Back in session: Wise County’s six teams ready to get started

By Clay Corbett | Published Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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Monday will mark the end of summer vacation for a lot of girls in Wise County, and long days in the gym begin.

Volleyball season begins Monday with two-a-day workouts as county schools begin their quest for the postseason.

Ready to Go

READY TO GO – Decatur’s Stormi Leonard and Darci Billmire along with the rest of the Lady Eagles will start their journey for another district title when two-a-day workouts begin Monday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Here’s a brief look at the six teams heading into the season:


Boyd will begin their fifth varsity season under a new coach. Dusty Crafton begins her reign as head coach Monday morning. It was a rough season for the Lady Jackets in 2012, and Crafton is excited to get things going.

“We have a lot of talented seniors,” Crafton said. “They are a good, athletic group.”

The seniors will be leaned on heavily as Boyd looks to make a statement in 2013. Marley McCune led the Lady Jackets last year with 184 assists. She also had 115 digs.

“The girls have been working hard all summer and are excited to get started,” Crafton said. “They are a close-knit group with a lot of team unity. They are good kids that buy into the program and want to get better.”

Crafton hopes to implement a few things early for the long season ahead.

“I want to instill a strong work ethic,” she said. “We may not be the best team at times, but no other team is going to out-work us. I also want to build on their mental toughness.”


Rebekah Cummings begins her second season at the helm of the Sissies with high expectations.

“I’ve got one year under my belt,” Cummings said. “The girls are more comfortable with me, and there is a lot more doing now and less explaining.”

Bridgeport returns six players after losing six to graduation. Blocks and kills leader Mariah Clayton is gone to graduation, and Cummings knows her team will have to adjust after losing Clayton’s height at the net.

“We’ve got to build outside hitters,” she said. “Our defense has improved tremendously from last year, and that will help.”

The Sissies will turn to Tyler Chapa to help lead them after she started every game in 2012.

“We are really depending on her a lot,” Cummings said.

Leah Guinn will also be back after missing all of last season due to injury. Sophomore Elaina Peyton will step in as the new setter.


After a rebuilding year in 2012, the Chico Lady Dragons look to make an impact in district play this season. Missy Patterson begins her third season as head coach and has a good core group returning, after only losing three seniors.

“Last year was a rebuilding year for us, but we have a lot of seniors looking to step up this season,” Patterson said. “The girls are excited to get started.”

Chico lost first-team all- district selection Araliza Galindo, but return Corey Tate, team digs leader Breann Hall and Charlye Ann Biggerstaff.

“I have high hopes,” Patterson said. “I think we are very capable of making the playoffs. We just have to do what it takes.”

Chico’s main weakness again will be the lack of height. Their tallest player stands at 5’6.

“It’s something we can’t overcome,” Patterson said. “We’ll just have to outplay them mentally. That has to be what we use to overcome our height disadvantage.”

Patterson said they picked up a lot of confidence toward the end of last year that should help going into this season.

“Our last game was huge for us mentally last year,” she said. “We accomplished a lot of other goals too. We really started working together as a team.”


Decatur advanced to the Class 3A Region I final last season for the first time in school history. The Lady Eagles have captured five district championships and have won every district set and match the last four seasons.

“I’m looking forward to the season,” Decatur coach Claire Benedict said. “We have to continue to work hard and play together as a team. We have a huge opportunity this year and we have to strive to get better.”

For the first time in Benedict’s reign Decatur will return all of their starters.

“It will be a huge advantage for us,” she said. “It’s not going to be a cake walk though. Every team we play will give us their best game. It’s a benefit to have our leaders return, but they also have to realize that this is a different season.”

The team leader in kills, Cooper Martin, is back along with digs leader Makayla Mayfield and blocks leader Katie Isham.

Junior Stormi Leonard is also returning after a tremendous sophomore season of handing out 1,127 assists.


The Class 5A Lady Texans lost a couple of key contributors to graduation off last year’s team.

Coach Dayna Horak will have her hands full trying to replace District 4-5A first-teamer Brooke Berryhill along with District 4-5A Newcomer of the Year in 2012 Jessica Sanders and UT Tyler commit Kaylin Goss.

Berryhill left holding the school record in digs and service aces.

Shelby Stinnett will be looked on as one of the leaders for this year’s group.


The Class 2A Paradise Lady Panthers have a lot of their core group returning after a trip to the bi-district round of the playoffs last season.

“We’re all excited to get started,” Paradise coach Susie Burt said. “We have a good group of seniors that have worked hard over the summer,”

Paradise only lost two seniors off last year’s playoff team.

The District 9-2A Setter of the Year and Burt’s daughter Makenna Burt returns for her senior campaign. She had 386 assists and 319 kills last season.

Makala Neighbors, the District 9-2A Libero of the Year, also returns after leading the team with 432 digs.

With a lot of experienced players already in place for another playoff push, Burt has one area of concern early in camp.

“We’ve got to work on our serving,” she said. “We can’t just have one in and one out. We have to get back to the basics and be more consistent.”

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