WHITE OAK -- For the first time in 20 years, White Oak's volleyball team has a different face leading it from the bench.

New head coach Nicole Thorn took over Monday on the Ladynecks' first day of practice and insists that she wants to keep the program's winning ways and standards to the same level that Carolee Musick kept them for the last 19 seasons.

"It's been going great. The girls have been working really, really hard in the conditioning workouts and on the court. They've had great attitudes about it," Thorn said. "It's a little bit different, so I think some of them are still adjusting to that, but overall it's been a great start.

"It's definitely a lot of pressure (to follow Musick), but it's something that we're looking forward to going into. Coach Musick and her staff have done a great job here. Our goal is to continue that winning tradition and compete for a state championship."

White Oak's Madison Pecot returns a ball during Tuesday morning's practice. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Musick, who Pine Tree hired about two months ago, led White Oak to six state tournaments, including each of the last four Class 2A state tournaments. The Ladynecks won the 2010 state championship and have been to five state tournaments in the last six seasons.

Thorn arrives after coaching Panola College for the last five years. She led the Fillies to a Region XIV Conference championship and an NJCAA national tournament berth in 2009, when she received the first of back-to-back Region XIV Coach of the Year honors. A Pine Tree graduate, Thorn played college volleyball at Florida, where she was the 2000 SEC Player of the Year, a four-time all-SEC selection, and a second-team all-America honoree in 2002, which ended in a Final Four appearance for the Gators. That same year she received the Ben Hill Griffin Award, which honors the top female athlete at Florida.

White Oak graduated several key players -- including Abilene Christian signee Dorothy Swanson and setter Morgan Baldwin -- from last year's team, which went 40-6 and lost in the 2A state semifinals. Nevertheless, Thorn is confident in the players she has in her first season at White Oak.

"Madison Pecot is gonna be a huge asset to our team. Cayman Sutton will be a huge asset to our team," Thorn said. "A lot of our young players have the opportunity to step up because we did lose so many people to graduation, but they have been trained well and have a work ethic that is outstanding, so I think our players will step up and do what it takes to win."

The usual expectations don't scare Thorn, who starts her first season with the Ladynecks tied for No. 3 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association's preseason 2A poll.

Although the head coach may be different, she emphasized that the goals remain consistent with the old regime.

"Same as always. Win a state championship," Thorn said. "That's one thing as a player and coach I do not have that this program has, so the coaching staff will do everything we can to get us another title."

White Oak's Cayman Sutton digs a ball during Tuesday morning's practice. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)