Krista Koopmann is a quick study.

As the daughter of a state title-winning coach, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the 6-foot China Spring senior took to volleyball like a natural despite not picking it up competitively until the seventh grade.

That she took to China Spring so seamlessly is what made her such a force this season.

The kill-seeking dynamo set China Spring records for kills in a game (33) and a season (572), earning her Super Centex Player of the Year honors in her first and only season at China Spring.

The soft-spoken front-line player moved with her mom, Melissa Cain, when Cain accepted the head coaching gig with the Lady Cougars before this season.

Koopmann had been on varsity at Hays Consolidated for two-plus years, and Cain was coaching the Hays middle school team after a splendid nine-year run coaching varsity in the ’90s, highlighted by a state title at Dripping Springs in 1994.

After conferring, Cain and Koopmann decided to move to China Spring as a package deal last summer. For the first time in her career, Koopmann would be coached directly by her mom at the varsity level.

“It was kind of weird because she’s coached me before, but it’s always been one-on-one on the side,” Koopmann said. “It was weird having her as my actual coach, seeing her in charge of everyone and not just me.”

To nobody’s surprise, it was a partnership that helped Koopmann’s overall game flourish. Though China Spring just missed the playoffs, Koopmann helped keep the Lady Cougars in the discussion all year long.

As a left-handed outside hitter playing on the right side, Koopmann’s always been something of an anomaly. The ball rockets off her hand at an odd trajectory for blockers used to seeing righties.

She used that to her advantage in an unfamiliar district this season.

“Being left-handed is an advantage,” Cain said. “All the schools we’ve played, I don’t remember maybe teams having one or two kids that were left-handed. It’s hard to find one that’s 6-foot.”

But her inflated kill numbers don’t tell the whole story of her all-encompassing impact in 2010.

Koopmann is a natural outside hitter, but a lack of size at China Spring forced Cain to move her to middle blocker at different points throughout the season.

If it helped the team, Koopmann was more than happy to make the jump.

“She contributed much more to the team when we moved her to the middle,” Cain said. “We needed her there, and it actually ended up being a very good fit for her.”

Her 136 blocks in the middle proved that she couldn’t just be pidgeonholed as an outside blocker. She also had 109 aces and finished the year as China Spring’s No. 2 passer.

“I really wanted to see how much I could improve,” said Koopmann, who recently committed to San Jacinto College. “I wanted to get a good scholarship and so I just wanted to push myself to see if I could block more balls or hit harder.”

By her own admission, she did both this season.

Coach of the Year: Cheryl Gilchrist, Whitney

It only took Cheryl Gilchrist two years to do what no Whitney volleyball coach had ever done.

In just her second year coaching the Lady Wildcats, Gilchrist led Whitney to a 37-3 record, a top-five Class 2A state ranking for much of the season and into the regional finals, the deepest postseason run in school history.

No Whitney team had ever advanced beyond the area round of the playoffs.

“We knew it was going to be a special year with everybody we had coming back,” Gilchrist said. “We knew there was going to be a lot of good team chemistry.”

Part of the task was convincing a once moribund program that getting past the second round of the playoffs was a possibility. A good deal of team chemistry helped grease the wheels.

So what jumps out from such a wildly successful season?

“How much fun we had,” Gilchrist said. “Practices were fun for the most part — I’m sure the girls wouldn’t always agree — but we had a lot of team bonding that we did. We spent a lot of time together and got to know each other. It was good.”

Newcomer of the Year: Kelsey Leech, Whitney

With five returning starters from a playoff team in 2009, opportunities for untested sophomores weren’t exactly growing on trees in Whitney.

Leech made such a lasting impression early on that Gilchrist couldn’t find enough excuses to keep her off the court.

Leech complemented Whitney’s five returning senior starters with youthful zest and proved to be an efficient hitter. She was among the team leaders in kill percentage at 31.6, and she turned into an indespensible player even before the season began.

She played all 113 games in 40 matches for Whitney this season, holding her own with the battle-tested seniors in almost every statistical category.

“It was really nerve-wracking at first,” Leech said. “But I know all these girls are good athletes, and I got a chance to know them all and I got really close to them this year.”

As a libero, Leech excelled all over the court. She tallied 262 digs, 93 kills and 15 aces, and she was one of Whitney’s most consistent hitters on serve receive.

Starting with such a senior-laden bunch may have rattled her nerves at first, but a congenial team atmosphere quickly smoothed over any worries.

“We went to Baylor volleyball games and we played games in the gym, just all kinds of silly things,” Leech said.

Leech will go from one of Whitney’s most important youngsters to its most-decorated veteran in a matter of an offseason. Of the team’s 10 players off that 37-win team, nine depart.

Leech will be varsity’s only returner next year.

“It’s going to be kind of stressful,” Leech said. “But hopefully everyone can adapt and follow up to what was set this season.”

