When the positions of head volleyball coach and girls athletic coordinator opened up at Little Elm, Veronica Mendez saw an opportunity.
Little Elm had posted several job openings toward the end of the school year for a coach onto the district’s website. For Mendez, she viewed it as an opportunity to start fresh. She wanted to come in and help to lead the girls’ athletic programs at Little Elm, which didn’t have any teams make the playoffs in what was its first year as a Class 6A school – including the Lady Lobo volleyball team.
"I just saw Little Elm as a place to start with some fresh kids, kids that are ready for some success,” she said. “Obviously last year, with it being difficult year for everybody, not only with COVID but moving up to 6A for the first year and moving into one of the toughest districts in the state of Texas in all classifications.
“It was a rough year last year for Little Elm volleyball, but I'm going to try to change that for the better and give these girls a fighting chance in our district."
Mendez takes over the volleyball program for Yolanda Beasley, who left Little Elm after one season to accept the same position at Sherman. The Lady Lobos went 2-14 overall and 0-12 in District 5-6A play. The victories came against Corsicana and Rowlett.
A native of Canyon, Mendez played basketball and volleyball at Canyon High before going on to earn a scholarship to play college volleyball at Eastern New Mexico University.
Mendez landed her first coaching job in 2013 at Farmersville, the same school where former Little Elm athletic director Brandon Hankins served as head football coach and athletic director until this year. Mendez never worked with Hankins but she said that he had heard of her and called this spring to see if she would be interested in working for Little Elm ISD.
Hankins must have been impressed by what Mendez accomplished at Farmersville and from 2017-20 at Van Alstyne.
Mendez led the Lady Panthers for the previous four seasons, making the playoffs each time and totaling a 104-37 record.
Van Alstyne had the best season in program history when it finished as the Class 3A state runner-up in 2019 with a 37-5 record and a loss to Vanderbilt Industrial in the title match.
It was the second time the Lady Panthers made the state tourney and the first since 1997.
Mendez said that the current situation at Little Elm reminds her of the team that she inherited at Van Alstyne.
“It is a similar situation with the athletes at Little Elm in that they had all of the capabilities in the world when I arrived at Val Alstyne but needed to be taught in practice of good volleyball habits,” she said.
Mendez watched her new squad in action for the first time in Tuesday at a four-team scrimmage in Aubrey. The Lady Lobos played host Aubrey, Crowder and Gunter.
Players to watch for Little Elm are senior outside hitter Emma Robinson, senior middle blocker Gracie Myers, junior middle blocker Quinn Brignac, junior outside hitter Corey Hazlewood, junior setter Gretchen Barraez and junior defensive specialist Nasryah Jefferson.
“It's nice to see the girls against other teams and see what we need to work on as a team and see how the pieces of the puzzle are going to fall together," Mendez said.
Mendez walked the hallways at Little Elm High School for the first time in April. She called the timing perfect as she got to meet the student-athletes and other coaches in person. It also gave her and everyone else in the athletic program time to organize the P.A.C.K. summer strength and conditioning program.
“It was great for me as an athletic coordinator to not only be able to see how the nuts and bolts run, how the machine works over here, and see what I can do to make things work more efficiently,” she said.
Team tryouts will be held starting Aug. 2 with the first match of the season slated to be held the week of Aug. 9.