You should never judge a book by its cover, particularly in sports.
Underdogs are always looking for the opportunity to prove themselves and the dark horse can’t wait for the chance to make a move and show what she is capable of.
A number of local volleyball players have wildly exceeded their coaches’ expectations this season. Such players were relative unknowns heading into 2017, but they have given their coaches a sense of unexpected comfort and served as a pleasant surprise for their teammates.
Name: Bailey Tompkins
School: Justin Northwest
Position: Utility, primarily middle blocker
Impact: “Bailey is a player that we originally looked to play as [an opposite] hitter, but as the off-season progressed, we wanted to see what she could offer our team as a middle blocker,” coach Jennifer Chandler said. “With the graduation of two impactful middle blockers, we knew that was going to be a vital position for us to fill. We suggested the move to her at the end of the year, and the rest has been history.
“She stands about 5-8 with great explosiveness, quickness and vertical. This year we have had the opportunity to use her versatility to play across the front row and provide our team the ability to utilize her offensive skill set. Along the way, she’s emerged as a go-to hitter for our team and has recently picked up the defensive side of the game, averaging a block per game the last couple of games. She has also taken on more responsibility for our team by playing six rotations and providing us stability in receive, along with offensive options out of the back row and utilizing her athleticism on defense.”
Name: Makenzie Maumalanga
School: Keller Timber Creek
Position: Middle blocker
Impact: “Makenzie is a senior blocker that was originally behind two younger middles,” coach Erin Wood said. “Prior to district, we moved a middle to the outside and took a chance on ‘Mauma’ in the middle. We knew that she had good net play but this was her first season on varsity and she had never played at this speed. She has done a spectacular job.
“She is not our kill leader but is an integral part of our defense. She shuts down the setter dump with her long arms and quick reactions. I cannot imagine our starting line up without her.”
Name: Natalie Glenn
School: Southlake Carroll
Position: Outside hitter
Impact: “Natalie was expected to get some playing time this season, but in a role player type of role,” coach Ryan Mitchell said. “She has busted onto the volleyball scene and is a six-rotation starter. I have had freshmen on varsity in the past but none that have been this ready to step in and play six rotations. She not only plays but dominates at the varsity level.”
Player: Mollie Blank
School: Mansfield High
Impact: “Mollie has become a key player for our 2017 varsity team,” coach Taylor Elrod said. “She runs a 5-1 and has exceptional court awareness and a high volleyball IQ. She has been a standout player for us this season, even though this is her first year on varsity.”
Player: Jalyn Vance
School: Trophy Club Nelson
Position: Middle hitter
Impact: “Jalyn’s defense at the net has allowed the rest of our defense to focus on defending other areas of the court,” coach Libby Pacheco said. “As she matches up against some of the best hitters in the state during district play, we have been able to rely on her to make a significant impact every time she is on the floor.
“She has also worked really hard to become an offensive threat as well, so now we are able to use her more in order to take the pressure off of our pin hitters.”
Player: Savannah Kjolhede
Position: Middle blocker
Impact: “Being young on this team of experience, Savannah has truly stepped up offensively in multiple positions,” coach Whitney Woody said. “She has become a leader on the floor and is a go-to attacker in big matches.”
Player: Bella Burns
School: L.D. Bell
Position: Transitioned from defensive specialist to setter/opposite
Impact: “In her first year of setting, Bella has remained poised, competitive, and has truly embraced learning what being a setter is all about,” coah Jinni Walker said. “She is taking on more of a leadership role and her work ethic is tremendous.”
Players: Lyric Stewart and Trinity Bryant
School: Mansfield Lake Ridge
Position: Middle blocker and libero (respectively)
Impact: “Lyric is a freshman who has stepped in and taken over middle blocker this season and has been a dominant force,” coach Jessica Tyler said. “Trinity is also a freshman who has earned the libero spot during district play by her quick reactions and consistent passes.”