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2010 SUPER CENTEX VOLLEYBALL TEAM

Player of the Year: Krista Koopmann, China Spring

Newcomer of the Year: Kelsey Leech, Whitney

Coach of the Year: Cheryl Gilchrist, Whitney

 

FIRST TEAM
Pos Player Class Height School
MB Kirsten Goodwin Jr 5-8 Crawford
MB Glynna Johnson Jr 6-3 Gatesville
MB Breanne Snyder Sr 5-11 Midway
MB Robin Wimberly Sr 5-10 Whitney
OH Krista Koopmann Sr 6-0 China Spring
OH Janey Phillips Sr 5-7 Gatesville
OH Grace Weaver Sr 5-10 Belton
S Kayla Hines Sr 5-8 Robinson
S Mary Speights So 5-5 Mexia
L Katie Sampson Jr 5-5 Lorena
SECOND TEAM
Pos Player Class Height School
MB Jazzmin Babers Jr 6-0 Midway
MB Courtney Condon Sr 5-9 Mexia
MB Asha Dansby Sr 5-10 Mexia
MB Danica Duran Sr 5-9 Whitney
MB Taylor Walter Jr 5-11 Bosqueville
OH Shanna Brown Sr 5-8 Robinson
OH Maeson Mondrik Jr 5-4 Cameron Yoe
OH Allie Smith Sr 5-9 Crawford
S Katie Farmer Sr 5-5 Crawford
S Emily Jaska Jr 5-7 Lorena
L Casey Fletcher Sr 5-3 Moody
Honorable mention
Becky Calahan, Belton; Madison Williamson, Blum; Cailey Hudson, Brittney James and Abbi Weiler, Bosqueville; Maggie Hawkins and Kelsey Reid, Bruceville-Eddy; Brook Brashear and Kaylan Spink, Cameron Yoe; Ashley Haynes, Chilton; Kelsey Engeldinger, ReAnn Snell and Shaquel Wilson, Connally; Haley Daily, Crawford; Bettye Campbell and Tori Gandy, Evant; Ashley Cain, Frost; Megan Chambers and Kaitlin Poe, Gatesville; Halie Hall, Groesbeck; NaKaila Banks, Dallas Fletcher, Jordan Henderson, Kiona Johnson and Kristin Smithey, Hubbard; Kayla Doty and Shelby Frenzel, Kopperl; Brittany Tate and Kelsey Vann, Moody; JoBeth Thompson, Lorena; Kaymee Gooden, Mart; Sarah Calame, Katie Day and Earline Mims, Mexia; Courtney Collier, Parkview; Sierra Erskine, Ida Rodriguez and Alli Watkins, Penelope; Kaila Lancaster, Reicher; Tabitha Hooten, Kyla Lynch and Kayla Urbanek, Robinson; Jordan Horn and Kelsey Voight, West; Dacy Bonner, Nicole Danford and Chelsea Loggins, Whitney; Amber Libhart, Lauren Libhart and KiUndra Smith, Wortham

 

First-team profiles

KIRSTEN GOODWIN

Middle blocker

Jr, Crawford

Was first-team all-District 16-2A with 441 kills and 407 digs. Also added 81 blocks and 31 aces.

 

 

GLYNNA JOHNSON

Middle blocker

Jr, Gatesville

Unrivaled size helped Johnson lead the District 19-3A champs with 497 kills, 154 blocks and 43 aces.

 

 

BREANNE SNYDER

Middle blocker

Sr, Midway

Earned her second straight Super Centex first-team selection with a .440 hitting average.

 

 

ROBIN WIMBERLY

Middle blocker

Sr, Whitney

Led a 37-win regional finalst team with a team-high 363 kills at 55.3 percent. Added 111 blocks.

 

 

KRISTA KOOPMANN

Outisde hitter

Sr, China Spring

Had more kills than anybody in the area as a senior with 572, but also tallied 136 blocks and 109 aces.

 

 

JANEY PHILLIPS

Outside hitter

Sr, Gatesville

Was the District 19-3A Hitter of the Year by racking up 317 kills and 92 aces for a regional semifinal team.

 

 

GRACE WEAVER

Outside hitter

Sr, Belton

Two-time first-team Super Centex front-liner struck for 526 kills, 443 digs, 94 blocks and 41 aces.

 

 

KAYLA HINES

Setter

Sr, Robinson

Was the District 19-3A Setter of the Year because of her 9.9 assists per match, but also averaged 13.9 kills.

 

 

MARY SPEIGHTS

Setter

So, Mexia

First full varsity season ended with 1,081 assists, 337 digs and a District 20-3A Setter of the Year award.

 

 

KATIE SAMPSON

Libero

Jr, Lorena

Earned District 19-3A Defensive Player of the Year with a team-high 423 digs, an average of 28 per match.

 

 

KELSEY LEECH

Libero

So, Whitney

In first year on varsity, Super Centex Newcomer of the Year played in every game and tallied 262 digs.

 

 

CHERYL GILCHRIST

Coach

Whitney

Steered Lady Wildcats to 37 wins and into the regional finals, the best season in Whitney’s history.

 

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