready. 

“I have waited 29 years,” Sam Houston head coach Rene Fontenot said. “I am super excited about it.

“They (players) are (excited) now. They didn’t know what to say at first. They were like ‘coach, is it good?’ and I said yes. This benefits us in power rankings. The way we had it set up before, there was nothing that I could do to help us. Now, it is like an open season. This district was so split last year that they had to wait till the last day of matches to determine placement because they were so dead even. All of them are very competitive.”

Sam Houston will join Division I, District 2 that includes locals Barbe and Sulphur as well as Lafayette area schools Acadiana, Comeaux, Lafayette, Southside and New Iberia. The entire district made the playoffs last season.

“It is a good group to be in,” Fontenot said. “The stress of it is going to be there is no assumed win. 

“You have to go and get it, but that should be what district is.”

Sam Houston lost all-district middle hitter Skyler Glover to graduation and was expecting to return seven players with starting experience until junior Jaiden Glover went down with a torn ACL injury over the summer.

Sam Houston has a trio of senior returning starters in setter Alaina Bartie, outside hitter Jordan Cochran and middle/outside hitter Madeline Manuel. Bartie and Cochran earned all-district honors last year. Also back is junior libero Lauren Garret, junior middle/outside hitter Maggie Cox and sophomore middle/outside hitter Emma Gentry.

“They all get along very well,” Fontenot said. “We lost just one starter. They are all buying into the system we are running. 

“They are strong academically and hopefully that will pay off. They are diverse and they are coming in with more experience than I have had in the past because of club volleyball. It is a nice change. It is a change that most of our programs are starting to see. They are not just playing three to four months a year, they are playing six to seven months a year and some of them even more than that with sand (volleyball). That is definitely having an impact on our area. I see our area much better and drawing teams to our area instead of us having to travel.”

Without a set middle hitter, Fontenot is looking to run a faster offense this season.

“Speeding up our offense is part of it,” Fontenot said. “When had Skyler we could just throw a ball up in the air and she could hit a heavy ball. 

“We don’t have that this year. We have to be faster and we have to be smarter. For us to be successful, a defensive person has to behind the hitter screaming if there is a hole in the block or what angle to hit. We have not always been good at that.”

Sam Houston will open the season on Thursday at the Assumption tournament.