Hooper named all-tournament|
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
By Cory J. Mageors, Staff Writer
PLANO - For some, it might be intimidating to join a club team having not played with any of the team members before.
For others, the chance to play is simply an opportunity to excel.
Plano senior Mary Elizabeth Hooper chose the latter as she earned all-tournament honors in the 2007 Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships with her Texas Advantage Volleyball team. After placing first in the North Texas Region Qualifier, the TAV 18 Asics accepted their national bid and finished third at the Junior Olympics.
While Hooper and her teammates did hope to earn a first place medal, her to-do list did not include an all-tournament award.
“I was not at all expecting to be named to the all-tournament team,” Hooper said. “I had no clue about it until I got home and somebody called me to tell me, but I will say this is probably a big highlight for me so far.”
Hooper wasn’t even in the picture taken for the all-tournament team, as her plane had already arrived in Dallas before the honors were given out. However, new Plano Head Coach Jennifer Cron was on hand throughout the tournament while coaching the North Dallas Juniors 16U, and caught a brief look at various players in the national tournament.
Hooper appeared to be an exciting prospect, not only because of the honorary achievement, but also because she was against an elite level of competition.
“That’s definitely a good thing,” Cron said. “It’s impressive that (Hooper) was playing up a level; it means she was playing against a higher level of competition and she was able to earn all-tournament team. I only got to see a little bit of other players in the tournament because I was coaching my team as well, but I liked what I saw.”
The Plano senior said she simply wanted a challenge in her last season as a club member. Many coaches thought playing up a level would be a realistic goal for Hooper this summer, and she proved worthy. Hooper was also named honorable mention on the Lonestarvolleyball.com All-Texas Team, to add to her array of awards.
Hooper verbally committed to Wichita State in October 2006. While she doesn’t have the task of impressing college scouts on her mind this season, she still finds motivation to play for the Lady Wildcats in the fall.
“It’s school volleyball,” Hooper said. “This is my last season to leave my mark on what we have done here. But it’s not just me; we have a group of seniors who want to end our high school careers on a good note. We’ve waited three years for this opportunity and we will make the playoffs.”
That group of seniors is set to include: Christina Krone, Hillary Bryant, Katie Landis, Danielle Caldwell and Katie Jenkins.
Sounding definitive, Hooper’s prediction of the postseason comes with a twist.
Former Plano Head Coach Rhonda Rust worked the Lady Wildcats hard, and was able to get the girls to concentrate on the team mentality in which they trust each other. That mentality led Plano to the Class 5A Regional Finals in 2005.
The Lady Wildcats missed the playoffs in 2006, but with a new season on its way and a new coach, Hooper feels that it will be a fresh start with some excited faces.
“This year we get three weeks of two-a-days before school starts,” Hooper said. “That means all we have to concentrate on is volleyball, which is awesome.
“You can get very close as a team when you spend that much time day in and day out practicing with each other. Coach Rust taught us a lot, and I think that Coach Cron will pick up right where she left off.”
Hooper’s eyes are still focused on becoming a better player, and she hopes to continue progressing as a leader.
“I would say leadership and teamwork were the two things I learned the most this year from club play,” Hooper said. “Also never giving up; we pulled off some pretty amazing wins and that helps when you enjoy the game.”
Heading into her senior season with a group similar, but still different from last year, Hooper shouldn’t feel too intimidated. She will probably excel once more.