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Banner Hanner will play for Texas State this fall
BAILEY HANNER JUST KILLED THINGS ON THE VOLLEYBALL COURT. AND FOR IT, SHE LEAVES FORT BEND CHRISTIAN ACADEMY A STATE CHAMPION.
Over the past two years, Hanner, who will be playing for Texas State in the fall, averaged 4.3 kills and 2.3 digs per set while leading FBCA to 52 wins and immortality.
Hanner is the face of the 2021 TAPPS 5A State Champions, spearheading FBCA’s sweep of Prince of Peace to secure the first State title in school history.
Hanner had 527 kills, 45 blocks and 59 aces last season—a first-team, all-state campaign—as the heart and soul of a program that won 35 of 39 games.
The season was a culmination of perseverance and resilience for Hanner, who went through three head coaches, a global pandemic and a position change during her high school career.
“It was rewarding to win that State Championship,” Hanner said. “It’s an awesome feeling. People don’t see what all led up to it, but it’s really special, especially making history at this school and what we were able to do as a team. There was a lot of adversity throughout those four years.”
Hanner started playing volleyball at a rec club when she was six years old. She also played basketball, tennis and was a cheerleader.
But she always kept finding herself back on the volleyball court.
“Definitely the team aspect I loved,” Hanner said. “The people I met through it, it just felt like the right spot for me. It was the sport I was strongest at.”
Hanner was the only freshman to make the Eagles’ varsity squad in 2018. They won the district title that season. After 11 seniors graduated, she was forced into a leadership role by default her sophomore season as the only returning starter. FBCA won only four games in 2019.
“It was hard learning all the different styles,” she said. “When you’re at a smaller school, it’s tougher to make sure everyone is having fun and will stick with the sport.”
Morale was down with all the change. Even Hanner, respected by teammates and coaches as a levelheaded, even-keeled competitor, got frustrated. It was tough being the leader of a program in which players weren’t having fun and the overall competition was relaxed.
Since she was 14 years old, Hanner has played with the prestigious Houston Skyline club program. She was able to test her ability and skills in club volleyball. But with FBCA, where she was considerably advanced as a player, Hanner had to fight contentment.
“My club team won Nationals when I was 15, and it’s a whole different level of competitiveness and athleticism,” Hanner said.
So, Hanner changed her mindset.
“I just realized I had to go out and have fun and just play,” she said. “Once I did that, that made me really enjoy things more.”
Hanner said she considered switching schools after her sophomore year. The recruiting efforts by her Skyline teammates were becoming attractive. But that’s when Alex Edwards was brought on as head coach at FBCA.
Edwards had experience coaching with Skyline and immediately introduced a shift in culture and energy, bringing life into a dispirited program.
“She’d join us on the court during practices because we didn’t have enough players. She always gave feedback,” Hanner said. “She really wanted to make sure the game was fun for us, and that was probably the most important thing.”
Edwards moved the 6-foot-2 Hanner from middle blocker to outside hitter, a switch that invigorated Hanner. Overall, it was like Hanner was playing for a different team.
“There was hope with Coach Alex ,” Hanner said. “She was a game-changer.”
And Hanner helped change the program. She leaves an Eagles’ legend, with a State Championship and two district titles to her name.
“Just always have fun and trust your coaches,” Hanner said. “They’ve been through it. They know what they’re doing. But have fun.
“Stick with it, even when it’s tough. You may end up making history.”
She would know.
WACO - Fort Bend Christian Academy sophomore Oyinkansola Ajimotokan lives with the mentality to never give up.
That mantra has carried her through her volleyball career, which didn't begin with her actually playing on the court, but rather watching from the stands.
"In the sixth grade I didn't play but I went to all the volleyball games," Ajimotokan said. "I wanted to play. In the seventh grade, I was a practice player."
But Ajimotokan wanted to play at FBCA. She wanted to play volleyball.
Finally, in the eighth grade Ajimotokan made the team as a middle. The next year, she started playing club volleyball which elevated her game to the next level and earned her a spot on the Junior Varsity squad in her freshman season. By the end of last season, she had moved up to the varsity squad but just coming off the bench.
Another club season came and went this past summer and Ajimotokan got even better. Her hard work earned her a starting spot on Alex Edwards' 2021 FBCA varsity volleyball squad.
On Saturday, with FBCA leading 24-17 and just one point away from their first-ever TAPPS Volleyball State Championship, after a stellar dig the ball was set into the air in the middle by Shea Stone. Launching from her spot was Ajimotokan - the sixth grader who couldn't make the team and the seventh grader who was just a practice player - who hammered the ball with her right hand.
"When I hit, I closed my eyes and I heard the block, 'I was like oh man I just got blocked'," Ajimotokan said. "But then I opened my eyes and the block was in the net. I was like 'Oh my God, yes!'. I just won the last point."
IT'S OVER!!!! For the first time in program history @FBCAathletics Volleyball are STATE CHAMPIONS!!!!! #txhsvb #txhsvb @FBEagles @baileyhanner_ @averyhodgee @sheastone_ @KFColonel19 @TAPPSvolleyball @KPRC2RandyMc @KPRC2Ari @HTownHSS @KPRC2Vanessa @LSCSN @BayleighMinor pic.twitter.com/yGJS1nn5jG— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) November 20, 2021
As the ball hit the court, the score ticked up to 25-17 on the scoreboard inside West High School and celebratory pandemonium set in, except for Ajimotokan, at least initially.
"I forgot it was the last point," Ajimotokan said with a laugh. "So, I turned around, I saw everyone on the ground and I just jumped on the huddle."
Jumping onto the pile as a state champion is something Ajimotokan couldn't stop smiling about. And thanks to her "never give up" mentality, was one she got to fully experience on the court instead from in the stands.
"It gets hard sometimes and you feel like you're not really adding anything to the team, like I had an up and down year this season but I had to keep the mentality to never give up," Ajimotokan said. "I have my family and friends surrounding me, supporting me and loving me so I just needed to never let myself get down."
VYPE Postgame 🎙: FBCA sophomore Oyinkansola Ajimotokan who had the final kill talks with us after. #txhsvb @FBEagles @baileyhanner_ @averyhodgee @sheastone_ @KFColonel19 @TAPPSvolleyball @KPRC2RandyMc @KPRC2Ari @HTownHSS @KPRC2Vanessa @LSCSN @FBCAathletics pic.twitter.com/PlBdPo3gUC— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) November 20, 2021