Klein volleyball aiming for continued success under new coach

The Klein volleyball program never missed the playoffs under Kate Zora and made several deep runs. To keep that streak alive, the Bearkats will need to rally behind a new coach.

New Caney coach Cameron Shoffner of New Caney was chosen to take over the program in April after Zora turned the page and headed to New Braunfels.

Shoffner met with the players during the spring semester and got to work with them some over the break.

That carried over to the summer and picked up this past week as the Bearkats completed tryouts and held their first practices.

The Bearkats hosted Bridgeland in a scrimmage Friday morning and visited Summer Creek for more scrimmages Saturday. Shoffner said they’re now full steam ahead and not slowing down.

“As the season gets closer and closer, you get more and more excited just about possibilities,” Shoffner said. “I would imagine everybody coaching wise, we’re all people that love being in the gym and love the grind of the season and everything like that. … It’s just something that builds into this excitement.”

Shoffner is heading into his seventh year of teaching and coaching. He was a varsity assistant at Kingwood Park for three years and head coach at New Caney for the past two.

During that time, Shoffner was part of some successful teams and won a state championship while at Kingwood Park. He learned from mentors and said those years truly opened his eyes about what it takes to achieve that success.

“Having that inside track and understanding – not only the volleyball side, which I’m passionate about – but also the teamwork side and everything that goes into it on the back,” Shoffner said.

‘Great things in store’

Zora was in charge at Klein for seven seasons. The Bearkats were the Class 6A state runners-up in 2020 and made several other deep playoff runs during her tenure with the program. She also reached 500 career wins last season.

When the Klein job was posted, Shoffner knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. He said he met with school officials and talked about all the things he’s passionate about, as well as his goals and vision.

“I think that we’ve got some big great things in store,” Shoffner said. “Just getting kids involved and ready to go and aligned with that vision.”

At the same time, one of the things Shoffner is looking forward to is working with and developing the younger players.

Shoffner said Klein’s always had sustained success and that top tier of talent at the varsity level. He said that’s a testament to the community and the coaches in the past.

There’s only been a week of practices so far, but Shoffner said the players are already doing a great job of feeling comfortable and confident. He said they’re going to need the whole team if they want to continue being successful.

“That’s something that we’ve been able to talk about in building those relationships with them is taking their past experiences and the success and what’s worked for them along with myself and kind of merging that into what we see moving forward, not only for this year, but years to come,” Shoffner said. “Getting them to really buy into what we’re aiming to do and understanding that this is a team game.”

Friendly competition

There are two key returners in senior middle blocker and North Carolina A&T commit Mikala Sampson and junior setter Kinslee Smith.

The duo helped Klein claim a second straight unbeaten District 15-6A championship last season. The Bearkats ultimately lost in the third round of the playoffs.

Sampson had 284 kills and 48 blocks last year, and Smith finished with 1,359 assists, earning All-Greater Houston first team honors.

Shoffner said Rachel Haybrun is another senior that has been a big leader so far. He said they’re looking for some great things out of here. There are three other varsity returners in Kailyn Lee, Kiersten Hay, and Katie Koonts.

Shoffner expressed how the players are continually looking to either step up into new roles or make bigger strides and contributions in their current ones.

“We’re excited about the competition to fill some of those other roles, and it’s only going to push us to be better as we’re competing against each other,” Shoffner said. ‘We’ve got a lot of kids that are very eager to prove themselves and to help improve the team the best they can.’

District 15-6A is going to be a lot of fun, Shoffner said, with the rest of the Klein ISD schools, Tomball ISD’s duo, plus Waller. Shoffner has pretty good relationships with most of the other coaches and said they talk a little bit here and there.

“We want to win,” he said. “It’s about the kids, but at the same time, we don’t get into this if we’re not competitive.”

Klein is set to host Tomball on Sept. 9 for its district opener.

“I’m super excited to get rolling,” Shoffner said. “Everything before then is just going to be prepping for that. It’s all in preparation for what’s going to be a tough district. I’m looking forward to just competing twice a week.”

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