High School Volleyball

These athletes’ inspirational teammates are family - literally

Sophie Rodgers (2) plays for L.D. Bell years after her mother played for the same squad.
Sophie Rodgers (2) plays for L.D. Bell years after her mother played for the same squad. Courtesy

A lot of volleyball players will tell you their teams are like a family.

In the case of Justin Northwest seniors Oakley O’Dell and Analise Lucio, there is some literal truth to that claim.

O’Dell is the third of four sisters that have played for the Lady Texans during a time period that spans from graduation years 2008-2019, and the senior and her younger sister, Miley, are emblematic of the family environment the program fosters.

“Growing up in the program made we want to work to get a spot on the varsity team when I got to high school,” Oakley said. “I thought my sisters and the other players were the best volleyball players ever, and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to play. Ever since then, I had the drive to be like then.”

Teammate Lucio is a four-year starter at Northwest and also had the opportunity to play on the same team as one sister, and said that it is a great feeling to have your own family be a part of the bigger Northwest volleyball family and that sometimes, some of the regular family dynamics carry over to the court.

“My sister Liana and I had somewhat of a rivalry, given that we played together the year of 2014-2015,” Lucio said. “She was a junior while I was a freshman, and our coach gave me a starting spot. I guess you could say we coached each other on what we could do to better ourselves and competed with each other like sisters would.”

I had to cut one player, and that was very tough.

Summit coach Linda Alfaro on the drawback of having siblings try out for her team

Northwest coach Jennifer Chandler said that the family concept has proven very helpful in terms of success for the program over the years, and said it is something on which she relies.

“Family involvement is essential to our success. Our parents do an outstanding job providing a positive support system for their daughter and her team. They do amazing things that extend past the court, like locker room decorations and spirit signs before matches to provide encouragement. Our parents are always accessible and available to help if something is needed within the program.”

And it is not just at Northwest High School where this phenomenon is a part of the volleyball tradition.

Hurst L.D. Bell coach Jinni Walker has actually witnessed the torch passed from generation to generation, including one mother who played for Walker’s legendary predecessor.

“Sophie Rodgers’ mother, Cathy, actually played for Vickie Griffin,” Walker said. “They recently played against each other in our alumni game.”

Down in Mansfield, Jessica Tyler has two current players that had older siblings come through her Lake Ridge volleyball program and said she likes the way having older sisters impacts younger siblings.

“I believe that it affects the younger siblings is a positive way,” Tyler said. “They know the expectations, hard work and dedication that goes into ‘protecting the nest’ of the Lake Ridge volleyball program. We push the girls to compete at a higher level each and every year — they are able to step in with a little more knowledge of our history and drive than others. We have had amazing girls set a firm foundation in the ... program and everyone wants to uphold that 24-7.”

Mansfield Summit coach Linda Alfaro has had three sets of siblings player for her program at every times, and said that even though she believes it is of benefit to have had an older sibling come through the program, it is not at times without its difficulties.

“I had to cut one player, and that was very tough,” Alfaro said. “You know the families, and it puts a strain on the relationship you have with them for a while. As a coach, you never want to cut players, and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”

Chandler said that at she loves having players follow their older siblings through the program and said that the benefits are numerous.

“Building relationships with our younger athletes is already vital in growing our program, and having our athletes excited about becoming a Texan volleyball player one day,” Chandler said. “Having a sibling already involved in the program definitely gives you experiences that will help prepare you for what to expect.”