Boy, I thought I was so smart.
Last year, I revealed my "2018 Dazzling Dozen" state volleyball awards, simply (and ignorantly) keeping it down to the Top 24 players that I saw with my own eyes.
I will tell anyone who will listen: Texas has the greatest volleyball players in the country. Period. And keep in mind I have access to the knowledge of hundreds of coaches around the state; to Josh Koch of VYPE Houston; and, to the greatest Texas High School volleyball mind around, Butch Hart of the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
So my "ignorance" from last year is the fact I only named 24 of the best players that I saw. There's just too many great players to keep any list down to a Top 24. To make amends (to myself, mostly), I expanded the 2019 Dazzling Dozen to five Superlative Awards; first, second and third teams; and, a dozen honorable mentions.
Remember: there's no politics in my choices. These are players I saw in person (thanks to the great folks at VYPE Media, I got to watch over 150 teams compete); there's no "spreading the love," in trying to get as many teams and players mentioned as possible.
Just the best of the best.
Thus, my Dazzling Dozen: the best players whom I saw this season that leave everything out on the court. Not that others didn't but these are the ones who made a big impression on me. These are the student-athletes whom I'd pick if I were heading up a volleyball team (or two).
And yes, since these are my personal choices, you're welcome to give me your thoughts directly – hit me up at email@example.com
Chuck Licata's 2019 Volleyball Dazzling Dozen
Player, School (Year) Coach
Co-Players of the Year:
Payton Chamberlain, Byron Nelson (Jr) Brianne Groth
Paige Flickinger, Byron Nelson (Sr) Brianne Groth
Hitter of the Year:
Kaylee Cox, Flower Mound (Jr) Jamie Siegel
Setter of the Year:
Averi Carlson, Lovejoy (Jr) Ryan Mitchell
Utility Player of the Year:
Avery Kalsu, Dripping Springs (Sr) Michael Kane
Libero of the Year:
Sarah Martinez, Flower Mound (Jr) Jamie Siegel
Cecily Bramschreiber, Lovejoy (Jr) Ryan Mitchell
Charitie Luper, Byron Nelson (Jr) Brianne Groth
Dylan Maberry, The Woodlands (Sr) Teri Wade
Iman Ndiaye, Plano West (Sr) Justin Waters
Grayson Schirpik, Rouse (Sr) Jacob Thompson
Annabelle Smith, Southlake Carroll (Sr) Teresa Dunn
Clara Brower, The Woodlands (Jr) Teri Wade
Reagan Rutherford, Ridge Point (Sr) Lauryn Bailey
Jill Pressly, Plano West (Sr) Justin Waters
Brooke Slusser, Guyer (Jr) Heather Van Noy
Gia Santini, Byron Nelson (Sr) Brianne Groth
Callie Kemohah, Lovejoy (Jr) Ryan Mitchell
Ally Batenhorst, Seven Lakes (Jr) Amy Cataline
Ellie Echter, Fulshear (Jr) Syndey Gotcher
Brianna Ford, Randall (Sr) Haleigh Burns
Samantha Jacobs, Prosper (Sr) Erin Kauffman
Claire Jeter, Ridge Point (Sr) Lauryn Bailey
Makensy Manbeck, Friendswood (Sr) Sarah Paulk
Shelby O'Neal, Clemens (Sr) Robyn Wunderlich
Lexi Moody, Crawford (Sr) Jeff Coker
Tori Weatherley, Friendswood (Sr) Sarah Paulk
Reilly Heinrich, Rouse (Sr) Jacob Thompson
Nia McCardell, Ridge Point (Sr) Lauryn Bailey
Annie Antar, Klein (Jr) Kate Zora
Angelique Cyr, Flower Mound (Jr) Jamie Siegel
Alexis Dacosta, Fulshear (Soph) Sydney Gotcher
Kylann Griffith, Vanderbilt Industrial (Sr) Kelsey Vasquez
Jaelyn Grimm, Cedar Park (Sr) Lori McLaughlin
Alicia Hearn, Sachse (Sr) Rikki Jones
Alexia Jones, Dawson (Jr) Lauren Leth
Libby Overmyer, Kingwood Park (Sr) Kelly Mizer
Lexi Rogers, Neches (Jr) Morgan Roberson
Anne Williams, Crawford (Sr) Jeff Coker
Kenzie Beckham, Westwood (Jr) Tara Grant
Emma Becker, Liberty Hill (Soph) Gretchen Peterson
Maddie Correa, SA (Sr) Reagan Rachel Torvik
Delaney Dilfer, Vandegrift (Sr) Melissa Southall
Kara Erfurth, Rouse (Sr) Jacob Thompson
Emery Herman, Georgetown (Sr) Jenny Richardson
Chloe Jordan, Pearland (Sr) Christian Dunn
Alessandra Meoni, Friendswood (Jr) Sarah Paulk
Audrey Quesnel, Westwood (Sr) Tara Grant
Kamryn Scroggins, Dawson (Soph) Lauren Leth
Annie Stadthaus, Vandegrift (Sr) Melissa Southall
Kyndal Stowers, Guyer (Fr) Heather Van Noy
Ryann Torres, Hays (Sr) Ashley Davis
Ragan Ward, Waxahachie (Sr) Sandy Faussett
Jamison Wheeler, Lake Travis (Jr) Brandace Boren
The showdown is set.
