Category: Volleyball

FEATURE: Volleyball makes triumphant return to Merkel

MERKEL — In 1967, the Merkel volleyball team lost in the state semifinals before knocking off Kemp in a three-set thriller to finish in third place in Class B in the program’s lone state tournament appearance.

Just 19 years later, the program was disbanded, leaving the town and community with no teams to support all week prior to the football games on Friday nights.

Tuesday night at Badger Gymnasium, that history was changed.

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FCA ALL-STAR FESTIVAL: Players excited to see assistant coaches get their chance to shine

With the Big Country Chevy Dealers Fellowship of Christian Athletes All-Star Festival entering its 23rd year, event organizers are faced with the unique dilemma of needing new coaches.

The FCA staffs in Abilene, Brownwood and San Angelo have found a creative solution for this year’s festival, which is scheduled for June 2-11: to give area assistant coaches their moment in the spotlight.

This provides a neat opportunity for both the coaches and their players, who are excited to see their assistant coaches have a chance to lead a squad.

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FCA ALL-STAR FESTIVAL: Rosters announced for this year’s event

As the winter sports start to hit the playoffs, it means another thing: it’s time to start finding out who the Fellowship of Christian Athletes all-stars are.

The 23rd annual Big Country Chevy Dealers FCA All-Star Festival will take place with eight events over nine days in four different cities from June 2-11.

Here’s a look at this year’s participants.

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UIL REALIGNMENT: Abilene schools avoid surprises, welcome new challenges

While many coaches across the area and state were scrambling Thursday after being thrown a curveball by the University Interscholastic League, the leaders of Abilene’s three largest programs enjoyed a relatively peaceful realignment day, free of any major surprises.

Having learned in December that Abilene High would be dropping to Class 5A Division I and Cooper would be moving to 5A DII,  all AHS coach Mike Fullen and his Cooper counterpart, Aaron Roan, were waiting on was to find out their district. And both landed in leagues they expected.

Abilene High was sent to District  2-5A DI with Amarillo High, Amarillo Caprock, Amarillo Tascosa, Lubbock Cooper, Lubbock Coronado and Lubbock Monterey, while Cooper joins Wylie in District 2-5A DII, along with Amarillo Palo Duro, Lubbock High, Plainview and Wichita Falls Rider.

Fullen, Roan and Wylie’s Clay Martin all ended the day happy with their placement and relieved that their weather-impacted realignment went about smoothly as it could have.

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SIGNING DAY: Eight Wylie athletes make college decisions official

One table wasn’t nearly enough for all of Wylie’s signees at the school’s signing day ceremony Wednesday at the Wylie Performing Arts Center. Athletic director Clay Martin needed three to seat the eight athletes who made their college decisions official on National Signing Day.

Five football players, a baseball player, a volleyball player and a track and field athlete all got to sign their letters of intent and be recognized by friends and family, with seven of the eight electing to stay in town and compete for Abilene universities.

Four of the football players — offensive lineman Jaxon Lunsford, tight end Jaxon Rutledge, linebacker Jaxon Camacho and kicker/punter Grayson Bearden — all committed to Hardin-Simmons University, while their teammate X’Zavier Collins, a defensive lineman, signed with Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

Wylie’s other three signees — volleyball setter Lexi Miller, baseball catcher Nick Sobolewski and discus and shotput thrower Hannah Hutchinson — are all headed to McMurry University.

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2021 BIG COUNTRY PREPS MAX EFFORT TEAM: The hardest-working players in area volleyball!

While our All-Big Country Preps Volleyball team is in place to honor those who achieved the most on-court success, our “Max Effort” team is something much more uncommon. 

This is a special accolade, which has nothing to do with talent or stats.

It is here where character, grit and work ethic — traits that coaches wish every player had — are recognized. It is here where we honor the best teammates and best citizens that area volleyball has to offer.

It is for that reason that this team is selected by area coaches and described in their own words.

Big Country Preps is now honored to present these individuals to you — the hardest-working, toughest volleyball players in the Big Country. Ladies and gentlemen: Our 2021 Big Country Preps Max Effort Team. 

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CAPITAL FARM CREDIT/BCP PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Hico sophomore Booth earns the spotlight

Big numbers will generally get one strong consideration for our Capital Farm Credit/Big Country Preps Player of the Week award. But when those numbers come against a team from a much larger classification, it quickly makes us take notice. 

