IN FOCUS: TWCA Year in Review Photo Feature
Photo by Bradley Collier
The Tigers of St. Agnes Academy have been one of the best volleyball programs in the city the past couple of seasons. The program that Cydryce McMillian has built in a short time is impressive.
The Tigers won a state title two years ago (2019), which was their first in 14 years. Last season, they reached the TAPPS 6A State Championship match again, falling 3-2 to Argyle Liberty Christian. The team does say goodbye to first-team, all-stater and University of Iowa-signee Toyosi Onabanjo but do bring back some pieces.
First-team, all-state pick Sophie Agee and second-team, all-stater Piper Stephenson are back for the 2021 season, and those two will be the leaders of this group. Also returning are second-team, all-district picks Grace Webber and Alexis Visintine.
Another player to watch will be senior setter Nicole Dworaczyk. The motto for St. Agnes academy this season is "Apply the Pressure".
Can they do that on the way to another state title?
It was always the old adage that you shouldn't play video games while at school.
But in 2021, that has gone out the window and with the rise of e-sports on a global level, high schools have started creating their own teams and governing bodies, like TAPPS, have made it an official sport.
E-sports is here to stay and Lutheran South Academy has gone all-in.
"It's a new opportunity that we've never had before," Jaxon Crain said. "Not a lot of schools get this kind of opportunity. Gaming is something I've been doing for a long time. It's a big part of my life and I'm just glad I've been able to take it to school."
At LSA, walking down a hall past a row of lockers there is a door.
Once you open it and walk in, you hear the humming of an army of computers lined up against the walk, multicolor lit keyboards, custom gaming chairs and the sounds of players playing League of Legends, Rocket League, SMITE, Fortnite or Overwatch.
"It's been just getting to know the kids, I've never had that relationship with students because I work in IT," LSA e-sports coach Jon Maxwell said. "I love playing games and helping them out it's great."
The other advantage of e-sports is for those who can't physically play a traditional sport, like football or basketball, it gives them a team to join.
Chris Williams has a condition which has prevented him from playing traditional sports.
Williams, who uses a pair of adjustable forearm walkers to help him walk, has enjoyed the fact that LSA has added a sport he can play and be a part of a team.
"I find it fun because I can't play other sports," Williams said. "This is something that I can be involved with in the school. I find it pretty fun, it's like a brotherhood type of deal.
"It's something you can add to your resume for college."
When the LSA e-sports program started there was just one team in the 2019-2020 campaign. This past year, the program has grown to host five to six teams and continues to pick up steam.
"We all play at our homes and being able to be here with them and play with them here is a totally different experience and a whole lot more fun," Crain said.
Is this the year that Concordia Lutheran finally punches through the championship ceiling?
The Crusaders' volleyball program has made it a tradition to advance to the TAPPS Final Four, reaching the State Semifinals in three of the last four seasons and played for the TAPPS 6A state title in 2018.
The Crusaders will look a little different in 2021 as they say goodbye to Brooke Frazier (Texas A&M), who was a four-year starter for them. Returning is a solid group led by first-team, all-state pick Sophia Keene (Baylor- commit) and second-team, all-state selection Sydney Whitfield (Liberty University- commit).
Other key returners include a trio of second- team, all-district picks in Addy Polk (Saint Louis University), Faith Wilkins and Emma Wolf. Also watch out for senior right-side hitter Anna Schatz and senior middle blocker Haley Manjack.
The Crusaders will be under new leadership in 2021 as Brandon Smeltzer takes over the program.
Join the #VYPETEAM
Get up to date news from all over the country!