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2013 Volleyball Preview: Teams to Watch

White Oak’s Madison Pecot returns a ball during Aug. 6 practice. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

The 2013 volleyball season begins Monday and Tuesday across the state, and several East Texas teams have visions of accomplishing what White Oak and Cayuga were able to do last season: reach the state tournament.

Perhaps the biggest storylines entering the new year center around several coaching changes at high-profile programs.

Carolee Musick, who led White Oak to six state tournaments and the 2010 Class 2A championship, left to become the new coach at Class 4A Pine Tree. She replaces Leven Barker, who decided to move to Carthage where expectations could be at an all-time high. And former Longview assistant Andrew Harbison is the new man in charge at New Diana after a long and successful run by Lisa Rockhill.

ETSN.fm 2013 Volleyball Preview

TEAMS TO WATCH

CLASS 5A

Tyler Lee’s Taylor Winchester. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Tyler Lee Red Raiders

Coach: Melissa Lee

2012 finish: 30-13 (bi-district finalist)

Players to watch

  • Rebekah Bowden, middle blocker, Sr. (second-team all-12-5A)
  • Claire Himes, utility, Jr.
  • Taylor Winchester, libero, Jr. (second-team all-12-5A)

 

2013 outlook: Coach Lee enters her eighth season in charge of the Lady Raiders program, which has a ton of holes to fill after graduating a large senior class that helped Tyler Lee to a 30-win season last year. The biggest void was left by Mallory Kuechle, the reigning 12-5A Outstanding Hitter of the Year who signed with Texas Woman’s University. The Lady Raiders have just one hitter returning in Bowden and bring back Winchester at libero, but that’s about it. Even with all the losses, Coach Lee has a proven track record of guiding her teams to the playoffs. And this year shouldn’t be any different.

 

CLASS 4A

Lindale’s Makenna Allen. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Lindale Lady Eagles

Coach: Meghan Koonce

2012 finish: 26-11 (bi-district finalist)

Players to watch

  • Makenna Allen, outside hitter, Sr. (first-team all-16-4A)
  • Zhanelle Geathers, outside hitter, Sr. (16-4A Hitter of the Year)
  • Sydney Tiiman, setter, Sr. (first-team all-16-4A)

 

2013 outlook: Lindale graduated last season’s 16-4A co-MVP Savannah Cantrell, but almost everyone else is back for Coach Koonce, who guided the Lady Eagles to an undefeated run to the league championship in 2012. Geathers, who holds a Division I offer from Central Arkansas, could be the region’s top overall player. Add Allen, a first-team all-district selection a year ago, to the mix and Lindale might possess East Texas’ most fearsome offensive attack. Tiiman thrived last season at setter after not playing the position in her first two years in high school. With so much talent returning, Lindale appears to be the clear favorite to win 16-4A once again, and the Lady Eagles just might be the best team in all of East Texas.

Pine Tree’s Kennedy Sampson. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Pine Tree Lady Pirates

Coach: Carolee Musick

2012 finish: 29-8 (bi-district finalist)

Players to watch

  • Skylynn Holmes, outside hitter, Jr. (14-4A Most Valuable Hitter)
  • Kerri Johnson, outside hitter, Jr. (14-4A Co-Newcomer of the Year)
  • Kennedy Sampson, libero, Sr. (first team all-14-4A)

 

2013 outlook: It’s the end of an era and the beginning of new one at Pine Tree as longtime White Oak coach Carolee Musick takes over for Leven Barker, who left for Carthage after a 147-60 record in five seasons with the Lady Pirates. Musick, who has more than 600 career victories to her credit, led White Oak to six state tournament appearances which included the 2010 Class 2A state championship. She inherits a Pine Tree squad that graduated several players last season, but welcomes the return of Holmes, who was the district’s Most Valuable Hitter as a sophomore. Johnson also enjoyed breakout success, while Sampson is back after making the all-district’s first team at libero a season ago.

Whitehouse’s Kaitlyn Anderson. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Whitehouse LadyCats

Coach: Britney Nordin

2012 finish: 22-14 (bi-district finalist)

Players to watch

  • Kaitlyn Anderson, outside hitter, Sr. (second team all-16-4A)
  • Ashton Ates, outside hitter, Jr. (16-4A Newcomer of the Year)
  • Bonnie Cotton, libero, Sr. (16-4A Defensive Player of the Year)

 

2013 outlook: Whitehouse made the playoffs a season ago, but the expectations are even higher this season for Coach Nordin, who welcomes the return of two district superlatives from 2012. Ates, the reigning 16-4A Newcomer of the Year, teamed with the graduated Fulani Petties (Central Arkansas signee, 16-4A Co-MVP) to form one of the area’s fiercest attacks. Cotton provided stellar play from her libero position and was rewarded by being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year a season ago. If Anderson can assume some of the role Petties played in 2012, this could be a dangerous team this season.

