DIANA -- It wasn't a hard sell for Andrew Harbison.

The longtime Longview High School assistant volleyball coach chose to head up the New Diana volleyball program for a reason.

"One of the reasons that I took this job was because to me this is a volleyball school, and I wanted to coach winners," Harbison said during the Lady Eagles' afternoon practice Thursday. "I wanted to coach girls with those expectations. There's something to be said for girls who expect to win. I like that pressure and I think that the girls will be successful this year."

Harbison said his first few days on the job could not have gone any better.

New Diana's Baylee Birdsong sets the ball during practice Thursday in Diana. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

"I've got a group of girls that really get after it," said Harbison, who coached in Oklahoma before moving to Longview eight years ago. "We're not real tall, but they play pretty good defense. They challenge each other and they push themselves. The first day of practice was real good; we're competing and they were battling back and forth."

Harbison replaces Lisa Rockhill, who stepped aside in the offseason to pursue a career at the administrative level.

New Diana welcomes back senior setter Madison Sampson, who Harbison is expecting big things from in 2013.

"She was the district Setter of the Year last year," Harbison said. "I'm going to call on her to do a lot of things, a lot of leadership roles and making smart decisions with the ball. She's going to have to be that person that just gets the job done for the team, our decision-maker, our quarterback. And I think she can fill that role."

Another player to keep an eye is sophomore outside hitter Baylee Birdsong.

"Baylee was the only freshman last year on varsity and I was talking to Coach Rockhill before," Harbison said. "When they were going into the playoffs (last year), she was delivering quality stats. She's one of my taller girls. She really wants to get better. Things we're working with her on are being more explosive."

New Diana lost several key pieces from last season's 33-9 team that reached the Class 2A Region III semifinals, including the trio of Courtney Rogers, Jessica Hampton and Cheyenne Spell.

But Harbison believes his first year in charge will be a good one.

"I'm going to keep high expectations and I'm going to try to not let down the fans here; it's a great volleyball school," he said. "I'm hoping that some of this experience from my seniors will help us figure out ways to win, ways to score points. My expectation for this team is to be a scrappy team that just doesn't give up; that's what I want it to be."

New Diana begins its season Tuesday with a dual match against Whitehouse and Pittsburg in Whitehouse. The Lady Eagles open District 17-2A play Sept. 13 at defending state semifinalist White Oak.

New Diana's Kayli Morvan bumps the ball during practice Thursday in Diana. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)