The 2012 volleyball season is almost here and teams across East Texas are preparing for their Aug. 6 opening-day practices.

Spring Hill in Class 3A and White Oak in Class 2A appear to be early favorites to make deep playoff runs behind game-changing players at the net in Savannah Voelzke (Spring Hill) and Dorothy Swanson (White Oak). Then there are teams who may not have played more than one playoff match a year ago, or missed the postseason entirely, that have a slew of veterans back and should be much improved, such as Longview and super sophomore Halee Brewer in their new District 12-5A home.

Here's a look at 10 volleyball teams to watch in 2012, which promises to be another solid year in East Texas.


Longview Lady Lobos

Coach: Chaka Jackson
2011 Finish: 15-24
Players to watch

  • Halee Brewer, Soph., 6-0, MB (239 kills, 81 blocks, 35 digs)
  • A’Kia Mumphrey, Sr., Setter
  • NaQwavian Nelson, Jr., MB
  • Antoinesha Cox, Sr., Libero

2012 Outlook: Longview returns a solid core from a team that narrowly missed the Class 5A Region II playoffs a year ago. The Lady Lobos lost their final regular-season match to North Mesquite to miss out on the fourth playoff spot. But Halee Brewer had a huge season as a freshman and is primed to become one of East Texas’ most dominant forces at the net. She and NaQwavian Nelson should have big seasons with A’Kia Mumphrey, last year’s district Setter of the Year, dishing out assists. Two schools new to District 12-5A -- Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath -- may be early favorites in the league race, but the Lady Lobos and Tyler Lee should be competitors for playoff spots in 2012.

Tyler Lee Lady Raiders

Coach: Melissa Lee
2011 Finish: 25-16 (Class 5A Region II bi-district finalist; lost 3-0 to Copperas Cove)
Players to watch

  • Mallory Kuechle, Sr., OH (382 kills, 329 digs)
  • Melissa Menard, Sr.
  • Rebekah Bowden, Jr.
  • Kenshai Moseley, Sr.
  • Allison Snodgrass, Sr.

2012 Outlook: Tyler Lee enters the 2012 season coming off a successful 25-win season that saw the Lady Raiders reach the postseason. Don’t be surprised if they do that again. Lee has a large senior class led by outside hitter Mallory Kuechle, who racked up almost 400 kills as a junior. That should be enough to get the Lady Raiders, who finished third in their district in 2011, one of the top four playoff spots in the new seven-team District 12-5A.


Hallsville Ladycats

Coach: Kayla Jackson
2011 Finish: 30-12 (Class 4A Region II area finalist; lost 3-1 to Red Oak)
Players to watch

  • Nathalia Lomax, Sr., Setter  (1,612 assists, 41 aces, 20 blocks, 222 digs)
  • Katie McElroy, Jr., Libero
  • Jenna Donovan, Sr.
  • Kacey Woodruff, Sr.
  • Micalah Johnson, Jr.

2012 Outlook: East Texas volleyball fans will need time to get used to not seeing Cheryl Bell on Hallsville’s sidelines after the longtime coach resigned from her post. Bell compiled a 446-186 record with the Ladycats. But a familiar face takes over in former Hallsville multi-sport standout Kayla Jackson, who was hired in late June as Bell’s replacement. Jackson takes over a program that doesn’t need much, if any, tweaking. Hallsville finished as District 14-4A’s runner-up in 2011 and will be Pine Tree’s top competition in the 2012 district race with standout setter Nathalia Lomax leading the Ladycats.

John Tyler Lady Lions

Coach: Stephanie March-Smith
2011 Finish: 27-14 (Class 4A Region II bi-district finalist; lost 3-0 to Royse City)
Players to watch

  • Amanda Theaker, Jr., Libero (197 digs)
  • Quaneshia Johnson, Sr., Setter (827 assists)
  • Erica Franklin, Sr., DS (205 digs)
  • Amicia Williams, Sr., OH (180 kills)
  • Breanna Choice, Sr., MB (145 kills)

2012 Outlook: John Tyler must replace a hand full of seniors, including kills leader Jennifer McGowen, but coach Stephanie March-Smith has a bevy of returnees to help her in JT’s quest to return to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. John Tyler’s 27 wins were the most for the Lady Lions since 1998, and the majority of that roster is back. John Tyler no longer must play Pine Tree and Hallsville twice during the league schedule, which should help the Lady Lions as they hope to secure a higher seed than their fourth-place finish a year ago. In the new District 16-4A, that’s a definite possibility for JT, which joins Whitehouse and Lindale -- a program jumping from Class 3A -- as possible district contenders.

