High school volleyball preview

August 11, 2008
By DAVID HINOJOSA / The Dallas Morning News - dhinojosa@dallasnews.com

Lake Highlands wants to keep control

Lake Highlands' undersized team advanced to the Class 5A regional finals last season. The longest run in school history was fueled by strong ball control and solid defense usually not a formula for a deep playoff run.

"They surprised me," said coach Cory Williams, whose team was 39-6 last season. "Our ball control carried us a long way."

This year, the expectations are high. Lake Highlands is among the top teams in Region II.

"We're going to have to be level-headed," senior Tori Mellinger said. "We know we are going to have to compete hard every day because no one in Texas plays bad volleyball."

Mellinger typifies Lake Highlands' can-do spirit. The 5-10 outside hitter is dangerous offensively (660 kills last season) and defensively (694 digs). Setter Angie Morgan (1,372 assists, 459 digs) keys the offensive rhythm. Senior defensive specialist Paige Benton and junior middle blocker Caroline Henton are also returning starters. Senior outside hitter Kenzie Thompson and senior middle blocker Kendall Kinney are expected to contribute after playing mainly reserve roles last season.

Plano West has plenty in reserve

Despite graduating two Division I players including SportsDay's all-area player of the year, Shannon Hawari Plano West still has plenty of talent.

Coming off its first state tournament berth, Plano West returns four starters from a 34-9 team, so coach Brittany Bridge is confident.

Bridge is looking to 6-2 outside hitter Madie Jones (committed to LSU) to take over offensively. Jones is coming off an impressive performance with her club at the national junior championships. Senior 5-11 setter Megan Murphy (committed to Rice) has 1,699 career assists, 117 shy of the school record. Senior 6-0 middle blocker Haley Wessels came up strong in the playoffs last year, and 5-9 senior outside hitter Michelle Harris is a gritty performer.

"They are confident and understand how much hard work it takes to get" to state, Bridge said.

Bridge is excited about the addition of 6-1 freshman Laura Jones, whom teammates have dubbed "little Kathleen Nash," the former district MVP, and 5-5 sophomore Rachel Brummitt, whose enthusiastic defensive play has been contagious.

Mesquite shows experience in charge

Mesquite coach Kristi Pecina never brings up the subject with her team.

But its 28-game district winning streak the last three seasons is becoming difficult to ignore.

"I try not to think about it, but it has become something they are very proud of," Pecina said.

The odds of Mesquite extending that streak look favorable with four returning starters, led by 6-1 middle blocker Courtney Manning (committed to SMU), who has been the district's MVP, hitter of the year and newcomer of the year the last three seasons.

Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Brimer and junior libero Daniella Rodarte, both third-year starters, are nice complements to Manning. They've allowed Pecina to assume more of a supervisory role.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH Player School Ht. Pos. Cl. Comment
Caroline Adams Prestonwood Chr. 6-0 MB Sr. Leads strong senior class
Ashley Anderson Keller 6-1 MB Sr. Leader on team that graduated eight
Amanda Anderson Colleyville Heritage 6-1 MB Sr. 4.07 kills per game
Olivia Bailey Hockaday 6-0 S/OH Sr. 2-time all-SPC
Kaycie Bird Red Oak 5-5 S So. All-district setter of the year
Sarah Bullock Allen 5-10 S/OH/RS Sr. 513 assists, 363 kills, 75 aces, 303 digs
Lainey Clark Sachse 5-8 S So. 1,007 assists, 53 aces
Katherine Culwell Highland Park 6-0 OH Sr. 3-time all-tournament at club nationals
Sally Downs Coppell 6-0 MB Sr. Played more time as season unfolded
Tobi Farrar Arlington 6-3 MB Sr. 539 kills, 94 blocks
Jennifer Fiedler Waxahachie 5-10 OH Sr. 4th year starter
Dana Hilzendager Red Oak 5-8 OH/S Sr. 2-time district MVP
Danielle Manack Plano 5-4 L Sr. 742 digs, 70 assists
Lauren Martin Euless Trinity 6-1 RS Sr. 376 kills, 88 blocks, 62 aces
Kelsey Musselman Parish Episcopal 5-9 S Sr. 917 assists, 63 blocks
Jasmine Norton Rowlett 5-10 OH Sr. District MVP
Julie Olschwanger Richardson Pearce 5-7 L Jr. 552 digs, district libero of the year
Natalie Puckett Lovejoy 5-10 OH So. All-state and district newcomer of the year
Sloane Sunstrum Southlake Carrroll 5-11 OH Sr. 318 kills, 126 digs, 36 aces
Whitney Walls Arlington Martin 6-1 RS-MB Sr. Could become first hitting option

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