There are moments, snapshots really, that coach Rickey Phillips takes from each of his players’ careers at Gatesville. There may be no more vivid memory than the one Glynna Johnson provided last year.
It’s the first week of Johnson’s junior season, and Gatesville is losing. Weatherford, a Class 5A school, holds a 24-18 edge in the opening set of the opening match of a tournament hosted by Saginaw Boswell.
Weatherford, seemingly assured of an opening-set victory over a state top-10 3A program, started celebrating prematurely. So Johnson did something about it.
Gatesville reeled off eight points in a row to stun Weatherford by winning the game, 26-24, and Johnson was involved in every point. She either recorded a block, a kill or a hit-back for eight consecutive points with Gatesville down a set point on each.
“People were coming from other gyms to watch,” Phillips said.
At 6-foot-3, Johnson had that kind of sway, which is why the powerful senior is the Super Centex Player of the Year.
Johnson’s size is her most obvious asset, but the Northwestern State commit spent the last two years adding a bevy of finesse moves to her game. As she became as comfortable with off-speed shots as with the booming kills she’s known for, she turned into one of the most feared players in the area.
It’s not often that a nimble-footed player as tall as Johnson comes around.
“I really just worked on coordination and just getting my footwork down,” Johnson said.
Johnson is used to being the tallest person in the room. Her father, Gary, is 6-foot-4, and her mother, Gail, is a 6-foot-2 former basketball player. Finally, her brother, Garrett, is 6-foot-7 and plays basketball at Angelo State.
If the size edge was nothing new, volleyball was. She picked it up in seventh grade and it wasn’t until her sophomore year that she started coming into her own.
But when she finally did, look out. After earning second-team Super Centex honors her sophomore year, she burst onto the scene her junior year as a first-teamer with 497 kills and 154 blocks. Perhaps most importantly, Gatesville won their third straight district title and broke through to the regional tournament with Johnson leading the charge.
She took over again this year. With Johnson spouting off with a career-best 632 kills and 144 blocks, Gatesville won 37 games, shared the district title and made a second straight trip to the regional tournament.
She’ll leave big shoes to fill. Her 1,192 kills just as an upperclassman illustrate her value to the program as one of the most consistently effective kill-seekers in the school’s history.
“There were times when she’d take things over,” Phillips said. “You can’t ask that of any kid all the time, but when that happens it’s fun to watch.”
Coach of the Year:
Sherri Cain Mexia
Sherri Cain always knew her second season in charge at Mexia would be a much tougher act than her first.
Cain couldn’t have asked for much more out of her inaugural season in Mexia last year. The Ladycats won district and eclipsed 30 wins with a nine-player senior class.
But 2011 promised a tougher road. First-team Super Centex setter Mary Speights was Mexia’s only returning starter, and Cain had no seniors starting.
But Mexia still prospered, winning 24 games, snatching another district title with a 9-1 record and reaching the regional quarterfinals.
“I never had any doubts that we weren’t going to be able to win district again and be as successful as the team I had the prior year,” Cain said. “I had a lot of people like parents and people who support the volleyball team, they were kind of worried.”
They had reason to be. Cain started five juniors and a freshman for most of the season, but Mexia came together at the right time to win district and streak into the playoffs.
After a bye through the first round, Mexia blew past Bullard in three sets to set up a meeting with Gatesville in the regional quarters with a place at the regional tourney on the line.
Mexia scrapped admirably, taking the second set off Gatesville before falling in four tightly contested sets.
After an uncertain beginning, 2011 turned into another solid year for Mexia.
“Once I got them where I felt comfortable with them and I could tell they felt comfortable, it was great,” she said.
Newcomer of the Year:
Hailye Reynolds Groesbeck
Like any freshman, Hailye Reynolds had few expectations entering her first year at Groesbeck.
Perhaps filling in at setter would be nice, or getting tossed a start here and there would be an appropriate start to her career. Just being on varsity was honor enough.
But starting from the first game of the season? She didn’t see it coming.
“It was an honor,” Reynolds said. “It was something I always worked on and dreamed about in middle school.”
Reynolds knew something was up when coach Terry White asked Reynolds to join the rest of the varsity at a club league in Bryan over the summer.
When two-a-days rolled around, Reynolds increasingly found herself working with the varsity in practice. But Groesbeck already had a returning setter who was older, so Reynolds didn’t expect much.
“Everything had to be perfect or else the upperclassmen wouldn’t want me on the team,” Reynolds said. “It was intimidating.”
Reynolds had no clue she would be tapped as the starter from day one, but it was a welcome choice. It took some time for Reynolds to feel like she belonged, but after getting a few tournaments under her belt, the nerves dissipated.
She made her impact felt on the court. Last year, Groesbeck went 3-7 in district and missed out on the playoffs. With Reynolds directing traffic, the Lady Goats reversed it to go 7-3 and qualify for the postseason again.
She earned District 20-3A’s setter of the year award while averaging 30 assists and five kills per match. She was also 95 percent on her serves.
“I was told that I was kind of a difference-maker, but it’s a team,” Reynolds said. “It’s not one person.”
Player of the Year: Glynna Johnson, Gatesville
Newcomer of the Year: Hailye Reynolds, Groesbeck
Coach of the Year: Sherri Cain, Mexia
|MB||Rebecca Heins||Sr||5-11||China Spring|
Britney Heath, Blum; Tritne Crowden and Brittney Wright, Bosqueville; Amy Reid, Bruceville-Eddy; Maeson Mondrik, Cameron Yoe; Katie Andrie, Katie Billeaud and Elysia Plemons, China Spring; Haley Daily and Ky Foster, Crawford; Victoria Gandy, Evant; Megan Chambers, Gatesville; Halie Hall, Groesbeck; NaKaila Banks, Dallas Fletcher, Kate Saucke and Kristen Smithey, Hubbard; Chelsi Gill, La Vega; Erin Russo, Live Oak; Cheyenne Goodnight, Mart; Ashley Johnson, Que’shea King, Aliyah Ranson and Mariyah Wiley, Mexia; Katie Brackeen and Shannon Spivey, Midway; Leslie Stewart, Moody; Taylor Lindsay and Emily Loyd, Parkview; Hayleah Castilleja, Reicher; Seana Mogavero, Reece Timmons and Kayla Smith, Robinson; Brittani Cook, Abby Goodman and Sarah Truelove, Temple; Maria Aguilar, University; Madison Wolf, West; Erika Brown, Alex Chapman, Kelsey Leech and Sara Nieman, Whitney; Anna Jones, Wortham
Texas A&M commit had season shortened by injury but still had 350 kills, 239 digs, 49 aces, 32 blocks.
District hitter of the year helped Lorena to the regional tourney for first time with 345 kills and 76 blocks.
Earned second straight first-team nod with 533 kills, 416 digs and a district co-MVP honor to boot.
Lady Trojans’ first ever playoff team got big boost from Williams; she had 350 kills, 65 blocks and 61 aces.
That Mexia made playoffs again had a lot to do with Speights, the only returning starter from last year.
Newcomer of the Year came in seamlessly to tally 30 assists and 5 kills per match for playoff team.