Tough losses and an even tougher injury plagued Crawford senior outside hitter Taylor Nix for much of her high school volleyball career.

But every time, Nix fought back.

Nix helped Crawford win three district championships — the first three in program history. The first two, though, led to disappointment as Crawford was bounced in its playoff opener.

Then came a torn labrum that required offseason shoulder surgery in the spring. It meant that an athlete used to extending her reach to slam the volleyball couldn’t lift her arm over her head for a while.

After five months of rehab, Nix returned early in Crawford’s season only to go back to the bench with shoulder soreness for a chunk of the district schedule.

But Nix approached the injury like every other obstacle she faced on the court — she worked through it.

Taylor Nix
Crawford senior outside hitter Taylor Nix battled through a shoulder injury to lead the Lady Pirates to the Class 2A Region II tournament. In doing so, she earned the 2009 Super Centex Player of the Year award. (Jerry Larson photo)



Outside Hitter
Sr, Crawford
UTEP signee put
down 404 kills
despite missing
about a quarter
of the season with
a shoulder injury.



Outside Hitter
Sr, Mexia
District 19-3A MVP
posted 509 kills in
leading the Lady Cats
to the Class 3A
Region III



Outside Hitter
Jr, Belton
District 12-5A co-MVP
recorded 432 kills to
go along with 49
blocks and an
impressive 315 digs.



Outside Hitter
Sr, Evant
Big hitter from a small
school swung for 412
kills with 96 blocks,
led Lady Elks to 1A
Region II tournament.



Middle Blocker
Sr, Clifton
Lady Cubs' dominant
presence at the net
put down 512 kills
with 58 blocks
to earn co-MVP in 16-2A.



Middle Blocker
So, Bosqueville
Ran the front row with
99 blocks for the Lady
Bulldogs. Swung for
200 kills and used
curving serve for 79aces.



Middle Blocker
Jr, Midway
Last season's
Newcomer of the
Year kept it up for
Pantherettes with
.343 hit percentage
and 93 blocks.



Soph, Lorena
Lady Leopards'
digs into quality
sets on the way
to 965 assists.



Sr, Groesbeck
Two-time Super
Centex first-teamer
ran Lady Goats
offense with 800
assists, pitched in
62 aces.



Sr, Gatesville
Earned District 7-3A
co-MVP honors
from defensive
specialist position
with 268 digs
for Lady Hornets.



Middle Blocker
Soph, Midway
Came on strong in
first varsity season
to earn top blocker
in 16-4A with
160 blocks for points.



Lady Leopards'
first-year coach led
program from tie for
third in 2008 to share
of district title this fall.

“I might not be the best one out there, but I’m going to work as hard as any girl and I’m going to get it right,” Nix said. “I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to volleyball. It makes me mad when I can’t do it, so I’ll keep working on it until I get it down.”

Nix made it back to the court in time for Crawford to sweep its way through the second half of District 16-2A play and helped the Lady Pirates win two playoff matches on the way to the Class 2A Region II tournament.

The 6-foot Lady Pirate outside hitter swatted 404 kills, and added 48 blocks and 45 aces despite missing almost a third of the season. With Nix on the court, Crawford was an elite team in 2A, and for that reason, she has earned the 2009 Super Centex Player of the Year honor.

Nix, who has signed to play college volleyball at Texas-El Paso, said the Lady Pirates felt the weight of their past playoff failings during this campaign.

Of all the goals Crawford accomplished the last few seasons, winning a playoff match remained on the wish list.

“We had a list of about six things that we crossed out when we accomplished it, and that was our last thing to cross out,” Nix said, referring to a playoff victory. “We never wanted more than just one playoff game, but we never wanted less.”

Crawford claimed that elusive playoff victory with a 3-0 win over Caddo Mills in the area round, then notched another 3-0 win over Grandview to get to the regional tournament.

“Nobody expected us to get that far and we did it,” Nix said. “Even though we didn’t win it, we got there.”

Nix won the Super Centex Player of the Year honor over a strong field of candidates.

The most notable was Mexia senior outside hitter Cori Speights, the 19-3A MVP who put down 509 kills and four blocks per match to help the Lady Cats reach the 3A Region III tournament. Clifton senior middle blocker Hanna Outlaw shared 16-2A MVP honors with Nix. Outlaw drove the Lady Cubs’ attack with 512 kills, 58 blocks and added 84 aces and 307 digs.

Coach of the Year: Kari Sowders, Lorena

When Kari Sowders shifted schools within 19-3A in the spring, moving from Connally to Lorena, she found a Lady Leopards team short on, well, height, but deep in commitment to volleyball.

Lorena tied for third in 2008, but missed the playoffs after Robinson defeated the Lady Leopards in a district playoff. So the obvious first step for Sowders was getting Lorena back to the postseason.

“I thought there’s no way we shouldn’t make the playoffs because of the talent that I saw,” Sowders said. “I was thankful for how hard the girls worked for me. It was relentless pursuit. Everybody believed in what we were trying to do.”

Sowders, in her fourth season as a head coach after stops at Hillsboro and Connally, builds her teams around defense, which fit a Lorena squad that lacked big hitters.

Playing opponents who were much more intimidating at the net, especially in 19-3A, Lorena (26-12) excelled by simply refusing to let the ball hit the floor.

The Lady Leopards’ success on defense went from an irritating tendency to a determining factor in the 19-3A race.