Pine Tree Lady Pirates

Coach: Leven Barker
2011 Finish: 37-5 (Class 4A Region II area finalist; lost 3-1 to Waxahachie)
Players to watch

  • Emily Shelton, Sr., 5-8, Setter (359 assists; committed to TJC)
  • Darby Davis, Sr., Libero
  • Daneisha Patterson, Sr., 5-7, OH
  • Mackenzie Richardson, Sr., 5-8, OH
  • Sky Holmes, Soph., 6-1, MB/OH

2012 Outlook: Pine Tree graduated a senior class that led the Lady Pirates to back-to-back 30-win seasons in 2010-11, so there may be a few growing pains early, especially with four college signees gone. But the good news for fifth-year coach Leven Barker is he’s heavy on 2013 seniors. Eight of them, to be exact. Paired with a rising star in sophomore Sky Holmes, who is already garnering recruiting interest from major programs such as Florida, Pine Tree will again be the District 14-4A favorite entering 2012. The question is can PT advance beyond the first round, something the Lady Pirates haven’t done since 2005?

Whitehouse LadyCats

Coach: Britney Nordin
2011 Finish: 26-13 (Class 4A Region II area finalist; lost 3-0 to Pflugerville Connally)
Players to watch

  • Fulani Petties, Sr., MB/OH (205 kills)
  • Angela Knight, Sr., Setter

2012 Outlook: Whitehouse third-year coach Britney Nordin faces a challenging personnel predicament entering the 2012 season: replacing nine seniors who graduated from last year’s third-place district finisher. The good news is the LadyCats have a proven setter-hitter combo in Angela Knight and Fulanie Petties. Petties played well in Whitehouse’s two playoff matches, recording eight kills in the second-round loss to Pflugerville Connally. That duo will help a new group of LadyCats acclimate themselves to Whitehouse’s expectations, which are to make the playoffs and not be an easy out. Whitehouse joins John Tyler and new-to-4A Lindale as District 16-4A contenders.


Chapel Hill Lady Bulldogs

Coach: Linda Godwin
2011 Finish: 26-17 (Class 3A Region III area finalist; lost 3-0 to Robinson)
Players to watch

  • Danielle Ford, Jr., Setter
  • Schuyler Wages, Soph., OH
  • Shay Ross, Jr.
  • D’Errica Campbell, Sr.
  • Alexus Mayfield, Sr.

2012 Outlook: Excitement surrounds Chapel Hill’s volleyball program after its breakout 2011 season. Fifth-year coach Linda Godwin welcomes back several key veterans from a team that won the program’s first district championship since 2002. Brittany Wright and Brooke Wright captured their district’s top setter and top hitter honors, respectively, as sophomores but have since transferred. Shay Ross joins them to give Chapel Hill a strong 2014 class. Chapel Hill will be in line for another playoff berth in 2012, but won’t be the favorite. With the move to Region II and District 16-3A, Chapel Hill -- along with old district mate Bullard -- must contend with Spring Hill, which has reached the Class 3A Region II semifinals each of the past two seasons.

Spring Hill Lady Panthers

Coach: Karen Brundrett
2011 Finish: 33-9 (Class 3A Region II semifinalist; lost 3-0 to Prosper)
Players to watch

  • Savannah Voelzke, Sr., 6-1, MB/OH (667 kills, 290 digs, 123 blocks, 47 aces; committed to Arkansas)
  • Dani Decherd, Sr., Libero
  • Aly Curtis, Sr., OH
  • Jasmin Kullenberg, Sr., OH

2012 Outlook: Fourth-year coach Karen Brundrett looks to be well on her way to her fourth consecutive 30-win season leading the Lady Panthers. Spring Hill enters 2012 as the heavy favorite in the new District 16-3A, a league the Lady Panthers won each of the past two seasons. They also wound up in the Class 3A Region II tournament in 2010 and 2011 before falling to Prosper both times in the regional semifinal round. With perennial Region II powers Prosper and Lucas Lovejoy now in Class 4A, Spring Hill not only has a good chance to once again reach the regional tournament, but could represent Region II at the state tournament in Garland. SEC-bound Savannah Voelzke will be among East Texas’ best players after a stellar junior season and should be a force for the Lady Panthers come playoff time.


