The standard clues were nowhere to be found.
The Legacy boys volleyball team began the season without a large number of returners, and didn’t benefit from a high-profile transfer or the arrival of a talented freshman. In fact, hardly anything indicated the Longhorns were on the verge of a stunning turnaround.
“It really has been amazing the hard work they’ve put in and the improvement the kids have made in a short amount of time,” Legacy first-year coach Ray Lewis said. “There’s a big sense of belief in the team this year.”
Despite welcoming back only two players from last season, the Longhorns finished second in the Southwest League and earned the first postseason berth in program history.
Legacy (17-5), which hosts the Sunset Region tournament, plays Northwest No. 3 seed Arbor View (16-9) at 2 p.m. today in the opening round. The winner advances to play Palo Verde or Bonanza in the semifinals Thursday.
“We knew we had a lot of potential,” Lewis said. “To finish second in a tough conference is amazing and a tribute to how hard the kids work.”
The Longhorns won a total of 13 matches in the Northwest League in the previous four seasons, including a 4-10 mark in 2012. Lewis started working with the team in the summer, and this season Legacy went 8-2 after shifting to the Southwest League.
“We were an underdog most of the year, and there were no expectations or pressure of beating all these teams,” Lewis said. “The more good teams we beat, the more our confidence grew.”
Junior middle hitter Tanner Compton and his twin brother, outside hitter Trent Compton, have developed into the team’s top players. Junior setter Braden Liu runs the offense, which got an unexpected lift from sophomore Zaire Franklin. Libero Anthony Cabrera, another sophomore, leads the Longhorns’ defense.
“It’s actually helped that we didn’t have a lot of kids that were part of the 4-10 last year and always losing,” Lewis said. “It was pretty easy to get the right mentality and belief instilled in them.”
Legacy rallied to knock off Arbor View in the team’s first meeting on April 12, a 3-2 marathon that the Longhorns clinched with a 16-14 win in the fifth set.
The Aggies bounced back to beat Legacy 2-1 on their way to reaching the final of the Longhorn Invitational on April 20.
Lewis, a former Arbor View assistant, expects another close match when the rivals square off. He said the key for Legacy will be whether Tanner Compton and fellow middle blocker Jonah Tarlton are able to disrupt the Aggies’ offense.
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.