Ridge Point will get its shot to get back to the UIL State Tournament for a second-straight year, while Cy-Fair will make its first Regional Finals appearance since 2013.
The Region III-6A Final between Ridge Point and Cy-Fair is slated for a 1 p.m. first-serve on Saturday at Wheeler Field House.
In the early match inside Wheeler Field House, it was a re-match of the 2018 Region III-6A Final with Ridge Point and Pearland Dawson facing off. Just like last year, the Panthers were too much.
Ridge Point rolled to 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-14) victory behind the high-octane duo of Texas A&M-signee Claire Jeter and Kentucky-signee Reagan Rutherford, who were both named AVCA Under Armour All-Americans last week.
"Before the match started we talked about playing our game and staying calm and controlled," first-year Ridge Point coach Lauryn Bailey said. "We knew this was going to be a high-intensity, high-emotion game, so we just wanted to play ours. I know Dawson was motivated to beat us because we beat them last year but [my players] are motivated to beat everybody because they want to get back to state.
"We were both trying to play for something and the girls just took care of business when they needed to."
The clean sweep marked the third-straight by Ridge Point in the playoffs - the Panthers having dropped only one set all postseason - which moves them on to just the program's second-ever Regional Final.
Rutherford led the charge with a team-leading 16 kills, 19 assists and 14 digs for a triple double. Jeter followed with seven kills, while Nia McCardell had a team-leading 27 digs, which put her over 800 for the season, and Britney Ong had 15. Kendall Sekula led Ridge Point with 21 assists for the match.
When Bailey took over this program in the spring, she knew she had a talented crew that could get back to a Regional Final and beyond.
"This team is just a special team to begin with," Bailey said. "I was very lucky to take the reigns and go with it. I just wanted to come in and try to raise their volleyball IQ and try to make smarter decisions. They have all the talent in the world and they have team unity like nobody else I've ever seen. They play together as one. I'm just trying to come in and guide the way and try and get them back there, so they can try and get some redemption from last year."
In the final match of the day, it pitted two teams that hadn't been in a Regional Tournament in a while against each other - Cy-Fair (first appearance since 2013) and Deer Park (first appearance since 2011).
The teams went toe-to-toe with each other in every set but in the end it was Cy-Fair pulling out the 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-22) victory claiming its first Regional Finals appearance in six years.
"It feels good, we were in the Regional Finals many times and had been in the Regional Tournament a lot," Cy-Fair coach Donna Benotti said. "Then having that dry spell was really difficult for our coaching staff and we were just really thrilled to have the opportunity to be back and be playing at this level again."
Cy-Fair was led by junior Rebekah Portalatin and her triple-double, which included 19 kills, 16 assists and 13 digs to lead the Bobcats. Lauryn Bourne finished with 12 kills and 14 digs, while Julia Chew had 16 assists. Annie Heliste and Kara Spice also finished with double-digit digs racking up 13 and 11, respectively.
To get to the program's first state tournament appearance since 2007, the Bobcats - who won a volleyball state title in 1986 - will have to get through 2018 Class 6A runner-up Ridge Point on Saturday.
"That's one big win, Ridge Point is a beastly kind of a team and they are just so talented," Benotti said. "They don't even have any holes. We're just going to give it our best. We do play good defense and hope that we can stand tall with them."