THE CINDERELLAS: Teams who could shock the city
Everyone loves a Cinderella Story – a team that comes out of nowhere to shock the world. Houston is loaded with volleyball hopefuls looking to do just that. Some have the pedigree to steal the headlines from the favorites, while some are new to the city-wide conversation in our Sleepers category.
Fulshear Chargers (Reached Class 4A Regional Finals)
SOMETHING COOKING OUT WEST
There feels like something special is brewing out on the west side of town. Fulshear High School enters its third varsity season of volleyball and has had tremendous success, reaching the postseason in its first two years. The reason for so much excitement is that the Chargers reached the Regional Finals last season – one step away from a state tournament appearance. Coach Sidney Gotcher has a young squad with some elite firepower and a bona fide superstar junior. The straw that stirs the drink is junior Ellie Echter, a first-team, all-district selection, committed to LSU. Echter was the District co-MVP and earned GHVCA Postseason First-Team honors as a sophomore. She can do it all. She will have some help with super sophomores Ava Underwood and Alexis Dacosta. Dacosta committed to Baylor as a freshman hitter and transferred in from Paetow High School. Skylar Voskuhl is also a premier middle, who has high-level athletic genes. Her father Jake played a decade in the NBA.
The Fulshear ChargersBy Lily Cox
Summer Creek Bulldogs (Reached Class 6A Area Round)
NEW CULTURE CREATED BY AGUILAR
Coach Sarah Aguilar has completely changed the culture within the Summer Creek volleyball program. There is a buzz around the team in the community and within the school. The Bulldogs reached the second round of the playoffs last year after a second-place finish in a tough district. Aguilar says goodbye to five seniors, but the third-year head coach has some young game-changers. The leader of the pack is sophomore setter Jozie Dhayer, who burst onto the scene as a freshman leader. She is joined by junior Bailey Bryant in running the offense. Also returning is junior libero BraAnna McDonald to keep balls from hitting the floor. The points will be scored by outside hitters McKay Wilson and sophomore Alaryss Medina, while Tauryn Cummings will handle the net in the middle. Cummings is a Louisiana Tech softball commit. Kingwood, Atascocita and Pasadena Memorial once dominated the district, but here come the 'Dogs.
The Summer Creek BulldogsBy Bradley Collier
Baytown Sterling Rangers (Reached Class 6A Bi-District Round)
THE BEASTS FROM THE EAST
Baytown Sterling was on the cusp of being on top of the district last year. In 2018, the Rangers were two wins away from being District 21-6A Champions. Because of that, they made it into the playoffs for a second straight season. Baytown Sterling brings back five first-team, all-district selections; two postseason award winners and a majority of its offensive and defensive firepower. Kayla Jones and Bailee St. Romain return as two of the main centerpieces for the team. Jones was the District 21-6A Defensive Player of the Year and was named first-team, all-district. Jones finished the year with 379 digs and 68 assists. St. Romain earned District 21-6A Newcomer of the Year honors and a first-team, all-district nod as well. She finished with 267 kills and 104 digs. Other top returners include Jasmine Moore, Kaitlyn Stork and Brooke Benoit, who were all named first-team, all-district. Also, back is second-team, all-district selection Alex Lee.
Katy Tigers (Reached Class 6A Regional Quarters)
TIGERS LED BY SUPER SOPH SETTER
The Tigers are in a highly-competitive volleyball district with the likes of Seven Lakes, Cinco Ranch and Tompkins. Katy is in the conversation as a district title contender after finishing second in the conference a year ago. The Tigers went three rounds deep, falling in the Regional Quarters to district-mate Cinco Ranch, of course. Back to run the offense for coach Karen Paxton after a first-team, all-district selection as a freshman is Maddie Waak, who has verbally committed to LSU. She has a tremendous court IQ and will never leave the floor. The defense will be on lock with second-teamers Maddie Thayer (UTSA-commit) and Hannah Hoover (Naval Academy-commit). The Tigers are going to need to find some offense on the outside and in the middle as Amanda Meuth (Houston) and Autumn Gentry (New Mexico State) are off to play college ball. To keep up with Seven Lakes' and Cinco Ranch's power, Katy must find some kill artists of their own.
The Katy TigersBy Lily Cox
Tomball Cougars (Reached the Class 5A Area Round)
WILLIAMS TAKES OVER PROUD PROGRAM
There will be a new era for Tomball volleyball as long-time coach Cheri Wallace passes the baton to former Waller coach Jordan Williams to run the Cougars' Den. Williams went 26-15 in her first year as a head coach for the Bulldogs in 2018. Last year, Tomball finished in a tie for second in district and reached the area round of the postseason. While several seniors left their mark on the program, the Tomball volleyball legacy lives on. The most decorated returner is first-teamer Kate Sralla, who tallied over 400 kills as a sophomore. Also providing some attack punch is honorable-mention selection Baylee Anderson. Maddie Scott will need to step up and take over the reigns of the offense from the setting position. One of the area's most interesting athletes is defensive specialist Rachel Maciejeski, who is one of the nation's top pole vaulters. Battling Kingwood Park, Willis and Montgomery will be a challenge, but Tomball should reach the postseason.
