The wafting smell of popcorn is something one gets used to during the summer league, as the Rec Center is always full of buttery aromas. Inside on the courts, on volleyball nights, generally one can also hear some popping going on, and in T’s case, you hear her before you see her.

Tianna Howard, one half of the Lady Bobcats’ formidable frontline combo (with fellow senior Nat Martinez), has become one of the hardest hitters in the Valley. And to go with her ample array of resounding kills, the rangy veteran of three seasons – fourth on the way – has added some bona fide management chops.

“When I first started I was kind of quiet,” admits the slugger of many points, who led EHS to a victory Monday over Econ. “But that was because as a freshman and sophomore, I was just getting comfortable with it all. Now that I am more mature, I know that leadership is very important, and I have been working on that a lot.”

And truly, Howard has become more vocal and animated on the floor. Where once she was shy and hesitant to speak, she is now active in not only exhorting teammates to work, but in antics and hijinx with her mates. Howard is just as likely to break the girls into peals of laughter as she is to break wrists on the poor diggers who try and survive her onslaughts.

She has come of age as her senior season dawns, has this athletic star, and EHS will be all the better for her emerging versatility.

Emerging is also a word that can be given for the Lady Jags, who despite a setback against EHS have shown the intimations of a competitive squad this summer. Foremost among the prospects might be Isabel Arguello, a sophomore who has exhibited solid skills in front so far. And she has something that cannot be taught: six feet of length. Possessing big, soft hands, Arguello made some nice plays against the Lady ‘Cats, battling up top with the springy Martinez and Howard all night.

But the EHS combo is generally hard to work around, especially when it gets great passes from Renee Ponce, who is set to step into the setter’s role occupied so splendidly for four years by Dezi Marmolejo. Ponce is showing increased quickness, with vet Maria Reyes holding her spot with hustle and bounce.

Now for the team to get contributions from others, such as Lori Gonzalez, a spot player last year, and Vianney Trevino. Both those kids will get a chance to make the grade on the back row in 2017.

“Right now the seniors are working on bringing the youngsters up to speed,” informed Howard. “There were girls who did that for us, and now it is our turn to show the leadership; it’s going really well so far, I am glad to be able to step up that part of my game.”