Class 2A Hico’s Grace Booth did exactly that last week in a 61-57 win over Class 4A Mineral Wells, dominating both ends of the floor to lead the Lady Tigers in their season opener. 

Aside from the 40 points she poured in, Booth snagged 10 rebounds to chart a double-double. She also forced multiple turnovers (viewable on the video above), including three steals.

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FEATURE: Strong senior class fueling Wylie volleyball into playoffs

The seven seniors that Wylie volleyball coach Shay Cox works with hold a special place in her heart.

Five of them were in Cox’s fifth grade PE class when she started out with the district, and Cox has enjoyed watching them grow and thrive on a yearly basis.

Entering the playoffs Tuesday with a 6 p.m. match against Amarillo Tascosa at Lubbock Coronado, the Wylie seniors are guaranteed just one more match. But both Cox and her core group of leaders are determined to extend their time together as long as possible. 

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GAME STORY: Wylie volleyball sweeps Cooper to take momentum into the playoffs

  Having already clinched the No. 2 playoff seed out of District 4-5A, the Wylie volleyball team didn’t necessarily need a Senior Night win over crosstown rival Cooper on Tuesday at Bulldog Gym.

But with the postseason approaching, the Lady Bulldogs played as though they did, taking care of business in a 25-14, 25-15, 26-24 sweep to head into the playoffs on a 6-1 run. 

Coach Shay Cox’s squad, which improved to 30-13 win the victory, closed out its district schedule with an 8-2 record, while ending the Lady Cougars’ season at 16-23 overall and 3-7 in league play.

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FEATURE: Wall volleyball aiming to win district, get beyond area round of playoffs

Photos by Kristie Williams

The Wall Lady Hawks volleyball team has made the playoffs in all six seasons with Robynn Jones as head coach. But like with most successful sports teams, the Lady Hawks want more.

They are seeking to beat Clyde for the District 6-3A championship and advance beyond the area round of the Class 2A playoffs.

“Every year since Clyde has been in our district, we hadn’t beaten them until this year,” Jones said Tuesday. “We beat them earlier this year in a tournament, and we stole one from them in district. We actually split (two matches) in district.”

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Big Country Volleyball Statistical Leaders (through Oct. 26)

Big Country Preps is publishing area volleyball statistical leaders each Tuesday at 7 p.m.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

We will continually update the database throughout the regular season.

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GAME STORY: De Leon volleyball wraps up district title with thrilling win at Coleman

COLEMAN — With wild momentum swings like crazy in the fourth set, the De Leon volleyball team closed out its second straight District 8-2A title with a 25-13, 23-25, 25-15, 27-25 win over rival Coleman on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t easy for the Lady Cats as the Bluekatts fought tooth-and-nail in clinging to their hopes of being co-district champions.

The fourth set saw Coleman rally from being down 13-6 to tie the match at 18-18. The two sides then alternated the next 14 points before a pair of hitting errors on the Bluekatts sealed the win for De Leon.

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GAME STORY: Wylie volleyball pushes district leader Lubbock Cooper to limit, but falls in five-set thriller

 Tuesday’s District 4-5A clash between the Wylie and Lubbock Cooper volleyball teams had everything you could want from a match of that magnitude — a large and rowdy crowd, outstanding efforts on both sides of the net and a thrilling finish.

The only thing missing at the end of five sets of nonstop action at Bulldog Gym was a Lady Bulldog victory.

Hosting the Lady Pirates with a share of the district lead on the line, Wylie fell just short in an 18-25, 27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13 classic. But after the match, Lady Bulldogs coach Shay Cox had nothing but praise for the way her squad competed.

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FEATURE: De Leon volleyball poised for another playoff run after slow start

Photos courtesy of Tayla Rainwater and Rob Mendez

Team photo by De Leon student Tayla Rainwater.

A 6-7 start by the De Leon volleyball team was somewhat understandable despite last year’s unprecedented run to the Class 2A regional semifinals in what was the Lady Cats’ best season on record.

“We lost three really good seniors off last year’s team, so we had some big shoes to fill,” fourth-year De Leon head coach Kinsey Garcia said Tuesday. “Plus we were fitting in a talented newcomer to the team (in sophomore Genesis Mendez). We didn’t play any tournaments last year because of COVID, so we had to get used to playing multiple matches in a day.”

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Big Country Volleyball Statistical Leaders (through Oct. 19)

Big Country Preps is publishing area volleyball statistical leaders each Tuesday at 7 p.m.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

We will continually update the database throughout the regular season.

