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A TEAM’S TONE IS SET BY ITS SENIORS.
The Willis volleyball team has a trio of strong-minded seniors, each with strengths that complement the others. Setter Savannah Paskeis a social ball of energy, who keeps it light and fun. Libero Lakin Horne sees the game from an intellectual perspective as a member of the National Honor Society. Taylor Hayes is the freak athlete in the middle, who can jump out of the gym on the block or hammer a point to the floor.
ON HER FUTURE: My goal is to get recruited to play in college. I want to earn a degree in Kinesiology and have a career in sports medicine, physical therapy or complementary medicine (chiropractor). I could see myself as a coach because I understand the game. But, more importantly I understand what happens outside the game.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE AS A SENIOR? You need to focus on yourself first. It’s a lot harder to please everybody else, than just yourself. Don’t let everyone else’s opinions dictate your career. Also, being a successful leader is understanding that everyone on your team is different. All of those differences can make a team successful.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SHOW ON NETFLIX? Stranger Things
WHAT IS YOUR HYPE SONG? El Chapo
WHAT WOULD YOUR SUPER POWER BE? Time Travel. I’d love to go back in time to fix some of my mistakes.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT? Salata
WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN 10 YEARS? I’m married with a family and working in our family insurance business. You need an Umbrella Policy?
ON HER VOLLEYBALL JOURNEY: My sister played a few years back and got me into it. Volleyball was a challenge for me and I wasn’t that good at first. I like to see my improvement over the years and that ’s really why I stuck with it.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF VOLLEYBALL? I run varsity track – the 100, 200 and sprint relays. It really helps my quickness and footwork in volleyball.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU? I used to be a barrel-racer when I was growing up in Pampa, Texas. I work out with a trainer every day and I want to be a Realtor when I get older.
HOW DO YOU BUILD CHEMISTRY? You need some inside jokes with your teammates. You have to be bonded from previous activities. Last year, we went to San Antonio. Me and my roommate competed against other rooms in a dance battle. It’s the sleepovers, team dinners and hang outs that build chemistry.
DJ LAGWAY IS BLESSED.
Yes, he can throw a ball through a wall and hurdle tacklers with a single bound, but it ’s more than that.
Three other things make him blessed – a tremendous work ethic and his parents, Derek and Niki Lagway.
The former Willis High School sweethearts have nurtured and guided their son to be in position to be one of the most coveted athletes in the nation. Derek was a star football player, who went on to play at Baylor, and Niki was a cheerleader, basketball player and track athlete both representing the purple and white.
“Going out to the first game this year and seeing my son lead the Willis Wildkats in front of his community… our community… it was a dream come true,” Derek said. “We were just overjoyed with pride.”
“Our high school memories were a blur,” Niki laughed. “The games, the pep rallies. It’s so different now because it is so much bigger. Everyone is supportive and involved.”
They have witnessed first hand his development dating back to his toddler years.
“He would just watch TV and these athletes,” Niki said. “At two-years-old, he would go out in the yard and take a wiffle ball and a bat. He didn’t put the ball on a tee, he would just toss it and whack it. At that point, I knew we had to get him into sports.”
Derek added: “When he was five years old, he was just different than everyone else at basketball. He was bigger than most everybody, but he could play. When he played Little League football when he was about 10-years old he was tackled like five times – the entire season.”
His legend only continued to build through middle school on the baseball diamond, the basketball court and the football field. As he moved into high school, the buzz continued to grow.
“When I was coming up, I personally didn’t have his work ethic,” Derek said. “That is what has always set him apart. He got that from his mother.”
“He is a goal-oriented person,” Niki said. “On his bathroom mirror he writes his goals – small goals and big goals. He marks them off and won’t rest until they are done. Everything he puts his mind to, he’s done.”
As the spotlight has gotten brighter, it seems like Lagway continues to stay grounded. He works and works and works – and he eats.
“He loves fast food – Chick fil-a for sure,” Niki laughed. “He loves my fried chicken and chicken alfredo from Cheddars. There is nothing he won’t try.”
“He got his birthday money, and he was so happy,” Derek laughed. “I told him, don’t eat yourself to death.”
While he will be eating at their table for the next few years, before long, he will be moving on to a college meal plan. Everyone wants to know where, but the Lagways are supportive wherever his life-changing choice will take him.
“I just want him to go play for someone who loves him and treats him like their son,” Derek said. “Sure, I’d like for him to be close to home, but if you are not in the right situation, you will never get a fair chance.”
“He has to be happy,” Niki said. “We are going to drop him off at college and I know what he is thinking… he wants to play. He wants to get to the next level. I tell him, ‘I’m always gonna get to you’, so go wherever you want. I want what his goals are.”
So, if DJ Lagway is this blessed, I guess his younger brother Jamal is too. The seventh grader is already making a name for himself at the age of 13. These days, it’s great to be a Willis Wildkat.