When Gatesville senior Kelsey Phillips steps on the floor, there’s no doubt who’s running the show.

Sure, the setter dished out 1,013 assists in helping the Lady Hornets tie China Spring for the District 7-3A title, but even the statistics don’t fully illustrate Phillips’ presence on the volleyball court.

Perhaps a story her father, Gatesville coach Rickey Phillips, remembers can shed some light on the heart and mind of this competitor.

The Phillips traveled to Waco to watch their oldest daughter, Caitlin, play in a summer league basketball game. Caitlin was entering the seventh grade at the time, while Kelsey was going into the fifth grade. However, the family didn’t hesitate to volunteer Kelsey for stand-in duty.


Kelsey Phillips
Gatesville senior setter Kelsey Phillips distributed more than 1,000 assists in helping the Lady Hornets tie perennial volleyball power China Spring for the District 7-3A title. (Jerry Larson photo)

One of the teams playing that day arrived with only four players, so Kelsey jumped in with the older girls and more than held her own.

“She was small, but could play a little,” Rickey Phillips said. “A few minutes later, we looked over there at the huddle and there she was right in the middle of four Waco kids — all older and much taller than her — giving instructions on what to do and coaching those older kids.”

That’s the kind of leadership and determination that Phillips showed during her senior season at Gatesville. That quality singled out Phillips as the 2008 Super Centex Player of the Year.

Phillips posted 24.7 assists per game and added 1.6 kills, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 aces per match.

She came up big with 16 assists and six aces in one of Gatesville’s key victories of the season when the Lady Hornets swept China Spring in three games in Gatesville. That earned the Lady Hornets a share of the district title and halted the Lady Cougars’ domination in the series between the Central Texas rivals.

“It was a huge win for the seniors,” Phillips said. “We hadn’t beaten them on that court since my freshman year. It was so nice to know that we made that change.”

Rickey and Kelsey Phillips each credited all of the Gatesville seniors with boosting the Lady Hornets to a 30-11 record.

Though Phillips is cautious in his praise of his daughters as players, there was no hiding which player drove the Gatesville attack.

“We ask our setters to kind of be the quarterback,” Rickey Phillips said. “They do that with their skills and they do it vocally as well. The setter has got to be the one to get things going when things aren’t going well. They touch that ball more than anyone else.”

And while Phillips admits he and his middle daughter have disagreed on strategy in games and practices, he knows the setter needs to have an opinion.

Even if it differs from the coach’s viewpoint.

“She’s kind of a chore sometimes to coach,” Phillips said with a chuckle. “I’m glad she plays for us. She brings a lot of enthusiasm every day to practice, but she is strong willed and I have had some really good confrontations with her on the floor.”

As a sophomore, Phillips played with her older sister during Caitlin’s senior year. This fall, younger sister Janey joined Kelsey on the Lady Hornets’ varsity. Phillips said she counted playing with both siblings among her highlights for her high school career.

And as the 2008 season developed, Phillips said the family atmosphere encompassed the whole roster

“The team was so close,” Phillips said. “It was like having my dad as our whole team’s dad. It was like having 13 sisters on the team.”

For Phillips, part of being the Lady Hornets’ floor leader meant understanding everyone’s role and each player’s preferences.

On a successful attack, the setter’s task comes in between the back row making a dig and/or a pass and the front row spiking the ball into the opponent’s side.

Phillips proved to be adept at bringing those phases together.

“You call the plays and you make the plays,” Phillips said. “But the back row are the ones who actually get me up there to where I need to be.

“Whenever I see the ball hit the ground or hit someone inside the face, it’s tingling inside my body. It’s amazing.”

Phillips edged out a worthy group of Player of the Year candidates, including Crawford’s dominant front row duo of Amy Kleypas and Taylor Nix, Groesbeck outside hitter Toni Madison and Midway outside hitter Ale’tra Ware.

Coach of the Year: Terry White, Groesbeck

When Groesbeck coach Terry White saw that the Lady Goats were climbing the Texas Girls Coaches Association 3A rankings early on this season, he hesitated at first to tell his players

Then he decided he could use it.

“I pulled it out and I said, ‘All right guys, we’re No. 8,’ ” White said. “It gave me a lot of leverage as a coach, telling them, ‘There’s no slacking today. We’ve got something we’ve got to play for.’ ”

The Lady Goats embraced the idea of either rising in the rankings with a win or falling with a loss. Groesbeck climbed to No. 2 and tied Mexia for the 19-3A championship

“It definitely made me play harder,” Lady Goats junior outside hitter Toni Madison said. “I’m not saying I was slacking off, but he said, ‘The X on your back is bigger when you’re higher up in the rankings.’ ”

White and Groebeck navigated a new district setting and key personnel changes in the middle of 19-3A play to match Mexia’s 9-1 district mark.