Arp Lady Tigers

Coach: Leigh Ann Roberts
2011 Finish: 35-8 (Class 2A Region III quarterfinalist; lost 3-0 to Centerville)
Players to watch

  • Tiesha Wofford, Sr., 5-3, DS
  • Lauren Littlefield, Sr., 5-10, OH
  • Taylor Burnett, Sr., 5-10, OH
  • Bailey Clary, Sr., 5-8, MB
  • Kayleigh Moore, Jr., 5-4, OH

2012 Outlook: Arp rolled to a district championship last season, but with a new roommate in District 18-2A -- an established Harmony program -- the Lady Tigers may not have it as easy as they did a year ago, when they marched to a 12-0 league record. Coach LeighAnn Roberts, in her 29th year at Arp, also must replace six seniors, including 2011 district MVP Alexa Faraimo (setter), LaTrice Greenhouse (hitter), and Gena Allen (blocker). With such an established coach and consistently high expectations, the foundation is in place for Arp to recover from such a graduation exodus, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Lady Tigers are their usual selves, especially after setting the bar as high as they did with 35 wins in 2011.

Harmony Lady Eagles

Coach: Renesia Wilburn
2011 Finish: 22-19 (Class 2A Region III area finalist; lost 3-1 to Hooks)
Players to watch

  • Keirsten Seahorn, Jr., 5-9, OH (289 kills, 135 digs, 22 blocks, 229 service points)
  • Bailey Rhodes, Sr., 5-8, MB
  • Courtney Matulis, Sr., 5-1, DS
  • McKinna Seahorn, Soph., 5-9, OH

2012 Outlook: Longtime coach Renesia Wilburn guided her team to yet another solid season and a playoff appearance a year ago, and with several of her best players back from that team, the 2012 season promises to be a good one for the Lady Eagles. Harmony must replace setter Lauren Slaydon, last year’s senior leader who may have been the team MVP, but Keirsten Seahorn is primed for a big season with fellow front-liner Bailey Rhodes. Perennial power White Oak and tough league foe New Diana are no longer in Harmony’s path in the district race, but Arp is, so the District 19-2A race should be entertaining.

White Oak Ladynecks

Coach: Carolee Musick
2011 Finish: 42-4 (Class 2A state semifinalist; lost 3-1 to Nocona)
Players to watch

  • Dorothy Swanson, Sr., 5-9, MB/OH (456 kills, 295 digs, 99 aces, 84 blocks)
  • Morgan Baldwin, Sr.
  • Desiree Vining, Sr.
  • Pamela Lott, Sr.
  • Shelby Stillwell, Sr.

2012 Outlook: White Oak has reached the Class 2A state tournament each of the last three seasons, so the Ladyneck senior class has a high standard to uphold in 2012. Dorothy Swanson will be at the forefront of White Oak’s charge to Garland, which replaces San Marcos as the home of the UIL state tournament. White Oak will be favored to win its district and again be a serious state title contender. Replacing SMU signee Abbey Bybel won’t be easy, but Swanson will step in as veteran coach Carolee Musick’s most-feared weapon, while a host of other players who know they must uphold the Ladynecks’ tradition are primed to take their turns as the latest faces of White Oak’s volleyball machine.

Private Schools

Tyler All Saints Lady Trojans

Coach: Bryan Winegeart
2011 Finish: 22-11 (TAPPS Class 4A regional finalist; lost 3-0 to Houston Second Baptist)
Players to watch

  • Katrina Kastmo, Sr., OH (513 kills, 124 blocks)
  • Maddie Smith, Jr.
  • Lanna Johnson, Jr.

2012 Outlook: With standout hitter Katrina Kastmo back after a huge junior season, Tyler All Saints expects a big year in 2012. The Lady Trojans rode Kastmo, the younger sister of Texas A&M volleyball player Alisia Kastmo, to the regional round of the TAPPS Class 4A playoffs, one win away from the state semifinals. With Kastmo joining a solid junior class including Maddie Smith and Lanna Johnson, the Lady Trojans could find themselves right back in the regional title mix this season under first-year coach Bryan Winegeart.