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GAME STORY: Jim Ned volleyball uses fast starts to defeat San Angelo TLCA

TUSCOLA — The Jim Ned volleyball had no problem putting together sustained rallies and quick starts in a District 8-3A match with San Angelo TLCA on Tuesday at Bill Thornton Arena.

Those starts and rallies allowed the Lady Indians to pick up a key 25-17, 25-20, 26-24 win to improve to 17-10 overall and 5-2 in district.

Despite the sweep, Jim Ned coach Miranda Garcia saw plenty of things for her squad to improve on for the second half of district play as they look to keep pace with Clyde and Wall in challenging for a district championship.

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FEATURE: Close-knit Benjamin volleyball team outperforming expectations despite youth

Photos by Brittany Lowe 

The Benjamin volleyball team’s theme this season is “Believe in We.”  

It’s a three-word motto the Lady Mustangs have taken to heart during a successful 2021 campaign despite depending on a heavy dose of underclassmen.  

That belief in each other has forged a dynamic team chemistry that is one of the reasons Benjamin is ranked No. 18 in the state at the Class 2A/1A level.  

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Big Country Volleyball Statistical Leaders (through Oct. 12)

Big Country Preps is publishing area volleyball statistical leaders each Tuesday at 7 p.m.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the remainder of the season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

We will continually update the database throughout the regular season.

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CAPITAL FARM CREDIT/BCP PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Young takes spotlight with monstrous effort

Who says defensive players can’t be the Player of the Week?

That’s certainly not true at Big Country Preps, where our Capital Farm Credit/BCP Player of the Week helped push Stephenville to a stunning 35-7 rout of perennial power Waco La Vega on Friday night.

Senior linebacker Reese Young takes our weekly accolade after charting an almost unbelievable 25 tackles to lead an SHS defensive effort that saw the Yellow Jackets hold La Vega to just 94 yards rushing on 44 carries.

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GAME STORY: Cooper can’t close out Coronado, drops five-set heartbreaker

In a key District 4-5A match full of extended rallies, wild momentum swings and roaring comebacks, the Cooper volleyball team found itself on the short end of each just a little too often in a 33-31, 14-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-9 loss to Lubbock Coronado on Tuesday at Cougar Gym.

Entering the contest with an opportunity to pull into a third-place tie with the Lady Mustangs in the league standings, the Lady Cougars appeared to be well on their way to doing so up two games to one with a 19-17 lead in Game 4. But Coronado closed out that set with an 8-2 run to force a deciding fifth game and took control of that one quickly to hand Cooper a tough home loss.

The outcome leaves the Lady Coogs at 14-19 overall and 1-3 in district play, in a tie with Lubbock Monterey (15-18, 1-3) for the fourth and final playoff spot. Coronado’s come-from-behind win, meanwhile, keeps the Lady Mustangs (12-20, 3-1) tied with Wylie for second — one match behind league-leader Lubbock Cooper.

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FEATURE: Comanche senior Carr learns role of the busy libero

Portrait by Sutherland Photography of Goldthwaite. Action photos by Santos Gomez. 

The role of libero requires a mentally tough leader determined to get to every ball to flip the game from defense to offense with the dig, pass, set and kill sequence for her volleyball team.

When Comanche needed a new starting libero this season, senior Makenna Carr was a natural choice.

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FEATURE: Cotter’s arrival in Albany gives Lady Lions one of the area’s most versatile players

Albany’s Sarah Beth Cotter is still relatively new to volleyball.  

Those who’ve been the victim of her thunderous kills lately would be slightly surprised to find out Cotter didn’t begin playing the sport until the eighth grade.  

That’s when she enrolled in Albany ISD after previously having been home-schooled.  

“I begged my mom to let me go to public school so I could play multiple sports,” Cotter said. “I had only played tennis my whole life but wanted to try something new. The switch wasn’t too hard because I already knew most of the girls at my school and on my sports teams.”  

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GAME STORY: Clyde volleyball sweeps Jim Ned to gain edge in District 6-3A race

TUSCOLA — The Clyde volleyball team took sole possession of first place in the District 6-3A race on Tuesday, sweeping Jim Ned 25-13, 26-24, 25-19 at Bill Thornton Arena to improve to 3-0 in league play. 

Entering the night tied with the Lady Indians atop the district standings, the Lady Bulldogs (23-11 overall) overcame a strong start by Jim Ned to pull away in Game 1 and rallied from game point in Game 2 to set up the sweep.

