Houston area volleyball teams hit the ground running in September as the season officially began for 5A and 6A schools.
For Shadow Creek, this season marks the beginning of their legacy in the 6A classification, having been 5A since opening. They find themselves in District 23-6A with the Pearland ISD and Alief ISD schools, and they seem to be doing just fine.
The Shadow Creek Sharks only return six players from last season's thirteen-man roster, and the team includes many fresh faces with an abundance of talent to offer. Despite losing their six starters from last season, the Lady Sharks have demonstrated an incredible amount of potential in such a small amount of time.
Coach Whitney Daniel returns for her fifth season as head coach of the Lady Sharks, having built the program from the ground up since the school's opening in 2016. In her previous four seasons as head coach, Daniel has not failed to appear in the playoffs, finally making it to the Regional Quarterfinals for the first time last season. The team fell short in the Quarterfinals to Friendswood.
The Lady Sharks varsity team currently sits at 2-1 in district play (6-3 overall) after a four-set victory against Alief Taylor, a five-set thriller against Alvin, and an upsetting four-set loss to Dawson.
The team is led fearlessly by senior setter Michele Murphy, who returns to her starting spot expected to fill the shoes of 2020 graduate, Alexis Williams. After being named to the 24-5A 2nd All-District Team and posting 470 assists and 229 digs for the 2019 season, Murphy is expected to double her stats this year as she plays as a six rotation setter and the team captain. Not only can Murphy set, she also aids junior Deja Benjamin on blocking the outside and has a mean swing if given the opportunity to hit.
VYPE caught up with Murphy to ask a few questions about the team this year and what she expects from district play this season:
VYPE: How are you feeling about the start of district play for the 2020 season?
MURPHY: I'm pleased with how district has started off, but we still have a lot of work to do. Losing to Dawson has given us extra motivation to work harder on the court.
VYPE: What are some of the biggest advantages and skill sets this year's team has to offer?
MURPHY: Our team has done a fabulous job of blending together when we all come from different ages and skill levels.
VYPE: How has the team compensated for the loss of six seniors last season? In what areas is this year's team better?
MURPHY: Each and every player has really stepped up and is doing their best to fill the shoes of the starting six last year. Our team this year has really focused on building a healthy, encouraging relationship with one another. I think this is a vital step that will carry us far into the playoffs.
VYPE: What are your expectations for the team during district? What is your main goal?
MURPHY: The goal for district is to be if not first, then second overall in district. To accomplish this, my personal goal is to hone in on making my sets the best that I can for my hitters to rack up their kills.
Other players to watch for Shadow Creek include junior outside hitter Kayla Wilson, who currently leads the team in kills and plays all six rotations. She makes up much of the offense with her quick arm swing and ability to intelligently place the ball in the defense's holes. Last year she was named a District 24-5A Honorable Mention as a right side hitter, but she now has more opportunity to shine and lead her team to victory as she perfectly fills the shoes of 2020 graduates Halle Sanders and Amber Johnson. Wilson's court IQ and encouraging leadership add to her skill set and cause her to stand out anytime she plays.
"I'm very excited and thankful for the continuation of our season. I think we are off to a great start in district, being 2-1. We are a very young team, but we have fun and play well together. I think the sky is the limit for us," said Wilson when asked about the team's performance and predictions for the rest of district play.
Also, do not count out the District 24-5A Co-Blocker of the Year, Deja Benjamin, who proves a force to be reckoned with up at the net with her ability to shut down even the best of hitters and ability to execute the ball.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out as the Sharks near the end of the first round of district. Will a playoff run be in their future? Only time will tell.
Catch the Lady Sharks in action Tuesday, October 13 at Alief Hastings High School and Friday, October 16th at home against Alief Taylor High School.
Welcome to the 2020 volleyball season. What a weird offseason it was for everyone. No club tournaments to travel to, limited training available but what that means is everyone should be fresh for the 2020 campaign.
VYPE previewed 30 public school teams in this year's VYPE Houston Volleyball Preview. Here is one of the Dark Horses - the Shadow Creek Sharks.
Shadow Creek Sharks
Shadow Creek has been ultra-successful since opening its doors. Of course, the football team won a state title in December. Could the volleyball program be next? The challenge will be that this year, they move up to Class 6A. Shadow Creek has made the playoffs every year since opening in 2016. The Sharks finally got over the second-round blues in 2019, reaching the Regional Quarterfinals, where they fell to Friendswood. Shadow Creek, which went 30-14 last year, will have to replace the production of District 24-5A Setter MVP Alexis Williams, who led the team in kills, aces, digs and assists. That's a lot to replace. Key returners for Shadow Creek include Deja Benjamin – District 24-5A Blocker Co-MVP – and Michelle Murphy, a second-team, all-district pick. Murphy (470 assists) will be looked to fill Williams' shoes at setter, while Benjamin (163 kills and 113 blocks) can be that force at the net. Other players to watch include Ella Hestand and Kayla Wilson. Whitney Daniel enters her fifth season at the helm of the program with a 106-37 record.