“I was hearing some scouting reports where people were saying, ‘Lorena just doesn’t let balls drop and they get balls up that they shouldn’t be getting up,’ ” Sowders said. “Hearing that from other coaches you think, ‘Maybe we are doing what we’re supposed to.’ ”

Sowders and her Lorena players set the playoffs as a definitive goal for the season, but halfway through the district race the Lady Leopards could see they had a shot at the district title.

“We wanted to win out after the first round of district,” Sowders said. “In order to do that we were going to have to play defense and frustrate and block. I told them, ‘You guys are one of the best teams in this district.’ Before that, they may not have believed that.”

With its front row improving to match the play of its defense, Lorena captured second-half district wins at home against Robinson and on the road at Groesbeck. That set up a match for a share of the district title with Mexia in the final match of the regular season. The Lady Leopards won it in five sets to claim half of the 19-3A championship.

Mexia later earned the first-place playoff berth with a district playoff win over the Lady Leopards, but that hardly detracted from Lorena’s journey from being out of the postseason to a share of the district crown.

“I knew we were going to win more,” Sowders said. “I didn’t have any idea that we were going to win as much as we did.”

Sowders’ turnaround effort in her first season at Lorena edged a pair of coaches who led their teams to the regional tournament for the Super Centex Coach of the Year award. Crawford coach Jeff Coker guided the Lady Pirates to a 34-10 mark and the regional semifinals, while Mexia coach Lauri Engleman took the Lady Cats to a 32-12 mark and the brink of the state tournament by reaching the regional final.

Newcomer of the Year: Jazzmin Babers, Midway

Despite coming to the volleyball court just a year and a half ago, Jazzmin Babers established herself as the heart of the Pantherettes’ front row during her sophomore season.

Babers posted an astounding 160 blocks and earned top blocker honors in 16-4A.

She played varsity soccer as a freshman and came up to the varsity volleyball team for the playoffs in 2008, though she didn’t play during that time. Now the 6-foot Babers, having enjoyed success and quick development in volleyball, is making the sport her sole focus.

“It’s more fun,” Babers said. “It’s louder and faster. I think I could get way better at hitting and passing and serving.”

Babers is the second consecutive Pantherette to earn the Super Centex Newcomer of the Year honor. Her teammate, Breanne Snyder, won in 2008. Snyder, a first-team selection this season, saw Babers become a force for Midway.

“She’s our best blocker on the team by far,” Snyder said.

Babers won the Newcomer of the Year honor over a worthy group of candidates that included Crawford’s Kirsten Goodwin, who put down 274 kills, and Cameron’s Maeson Mondrik, who was voted the top hitter in 24-3A.


2009 Super Centex Volleyball Team

Player of the Year: Taylor Nix, Crawford

Newcomer of the Year: Jazzmin Babers, Midway

Coach of the Year: Kari Sowders, Lorena

Pos Player Class Height School
OH Taylor Nix Sr 6-0 Crawford
OH Cori Speights Sr 5-10 Mexia
OH Grace Weaver Jr 5-11 Belton
OH Heidi Callan Sr 5-11 Evant
MB Hanna Outlaw Sr 5-10 Clifton
MB Taylor Walter So 5-11 Bosqueville
MB Breanne Snyder Jr 5-11 Midway
S Emily Jaska So 5-7 Lorena
S Cassie Anders Sr 5-3 Groesbeck
L Rachel Edwards Sr 5-5 Gatesville
Pos Player Class Height School
OH Rachel Hargis Sr 6-3 Robinson
OH Kendle Brizendine Sr 5-9 Mexia
OH Taylor Hooten Sr 5-8 Whitney
OH Maeson Mondrik So 5-4 Cameron
MB Kirsten Goodwin So 5-8 Crawford
MB Cynamon Walters Sr 6-1 Groesbeck
MB Glynna Johnson So 6-2 Gatesville
S Kayla Hines Jr 5-10 Robinson
S Breanna Pavlas Sr 5-5 West
L Katie Sampson So 5-6 Lorena
Setter: Kaylan Spink, Cameron; Paige Luce and Holly Lodrigue, Clifton; Kendall Schmalriede, Crawford; Jasmine Armstead, Marlin; Casey Beth Fletcher, Moody; Kaila Lancaster, Reicher; Maggie Aguilar, University; Wren Bonner and Savannah Halbert, Whitney.
Middle Blocker: Marckie Walter and Abbi Weiler, Bosqueville; Kelly Burke, Clifton; Becca Heins, China Spring; Brittany Berry, Crawford; Cederia Taylor, Marlin; Courtney Condon, Mexia; Shannon Spivey, Midway; Brittany Tate, Moody; Robin Wimberly, Whitney.
Outside Hitter: Allie Smith, Crawford; Elysia Plemmons, China Spring; DeShondria Davis, Marlin; Janey Phillips and Shelby Watson, Gatesville; Christen Batson, Lorena; Tammy Mader, Midway; Tabitha Hooten, Robinson; Macy Herring and Jessica Maedgen, Troy; Shintaqua Bell, University.
Libero: Brook Brashear, Cameron; Raylan Witten, China Spring; Heidi Lodrigue, Clifton; Andrea Guerrero, Crawford; Megan Leinfelder, Midway; Kelsey Vann, Moody; Kayla Urbanek, Robinson; Karen Ramirez, University.

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