It was a key road victory for CHS, which now holds a one-match lead on both Jim Ned (14-10, 2-1) and Wall (25-10, 2-1) with matches against Brady and San Angelo TLCA to wrap up the first half of league play.

Continue reading “GAME STORY: Clyde volleyball sweeps Jim Ned to gain edge in District 6-3A race”

FEATURE: Snyder’s versatile Burns as good on the backline as she is at the net

Action photos by Ali Martinez. Portrait by Mindi Bredemeyer. 

Joanie Burns has worked hard to become a valuable, versatile player in Snyder’s attack.  

But while the senior has put in dozens of hours to hone her craft, she doesn’t quite see it as a burden.   

“I would say I’ve worked hard,” she said. “However, it’s not work when you love what you’re doing.”  

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FEATURE: ACS junior Beard recovers from knee surgery to play on both rows

Photos courtesy of Kelsey Aycock of Copper and Pearl Photo & Video

Despite a season-ending ACL knee injury last year, Campbell Beard become an inspiration as the 2020 Abilene Christian School volleyball team advanced to the TAPPS Class 2A regional final.

“I was set to help the team try to get to state, but that wasn’t part of the plan,” Beard said of 2020. “So I wanted to be there for my teammates. It was hard at times to put a smile on my face, but it allowed me to see a different perspective as a cheerleader and encourager for the team.”

ACS coach Arnett McClure said, “I can’t imagine how depressing it was for Campbell, but she was at every practice and game yelling for the team, talking to the players and picking people up.

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CAPITAL FARM CREDIT/BCP PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Snyder’s Benitez takes the top spot

Defensive specialists seldom get the attention they deserve in volleyball. Not unlike offensive linemen in football, who do the dirty work behind the scenes that enables the glamour positions to shine. 

That isn’t the case at Big Country Preps, where we take pride in giving credit to those willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. 

Snyder libero Abby Benitez, perhaps the best defender in the entire Big Country, fits that mold and has captured our Capital Farm Credit/Big Country Preps Player of the Week award for the week ending Sept. 25. 

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GAME STORY: Abilene High volleyball battles but falls in three at home to Frenship

The Abilene High volleyball team competed well with Wolfforth Frenship on Tuesday night, but untimely mistakes by the Lady Eagles allowed the visitors to leave Eagle Gym with a 25-21, 26-24, 25-18 sweep in District 2-6A action.

Coach Caroline Cleveland’s squad had opportunities in all three games, but the Lady Tigers executed just a little better down the stretch in each to keep the Abilene High at arm’s length throughout the match.

AHS (19-11 overall) trailed by just a point (21-20) late in Game 1, rallied from a 24-20 deficit to tie things up in Game 2 and were deadlocked as late as 13-all in Game 3. The Lady Eagles could never come up with the runs they needed to take control of any of those games, however, in falling to 0-3 to start league play.

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GAME STORY: Clyde starts fast, opens 6-3A play with four set win over Wall

Earlier this season, the Wall volleyball team took two of three sets from Clyde in tournament action.

The Lady Bulldogs were determined to not let that happen again as District 6-3A play started Tuesday night in Bulldog Gym.

A loud and rowdy crowd became more and more boisterous with each thunderous kill by Liz Underwood, and Clyde went on to take a 25-13, 16-25, 25-21, 25-21 win.

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FEATURE: Resurgent Lady Eagle volleyball a Big Country surprise in 2021

Abilene High School is enjoying a turnaround season under first-year head volleyball coach Caroline Cleveland.  

The Lady Eagles have won 19 games heading into Tuesday’s match against Frenship. Even though they haven’t gotten off to the best district start, Cleveland sees how much potential her girls possess nearly every day.  

One example of that upside is sophomore setter Shea Bruntmyer, who is thriving in her first season as a six-rotation player.  

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FEATURE: Breck libero Thompson an ace at keeping the ball alive

Photos courtesy of Calvin Best, Breckenridge ISD

Haigan Thompson’s Big Country-leading 10.9 digs per set begins with studying video of opponents with first-year Breckenridge coach Paula Taylor.

“The very first thing is we try to study our opponents’ tendencies – especially where they like to hit the ball and where certain players like to hit the ball,” Taylor said Monday. “We talk to our assistant coaches during the matches about where they’re hitting the ball, and we listen to Haigan about what spots they’re hitting to.”

Thompson, a 5-foot-4 junior libero, also reads and reacts based on keys from the opponents’ hitters during matches.

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