Mexia won the coin toss for the district’s first-place seed and a bye in the playoffs. But that didn’t keep Groesbeck from reaching a significant goal for the program.

White guided the Lady Goats to three playoff wins and their first regional tournament berth since the late 1960s before Groesbeck fell in four games to state-qualifier Caldwell in the regional semifinal.

“That was a big deal,” White said. “When you get to regionals, you’re one step away from the big prize. We would’ve liked to have made it to the next step, we just need a little more seasoning.”

Groesbeck, which finished with a 34-9 mark, could take that next step in 2009. White has a pair of key players returning in Madison and junior setter Cassie Anders.

White stood out among a group of coaches who turned in impressive performances in 2008. Robinson’s Cathy Reeves led the Rockettes to a regional tournament berth after they finished third in 19-3A. Midway coach Janet Angell turned a rebuilding year into another regional tournament berth for the Pantherettes’ program. First-year China Spring coach Jeffrey Cornell guided the Lady Cougars to a share of the 7-3A championship, and Marlin coach Claretta Manigo helped the Lady Bulldogs earned their first ever playoff berth.

Newcomer of the Year: Breanne Snyder, Midway

Coming off a 4A state championship in 2007, the Midway volleyball program needed an influx of talent to replace some key front-row players.

Sophomore Breannne Snyder provided it.

Snyder admits it was intimidating stepping on the court the first few times with the accomplished Pantherettes varsity. But by the end of the season, her outstanding .463 hitting percentage helped make Midway a volleyball force once again.

“She got better and better and more confident as the season went on,” Midway coach Janet Angell said. “As she became a threat, it opened it up for Ale’tra (Ware) and Amanda (Woolley) and Tasha (Babers).”

Snyder, who went from the freshman team to the varsity, fit into the Pantherettes’ system as she contributed 200 kills and 50 blocks.

Snyder said Midway senior libero Lauren Ray helped her get comfortable on the varsity stage.

Meanwhile, Ray saw her younger teammate become a force at the net.

“A big part of the team was Bre with the hitting,” Ray said. “She came in and stepped up and played very well all year.”

Snyder earned designation as Newcomer of the Year over a strong crop of first-year varsity players, including Marlin freshman outside hitter Dashondria Davis, China Spring junior middle blocker Brittany Andrews and Gatesville outside hitter Janey Phillips.


2008 Super Centex Volleyball Team


Player of the Year: Kelsey Phillips, Gatesville

Newcomer of the Year: Breanne Snyder, Midway

Coach of the Year: Terry White, Groesbeck

Pos Player Cl Height School
OH Taylor Nix Jr 6-0 Crawford
OH Toni Madison Jr 5-8 Groesbeck
OH Ale'tra Ware Sr 5-6 Midway
OH Kayla Hines So 5-6 Robinson
OH Amy Kleypas Sr 5-9 Crawford
MB Jordan Pickett Sr 6-2 Temple
MB Cheyenne Branin Sr 5-9 Bosqueville
S Kelsey Phillips Sr 5-7 Gatesville
S Cassie Anders Jr 5-5 Groesbeck
L Lauren Ray Sr 5-5 Midway
Pos Player Cl Height School
OH Tamariah Manigo Sr 5-7 Marlin
OH Haley Feight Sr 5-5 Bosqueville
OH Hanna Outlaw Jr 5-10 Clifton
OH Kali Ketner Sr 5-5 China Spring
MB Vanessa Watkins Sr 6-0 Troy
MB Amanda Woolley Sr 5-7 Midway
MB Heidi Callan Jr 5-10 Evant
S Kristen Chapman Sr 5-9 Crawford
S Ashley Lowery Sr 5-6 Kopperl
L Jenny Calhoun Sr 5-4 Troy
Jasmine Montgomery, Mary Park, Emilee Minyard, Brittney James and Abbi Weiler, Bosqueville; Kendall Schmalriede, Crawford; Brenna Kenyon and Dimmy Weeks, Evant; Shelby Watson, Carissa Hann and Janey Phillips, Gatesville; Meagan Kluna, Groesbeck; Reagan Smith and Chelsea Hall, Kopperl; Dashondria Davis and Whitney Lofton, Marlin; Casey Beth Fletcher and Shay Wiggins, Moody; Katie Liu, Reicher; Skylar Savage, Rosebud-Lott; Summer Moore and Sheka Mims, Teague; Meg Maedgen, Catherine Hernandez and Chelsea Henderson, Troy; Ashley Nix, Wren Bonner and Taylor Hooten, Whitney.

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