IN FOCUS: TWCA Year in Review Photo Feature
Photo by Bradley Collier
The Legacy Prep Lions, under the direction of Kacie Smith, are putting together a season if the pre-district slate is a sign.
"I wanted to get our feet soaking wet going into the district season," Smith said. "When I became the head coach, I wanted to change the culture. I wanted to toughen them up and teach them self-discipline. I'm all about hard work. I also just wanted to teach them new concepts to the game."
Smith moved up from the middle school to take over the varsity job. She is a Master Coach in the club world for The Woodlands Revolution. Smith grew up in the game, playing at Farragut High School in Tennessee. She went on to Lees-McCrae in North Carolina, where she was a DII All-American. She also played on the pro beach circuit in Florida for several years.
"I've always believed even when playing in the saying, 'hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard'," she said. "Our goal is to win the district championship and then go after state. That's it. When all 12 of us are on the same page, we have a good chance."
The Lions are also very young. The team's top players are a trio of freshman. Hitter Samara Coleman is a legit DI player, while Sydney McNeal is a talented setter and Emerson Lilja is a great defender.
"Samara is a big part of what we do," she said. "Emerson is the glue. She just doesn't get rattled and has a good head on her shoulders.
"Everyone is essential. I asked each player what they wanted to play this season. Georgia Freeman was an outside and wanted to try setting. She has really stepped up in a new position and is doing a phenomenal job.
"I really believe in the talent we have. We are smart and have a lot of drive and heart."
HOUSTON – As the Houston Private School Classic is gearing up for its second-ever tournament come December, Second Baptist School Athletic Director Mike Walker is already getting excited about the event and its growth.
"Last year we were thrilled with the success of the tournament, but we were certainly limited in terms of who could come and the size of the tournament due to the pandemic," Walker said. "However, we are excited to add even more teams and even expand to another site over at St. Francis Episcopal. We are blessed to be able to have even more coaches and athletes experience the Houston Private School Classic."
This year the field does expand for the second annual Houston Private School Classic.
The varsity field includes the likes of reigning HPSC Champions Antonian Prep and runner-ups Concordia Lutheran. The rest of the lineup includes Grace Academy, Arlington Oakridge, Dallas McKinney Christian, St. Thomas Catholic, Second Baptist School, Wheatley HS, Spring Woods HS, Lutheran South, Cypress Christian, Homeschool Christian Youth Association, St. Pius X, St. John's, Fort Bend Christian Academy, St. Thomas Episcopal, Prep Student Athlete Training Academy, Village School, Northland Christian, Beaumont Kelly, St. Francis Episcopal, Frassati Catholic and The John Cooper School.
The field of 24 varsity teams will compete in three gyms and two host sites over the three-day tournament set for December 28-30, 2021.
"My prayer is that visiting teams really enjoy time together competing against top-level talent right here in the city of Houston," Walker said. "I also hope they experience a tournament that is run with excellence and a high priority on hospitality and service. I hope each team has a lot of fun, while also learning some things about themselves that carry them through the rest of the season.
"High School sports are valuable, but the relationships, experiences and life lessons are of even more value. I hope each student-athlete will experience all of these blessings right here at the Houston Private School Classic."
A new addition to the Houston Private School Classic in 2021 is the junior varsity slate of games.
Junior varsity squads that will compete include Second Baptist School, Memorial HS, Concordia Lutheran, Episcopal School, St. John's, Spring Woods HS, Prep Student Athlete Training Academy and one additional team to be named later.
"JV is on a smaller scale, but it gives our JV kids a chance to play," Walker said. "It also brings even more schools to campus."
For Walker, who is a former basketball coach himself, this tournament holds a special place near his heart, and he is proud of the team effort it takes to pull it off.
"Second Baptist School is blessed to have the space and support provided by Second Baptist Church. The work behind the scenes will be done by the men's basketball coaching staff, the athletic office here at SBS and over at St. Francis and our very talented communications office here at SBS," Walker said. "The event, however, is only made possible by the many volunteers and event workers that show up and serve our teams in many different ways. The SBS community is very close and large events like this really showcase all the best parts about this place."
HOUSTON – While sitting in his office at Second Baptist School, head baseball coach Rayner Noble's phone rang.
On the other end of the line was Katina Jackson from the University of Houston. In the following moments, Jackson informed Noble that his name would be forever remembered in UH lore as a 2021 inductee into the University of Houston Athletics Hall of Honor.
"I am deeply honored and grateful for the opportunities that the University of Houston provided for me," Noble said. "It is a humbling feeling to be included with such greats who are already a part of the Hall of Honor. God has blessed me with opportunities and wonderful people who have surrounded me. This accomplishment is truly a team effort."
From 1980 to 1983, Noble played baseball at the University of Houston.
Noble was a first-team, All-American in 1983 and still ranks third for all-time in wins (25) and innings pitches (297 2/3), fifth in shutouts (four) and seventh in college games (12). Furthermore, he was a two-time first-team All-Southwest Conference selection, and in his senior year, he posted 12 wins with a 1.31 ERA and 78 strikeouts.
"As a player, my favorite memory is our 1983 team winning two out of three from Texas in Austin," Noble said. "They went on to win a national title, but that weekend we proved we were just as good."
In 1995, Noble returned to UH as the head coach of the Cougars.
During his 15-year span as head coach, he led the Cougars to three Conference USA regular season championships (1999, 2000 and 2002) and won a pair of Conference USA Tournament titles (2000 and 2008).
He led the University of Houston to eight NCAA Regional appearances and three NCAA Super Regionals berths (2000, 2002 and 2003).
"As a coach, my favorite memory is playing in three Super Regionals and being one win away from making it to the College World Series," Noble said. "We did not make it to the series, but the memories of those moments are forever etched in my mind."
He won 551 games as the head coach of the Cougars, so he remains the winningest coach in University of Houston baseball history.
"The reason I am the winningest coach in UH history is that I was blessed with great people around me," Noble said. "I had great assistant coaches, talented and motivated players, an administration that gave me full support and resources and a family that allowed me the space to do the best I could during my tenure."
Noble continues, "I feel my biggest accomplishment, our biggest accomplishment, was taking the UH baseball program to national prominence."
Noble was inducted into the UH Hall of Honor on Friday, September 17, during a ceremony at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston. The event also celebrated the "75th Year of Houston Athletics." The Second Baptist School coach was one of seven former Houston student-athletes, athletic trainers and two key contributors to be inducted.
He joined Stanley Floyd (men's track & field), Sancho Lyttle (women's basketball), Michael O'Shea (athletic training), Anastasia Pozdniakova (diving), Angel Shamblin (softball), Hal Underwood (men's golf), Billy Willingham (football) and Ron and Carolyn Yokubaitis (contributors) as the 2021 induction class.
"This year's class is diverse," Noble said. "UH has done a great job recognizing the excellence in all facets of college athletics. There are athletes, coaches, a trainer, groups of individuals, teams and friends of the university being inducted. I'm honored to be joining them in this class."
These days Noble spends his time inside the dugout at Second Baptist School teaching the game of baseball to the next generation.
As he teaches each new class that walks through the doors about the game, Noble said he does reach into his bag of life experiences and stories to "impart wisdom and understanding to these young men" who call him coach.
"The main thing I want them to know is that life can be richer and more fulfilling with the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives," Noble said. "God has put me in this position here at Second Baptist School to first, and foremost, be a witness for Jesus Christ. I would like to think that we can reap a harvest of souls while learning to play a better brand of baseball."
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