“Her Fight is Our Fight”: Team, State Title help St. Agnes coach Cydryce McMillian amidst breast cancer fight
02 Dec, 2021
HOUSTON – Every season, the seniors of St. Agnes Academy volleyball are in charge of coining the team motto for that upcoming year.
The Class of 2022 went with “Apply the Pressure”.
Usually there is only one team motto for each season, but this fall was different. In fact, for coach Cydryce McMillian it was life changing. On the first day of tryouts, McMillian received a phone call and was told she had breast cancer.
Thus, the second motto for 2021, “Her Fight is Our Fight”, was born.
“That ‘her’ wasn’t just me,” McMillian said. “We put that on our Dig Pink shirts but that ‘her’ was all the individuals on our team who was going through something. I would tell them we are all in the same storm, the storm of life. We’re just in different boats and we’re just trying to get to that shoreline together and we’re not going to leave anyone behind.
“So, while my battle may be breast cancer. Your battle may be mental illness or something going on with the recruiting side. Everybody had something but collectively ‘Her Fight is Our Fight’ and we really embraced that concept. We were all fighting for someone else.”
Through the 2021 season, McMillian every three weeks had to travel downtown to undergo a chemotherapy session. Her first was on October 12, which was the same night of a practice.
On November 2, McMillian underwent her treatment that morning and that night it was a road match for her Tigers at rival Concordia Lutheran for the District Championship – they swept the Crusaders to win 3-0 and the district crown.
“It was good to see them fighting on days when I knew physically that I was fighting to beat this breast cancer,” McMillian said.
After that, the Tigers were in the TAPPS 6A playoffs, seeking their second state crown in a matter of three seasons.
St. Agnes Academy rolled past Trinity Christian Academy (3-1), Incarnate Word-San Antonio (3-0) and then Concordia Lutheran (3-1) in the state semifinals to reach the title game. Once there, they beat Prestonwood Christian 3-1 to capture the 2021 TAPPS 6A State Championship.
“State championships are hard, and they’ve come through a lot of adversity,” McMillian said. “When you start talking about championships and competing at that level, then you look at the teams and what they have to get through to get there. There’s a lot of adversity that teams have to overcome, either as individuals or as a team.
“It has been an honor to coach this program for the last three years and sustain a champion-like mindset and a culture that embraces that level of excellence year after year.”
As McMillian spoke to VYPE on November 23, the state champion coach had just finished her third session of chemotherapy that very morning.
Going through a season undergoing the treatment, McMillian said she was blessed to have limited side effects to it. But what really has helped her the most through this process is the game of volleyball and her team.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “Being with my team and my program was definitely a distraction to what could have happened with all the other stuff had I not had some place to be. It gave me light during a time I wasn’t sure which way I was going but I knew I needed to put one foot in front of the other.
“There were some tough days and others I felt amazing. For me volleyball is more than a team, it’s a family, especially when you’re with this group every single day and I’m also an educator on campus. It was so warming to have them around me and asking how I’m doing or for me asking how they were doing. To know we were a family through all of this helped me to keep going and keep pushing.”
As McMillian has gone through this chapter of her life, she has had her team, the St. Agnes community but also her faith.
Which she has seen his light shine through the dark times in multiple areas of her life.
“He just continues to show me how good of a God he is and how much favor he has on me as a child of God,” McMillian said. “So, I can’t say enough praises for him and the things he’s done to take care of all the things that concern me. He’s done a good job watching over all of us and protecting us.
“I thank God for using me. As much as it’s not necessarily something I want to go through he has kept me the whole way as people are watching. My faith and my Christianity are very high and I’m thankful he’s used me and protected me so others can see who he truly is.”
This senior-landen team, which also created the hashtag “#We’veGotYourBackMac” to support their coach, was led by the likes of all-staters Sophie Agee, Lexi Visinitine and Grace Webber.
Webber led the team in assists with 577, while Visintine had 326 kills and 297 digs and Agee registered 485 kills, 322 digs and 40 blocks.
It was this group that came up with the “Apply the Pressure” and in a season where McMillian believes it was a season about “grit” and how to be a “champion” they fulfilled their vision from the summer.
“Their vision was that we were going to start as individual pieces of coal and go through a season where we had to continue to apply the pressure to come out as diamonds,” she said.
In the end, the diamonds they became will now be represented by the diamonds they put on their rings in a few weeks but for McMillian its about more than that.
“We grew a whole group of champions this year in so many ways,” McMillian said. “We did it and we did it together. It keeps me smiling. This one is so special for so many reasons. We’ve all made it to the top and now we’re taking a nice look of where we came from.”
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No. 1 Atascocita Eagles
Last season, the road to state for Houston teams came right through District 21-6A with the likes of Atascocita and Summer Creek.
Under the direction of David Martinez, Atascocita has been to the State Finals (2016), the State Semis (2021), and the Regionals Semis five of the last seven years.
The Eagles were senior-heavy last season, but Martinez has a next-man-up mentality. Senior guard David Martinez – no relation to the head coach – could be a big surprise this season after missing virtually three years with injuries and will be joined in the backcourt by AJ Aungst – another talented shooter. Angel Johnson came up big in the postseason a year ago and will take on an even larger role. Connor Miller will also contribute shooting the ball.
Kaleb Pouncy is the most talented player, who is unstoppable in spurts. If the 6-foot-7 forward is more consistent, look out. Landyn Jamuwan is the talk of the district. He played at Humble last season after moving to the mainland from Hawaii and is now at Atascocita. He's a talented wing. Don't forget about Kanye Ortiz, who is also a solid point guard off the bench.
The Eagles could be back at State in 2022 if they remain healthy.
DIGITAL VERSION - 2021-2022 VYPE Houston Basketball Preview Magazine - VYPE
FOR PHOTOS -- VYPE PHOTOS
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VYPE: How long have you been playing basketball and how did you get your start?
Sonnier: I’ve been playing basketball for three and a half years. I started playing my 8th grade summer.
VYPE: Who's your favorite athlete and why?
Sonnier: Stephen Curry is my favorite player because of the way he moves around the court on and off the ball and there’s no doubt that he always impacts the game.
VYPE: What's your pre-game meal? Routine?
Sonnier: Before a game I eat one banana and drink my Pedialyte. I like to keep my stomach light on game days. I also do a lot of stretching and breathing exercises to get my mind and body ready for the game.
VYPE: Off the court, what is your favorite thing to do?
Sonnier: I like spending time with family and friends and making sure I make time to focus on myself.
VYPE: What's your favorite subject in school?
Sonnier: I don’t really have a favorite subject. I enjoy every subject and what I’m being taught.
VYPE: What is the one memory from the game you'll never forget playing basketball?
Sonnier: My first in-game dunk. The crowd and the energy in the gym was unforgettable.
"I’m excited about my junior year and being Selected for Steph Curry Underrated Camp. I’m honored to be nominated for Houston’s Preseason Public School POY and looking forward to continuing to impact the game."
For all the ways you love to play, Academy Sports and Outdoors makes it easier than ever to gear up and have fun out there! Get free shipping on your favorite brands at academy.com or get free curbside or in-store pick-up at your Academy store. Gear up this Spring at Academy Sports and Outdoors.
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