The Tomball CougarsBy Bradley Collier
Cypress Creek Cougars (Reached Class 6A Area Round)
THE COUGARS SHOWING GLIMPSES OF YESTER YEAR
Just over 20 years ago, Cypress Creek was THE volleyball power in the Greater Houston-area. The Cougars won state titles in 1997, 1993 and 1989. Under the direction of coach Reagan Smith, Cypress Creek was back in the postseason last year for the first time in five years, earning the fourth seed. The Cougars knocked off Westside, before losing to Katy. Gone are four decorated seniors, but the Cougar den is full of hungry volleyballers ready to leave their own legacy. A pair of first-teamers return in setter Paige Underbrink and junior hitter Linnea McClendon. They are tremendous cornerstones to build on in 2019. Alex Evans-Brooks takes the lead on defense, while Lindsey Kriendler is an anchor in the middle. The six-footer is just a sophomore. Kiara Thomas will also play a larger role this year.
Cypress CreekBy Bradley Collier
Pearland Oilers (Reached Class 6A Bi-District Round)
FIREPOWER UP FRONT; SETTING IS QUESTION
The Pearland Oilers return to the hardwood in August after a third-place finish in District 23- 6A and a first-round exit by Clear Falls. Coach Christian Dunn is ready to see what his 2019 squad has in store after a solid offseason. The Rig is full of solid "hands" ready to get back in the citywide conversation. The strength of the Oilers is at the net. First-team, all-district selections Jacqueline Arrington and April Conant return and should have over 250 kills apiece. Conant has verballed to Central Arkansas. Also helping on offense is honorable-mention selection Kaylie Kovach. The defense will be on point with first-teamer Chloe Jordan back to sweep the floor. The tricky part is replacing Megan Hinks and Katie Whitehead, who led the team in assists last year as seniors. The setting spot will determine if Pearland can compete for a district title with Dawson, and how far they can go in the postseason.
The Pearland OilersBy Bradley Collier
Spring Lions (Reached Class 6A Bi-District Round)
DEMOLISHES DISTRICT; NEEDS OFFENSE TO GO TO NEXT LEVEL
The Lions were the queens of District 16-6A, going undefeated in conference play. However, they ran into a buzz-saw that was Klein Collins in the first-round, bowing out of the UIL playoffs. Spring says goodbye to District MVP Travel Morris, but coach Stephanie Porter returns four integral players to the 2019 den. Skyy Munoz was the District Setter of the Year, which is key as she is the QB of the offense. Casey Sessions will pile up the kills after a second-team, all-district junior season. Defensively, Latiana Tuaone and Kyla Jolivette were first-teamers a year ago. The offense will need some more firepower to win the district and make a run past the second round.
The Spring LionsBy Lily Cox
Clear Falls Knights (Reached Class 6A Regional Quarters)
TRIO OF JUNIORS TO HOLD DOWN FORT
The Lyndsay Hodges-era at Clear Falls is over. For nearly a decade, Hodges was a force at the helm building a record of 243-101 and reaching a state title game in 2014. Alison Kley Williams takes over at Clear Falls, which has been a power program down south since it opened. The Knights are coming off a second-place district finish, led by four seniors. Clear Falls then went three rounds deep before falling to Dawson in the Regional Quarters. So, with four vets having graduated and the coach who opened the school stepping down to be with her family, what is the 2019 outlook for the Knights? Back in the fold will be a trio of juniors. First-team middle Rachel Brown and hitter Mia Johnson are back to put opposing defenses on notice. Blakely Montgomery was a second-teamer, who can play all the way around.
New coach; juniors to to carry the banner for KnightsBradley Collier
Foster Falcons (Reached Class 5A Regional Semis)
FALCONS LOOK TO RELOAD AFTER MAGICAL CLASS
Inside the Foster Falcon volleyball program, the baton is being passed. Coach Morgan Hunter says goodbye to her first senior class, which included District MVP Catherine Krieger (Sam Houston State), District Offensive MVP Lauryn Richardson (Delaware) and Defensive MVP Lauren Sulak. Sure, Foster will need to turn over their roster, but the Falcons have been in the playoffs the last 18 seasons and had a nice run to the Regional Semis last year. Eventual state champ Kingwood Park put a stop to their season, which also included a District 24-5A title. The program will move on, however. So, who will need to step up? Briana Creery was a first-team selection a year ago as a setter and defensive specialist. She will be complemented by Ashley Isbell, a second-teamer, who will play the same positions. The offense will need some athletes to step up due to the senior losses, but Annie Creery and Karley Hardin will be the headliners early.
The Foster Falcons are in a rebuilding stageJayme Wright
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August 2019 VYPE Houston Magazine (VYPE Volleyball Preview): Volume 12 Number 1
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