Monday morning summer vacation ends for many girls in Wise County as days in the sun are traded in for long hours in the gym.
Volleyball season gets under way Monday with the start of two-a-days. The county’s six volleyball squads will take aim at earning playoff spots in their new leagues.
They will also begin trying to bump, set and spike their way to a new final destination as the state volleyball tournament moves north from San Marcos to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
Here’s a brief look at the five teams heading into the season:
BOYD LADY YELLOWJACKETS
In their fourth varsity season, the Class 2A Boyd Lady Yellowjackets return perhaps their most talented and experienced team.
The Lady Yellowjackets head into the year with five members of their regular rotation back.
“We had only two seniors in our rotation last year,” said Boyd coach Misty Shepard. “I’m hoping we do a lot better.”
Boyd returns Brooklynn Scarborough, who led the team in kills last year with 178. The middle blocker also made 308 digs with 45 blocks and 47 aces.
“She’s an all-around player who led us in kills and was second in digs,” Shepard said. “She will be better.”
Parker Tate will join Scarborough in the middle. She made 90 kills and 266 digs last year despite missing time with an injury.
“We play better when she’s out there,” Shepard said.
Hitters Paige Gittings and Gabby Saldivar return. Gittings was second on the team with 92 kills last season. Marley McCune returns as one of the team’s setters. She made 154 assists last year.
Shepard is hoping to develop another setter to help McCune.
After two straight trips to the playoffs, including making the area round last year, the Class 3A Bridgeport Sissies will be under a new coach this year.
Rebekah Cummings will take over for Lynn Larson, who left this summer to take a job in Brock.
“I’m extremely excited,” Cummings said. “I’ve been waiting about a month to get going. I saw them play in the summer league, and they’ve been coming to open gym.”
Cummings will have weapons to work with. The Sissies return last year’s 7-3A Offensive Player of the Year, Mariah Clayton. The middle blocker put down 291 kills and made 101 blocks.
On the outside, athletic Sabrina Garza is back. She was third on the team with 178 kills a year ago.
Bridgeport will also have an experienced setter in Tiffany Hawkins, who handed out 460 assists last year to earn a second-team all-district selection.
“We’ve got a well-rounded returning squad,” Cummings said. “We’ve got a solid foundation.”
CHICO LADY DRAGONS
After making the playoffs last year in Missy Patterson’s first season as the Class A Lady Dragons’ head coach, she will now start over with a younger squad.
The Lady Dragons graduated all six of their starters from the team that made the second round of the playoffs and won 26 matches.
“We lost a lot from last year,” Patterson said. “It’ll definitely be a building process. We have some replacements. We’ll have to get their confidence level up. They’ll have to step up and do it.”
Charlotte McGuire returns as the Chico’s leader in kills with 71. Two other varsity players back in the fold are Araliza Galindo and Martina Galindo.
Patterson said one of her first priorities is developing a setter to fill the spot left by the consistent Molli Umphress.
DECATUR LADY EAGLES
The Class 3A Decatur Lady Eagles have captured three straight district titles and have gone two seasons without dropping a league match or even a game.
The Lady Eagles will turn to a young group of players to carry on that tradition this season after the graduation of seniors Kortney Tompkins, Joey Redwine, Kortni Robinson, Ingrid Boatman, Haley Dale, Annelise Carpenter and Amanda Delka.
But even with the loss of a talented senior class, Decatur coach Claire Rose doesn’t expect a dropoff in play.
“This group of girls is naturally competitive,” Rose said. “They don’t like to lose. It’ll be a year of transition with the skill level, but because they are so competitive, teams will have a hard time beating them.”
The Lady Eagles have one senior – Kristen Goley, middle and right side hitter – among the nine returning varsity players.
“This team is wide open with lots of spots to fill,” Rose said. “It’ll be competitive.”
Decatur had five freshmen play significant roles last year – Cooper Martin, Caroline Lowery, Makayla Mayfield, Stormi Leonard and Annie Parks. Martin, Lowery and Mayfield will join junior Katie Isham on a formidable frontline.
Leonard will take over at setter.
NORTHWEST LADY TEXANS
The Class 5A Northwest Lady Texans graduated a lot of firepower from last year’s playoff team.
The Lady Texans lost three of their top four hitters – Rachel Bower, Ellen Cocanaugher and Victoria Leisure – along with versatile setter Alyssa Franks.
But Northwest will have two solid pieces back on offense and defense. The area’s top defensive player, Brooke Berryhill, is back for her senior season. She holds the school record for digs. She made 712 last season.
Leading the attack offensively, Jazmine Vaughn is back. She led the team with 301 kills last year.
PARADISE LADY PANTHERS
The Class 2A Paradise Lady Panthers lost five seniors from last year, including the versatile Courtney Andrews. But coach Susie Burt feels the team will have a chance to compete for a playoff spot with an athletic group taking the floor.
“We’ll be very athletic, and that will help us out,” Burt said. “We’re looking forward to a good year.”
Makenna Burt leads the Lady Panthers. She is coming off a strong sophomore season in which she put down 211 kills and made 78 blocks. Her coach and mother said she will need to be even better this season.
“We’re expecting a whole lot more from her,” she said.
She will be one of three returning juniors the Lady Panthers will depend on to be leaders along with Makala Neighbors and Bailey Sides.
Sophomores Jett Preather, Courtney Kerr and Kaylee McConnell are expected to make an impact.