 

CLASS 3A

Carthage’s Brooklyn Peace. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Carthage Lady Dogs

Coach: Leven Barker

2012 finish: 30-8 (area finalist)

Players to watch

  • Iesha Bryant, outside hitter, Sr. (third-team TSWA all-state)
  • Brooklyn Peace, defensive specialist, Sr.
  • Kenzie Tate, setter, Sr. (first-team all-20-3A)

 

2013 outlook: Carthage cruised to a district championship and 30-win season in 2012 under coach Roger Waters, but the Lady Dogs went in a new direction in the offseason by bringing in one of the top coaches in the area in Barker, who guided Pine Tree to great success the last five years. And the coaching veteran will have plenty of pieces to work with in his first year at Carthage with the return of Bryant, who was named 20-3A’s Offensive Player of the Year and enjoyed an all-state season in 2012. Tate is also back at setter as is defensive specialist Peace, which should make Coach Barker’s first season at Carthage a good one.

Spring Hill’s Jacey Fleet bumps the ball during an Aug. 8 practice. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Spring Hill Lady Panthers

Coach: Karen Brundrett

2012 finish: 38-3 (Region II semifinalist)

Players to watch

  • Jacey Fleet, outside hitter, Sr. (second team all-16-3A)
  • Ann Hollas, middle blocker, Soph. (second team all-16-3A)
  • Rachel Riestenberg, setter, Sr. (16-3A Most Valuable Setter)

 

2013 outlook: Things might appear bleak on the surface for the Lady Panthers, who will be without the services of standout Savannah Voelzke — an Arkansas signee — for the first time in four years. But Coach Brundrett has another star in the making on the way in Hollas, who burst onto the scene as a freshman to earn second-team all-district honors. Add to that a strong senior class consisting of Riestenberg, Fleet and Allison Akins, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic in Spring Hill this season. The duo of Riestenberg and Hollas has the potential to become one of the most dynamic in East Texas.

 

CLASS 2A

White Oak coach Nicole Thorn talks to her players during a Aug. 6 practice. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

White Oak Ladynecks

Coach: Nicole Thorn

2012 finish: 40-6 (state semifinalist)

Players to watch

  • Rebecca Green, middle blocker, Sr. (first team all-17-2A)
  • Madison Pecot, outside hitter, Sr.
  • Taylor Tramel, outsider hitter, Jr. (first team all-17-2A)

 

2013 outlook: For the first time in almost 20 years, Carolee Musick will not be calling the shots at White Oak. Instead, the Ladynecks are going with one of the biggest names to ever come through East Texas in the world of volleyball. Prior to her coaching career at Panola College, Thorn was four-year standout at Pine Tree before becoming an all-American at the University of Florida. Thorn won’t have the services of Dorothy Swanson, who signed with Abilene Christian, but the cupboard is definitely not bare in White Oak. Pecot could be the next big thing, while Green and Tramel both had big seasons in leading the Ladynecks to the state semifinals in 2012.

New Diana’s Baylee Birdsong sets the ball during a Aug. 8 practice. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

New Diana Lady Eagles

Coach: Andrew Harbison

2012 finish: 33-9 (Region III semifinalist)

Players to watch

  • Baylee Birdsong, outside hitter, Soph.
  • Kayli Morvan, libero, Jr. (second team all-17-2A)
  • Madison Sampson, setter, Sr. (first team all-17-2A)

 

2013 outlook: Just like White Oak, there’s a changing of the guard at New Diana where longtime Longview assistant Harbison takes over for Lisa Rockhill, who guided the Lady Eagles to the regional tournament in 2012. Harbison loses a ton of talent from last year’s group, but welcomes back the promising young outside hitter Birdsong. Sampson was one of the top setters in the area a season ago, while Morvan will anchor a solid defensive unit from her libero position. It remains to be seen what’s in the offing for Harbison in his first year at the helm, but the building blocks are there for another banner year at New Diana.

 

CLASS A

Cayuga’s Danielle Anderson. (Courtesy photo)

Cayuga Ladycats

Coach: Magen Humphreys

2012 finish: 33-10 (state semifinalist)

Players to watch

  • Danielle Anderson, outside hitter, Sr. (14-1A Most Valuable Hitter)
  • Mary Davis, middle blocker, Jr. (second team all-14-1A)
  • Cory McCulloch, libero, Sr.

 

2013 outlook: Cayuga lost a lot with the graduation of last season’s district MVP Shawnta Knox, but Coach Humphreys has another standout returning in Anderson, who was equally as dominant in her own right. The Ladycats lost a few other seniors from last season’s state semifinalist, but Davis and McCulloch look like they could be productive replacements this fall.

 

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Tyler All Saints seniors (from left) Lanna Johnson, Maddie Smith and Madeline Wynne go through conditioning drills during a Aug.7 practice. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Tyler All Saints Lady Trojans

Coach: Bryan Winegeart

2012 finish: 30-9 (TAPPS 4A bi-district finalist)

Players to watch

  • Lanna Johnson, outside hitter, Sr. (second team all-TAPPS 2-4A)
  • Maddie Smith, setter, Sr. (second team all-TAPPS 2-4A)
  • Madeline Wynne, middle blocker, Sr.

 

2013 outlook: Despite losing Katrina Kastmo, the reigning TAPPS District 2-4A Offensive Player of the Year, to graduation there is a lot for Coach Winegeart to be excited about in his second season at All Saints. Greater participation numbers in the program have him eager to begin fitting personnel to match his aggressive scheme, which calls for more specialization. Headlining the group of returners is a trio of seniors — Johnson, Smith and Wynne — that Winegeart is expecting big things from this season.

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