Lake Travis High School loves to win and it doesn't really matter what sport.
The tennis and golf teams won state titles last year. The No. 1-ranked football team is going for its fifth-straight title this winter. And the defending state champion volleyball team is 43-0 and ranked No. 2 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings
More impressive than its unbeaten 2011 match record is that the volleyball team has yet to lose a game. That team – volleyball — is 98-0.
The wins are dramatic. In a sport where it takes 25 points to win a game,
Lake Travis (Austin, Texas)
has allowed opponents to score more than 20 just 11 times this season. Perhaps more impressive than 98-0 and the state title is that Lake Travis has eight seniors who have earned scholarships to play college volleyball next year.
The list reads like a recruiting report from an entire conference, not just a single school: Sierra Patrick
(Texas A&M), Kaci Eaton
(North Texas), Cassie Wang
(Washington University in St. Louis), Katy Beals
(Washington), MacKenzie Mayo
(Baylor), Piper Toler
(TCU), Amy Neal
(Texas) and Gabby Bienkowski
(Great Falls University).
It would be hard to single out any players, but Beals, Neal and Mayo had offers from pretty much every major college program. Not a tournament goes by without one of them being named the top player. And pretty much every all-state team has Beals and Neal listed.
"We have so many talented players," said first-year coach Jennifer Kazmierski. "To get this type of talent all at one time doesn't happen very often. On most teams these kids would play all rotations, but sometimes they play only three of the six (rotations). Most have been playing for a high-level club since seventh grade. This senior class is dominant."
That last comment might be viewed by most as an understatement.
Kazmierski says the unblemished record is a result of the team focusing on quick transitional play.
"We had a coach recently tell us we were the fastest team they had ever seen," said Kazmierski, who teaches health at Lake Travis. "Our goal is to take care of business right from the start. We want to control the level of play throughout the entire match and we want as fast of transition as we possibly can. The score is our best way to maintain (our) level of play."
Prior to taking over the Cavaliers, Kazmierski had been an assistant coach at Magnolia High School since 2005. She's been a head coach at the club level for the same amount of time, and has previously held head coaching posts at Bryan High School and A&M Consolidated. She is a former Texas A&M player who previously coached against the Cavaliers.
She quipped, "It's better coaching them. It's a great program and when the opening presented itself, I jumped at it.
"This group of players is unreal. They understand what it takes to win. They hold themselves and each other accountable," said Kasmierski, a mother of two. "It's a great environment. This community has a lot of highly competitive programs and when kids come in here, they know the expectation is to get after it."
That's the same type of environment in which Kazmierski grew up. She attended Lodi High School in the shadow of the University of the Pacific in California. U.O.P. has always been among the nation's better volleyball teams.
"I grew up around it and knew at an early age what it takes to be competitive, so I learned early to work hard."
She also said that her father and brother were collegiate athletes and her family environment was competitive.
"I guess also I am super competitive and love to win," said Kazmierski. "I was raised to do whatever it took to win."
As are the eight seniors, who won 49 of 52 matches on the way to the 2010 state title. And in the process, Lake Travis has rapidly risen in national prominence.
Kazmierski said being ranked nationally is an honor, but winning state is more important.
"In high school, because very few teams play national competition and/or there is no national tournament, it makes it much harder to determine who truly deserves to be ranked in the Top 10."
Being ranked nationally was not among the Cavaliers' preseason goals. Those included winning all of their preseason tournaments (they did), going unbeaten in district (they did) and winning state (to be determined).
Regional play begins later this month and Lake Travis is a heavy favorite, as well as at state in November.
Kazmierski said the key to the Cavaliers' success is to develop relationships with the student athletes, help build the chemistry of the team, and training.
"We are very detailed in what we work on daily," she said. "Everything we do is geared to a specific area of our game that we need to improve on from week to week. We also look at video to be reflective and make corrections. We also use it to prepare for opponents."
Married to a football offensive coordinator, the 34-year-old Kazmierski said she preaches to her team the same thing she tells younger players who want to excel.
"Repetition and training are important, but I think early on just getting involved and playing," she said. "I remember growing up in California, we played pick-up games all the time outside. Work hard, listen to your coaches, and be a team player."
Kazmierski said she has no plans to coach in college. Her goal is to keep the Lake Travis program at a high level.
"I thought about college coaching, but wanted to be a mom. This works nice," she said. "I love being here. This is a great job."
How does the future look for her program?
"We have a lot of good young players," she said, nothing that the junior varsity has lost just twice this season. "The success of the past couple of seasons has generated a lot of interest for our sport in this community. People in Lake Travis are fired up about volleyball which means kids are starting to play earlier and more competitively. It is an exciting time to be a part of this program. All the players involved expect to win and they train with that same mentality."
Kazmierski said she got into coaching because of the opportunities she was given as a youngster, then had the opportunity to do the same.
"I'll never forget when I was in college and had the opportunity to teach a young player how to hit a quick set – the look on her face said it all when she connected and my heart was hooked."
But maintaining that high level of competition becomes more difficult each year as the demands on coaches grow.
"Managing all aspects of the program makes it hard sometimes," said Kazmierski. "We have four coaches for four teams, we all teach full-time, are all parents and are still in charge of training, travel, equipment, fundraising, budget, grades, offseason training, recruiting (colleges for players), and the list goes on. I think most people just see the game days and don't realize all the other parts that go into running a program."
But it's worth it. She was raised to do "whatever it takes to win."
"I love this game because of the people I have come into contact with – players, parents, coaches, referees, journalists, college coaches. Volleyball is a big family."Watch more videos of Lake Travis volleyball