Introducing the Fort Worth Star-Telegram 2018 volleyball all-area team.
Look for the area’s top high school volleyball player, best setter, offensive and defensive players of the year, best middle blocker, top newcomer, top utility player, most improved and the best coach.
Check back for the first team, second team and third teams on Tuesday.
Most Valuable Player
Molly Phillips, Sr., Mansfield
2018 Season: Led Dallas-Fort Worth with a school-record 768 kills as the Tigers finished second in 7-6A and made it to area. The 6-foot-5 Phillips added career-highs of 479 digs and 63 aces, and averaged 5.6 kills per set. She recorded 20 or more kills in 14 games and has registered 1,423 kills the past two years. Phillips leaves MHS as the all-time leader with 2,003 kills.
Accolades: 7-6A Co-Hitter of the Year, TGCA 6A All-State, Under Armour All-American, MaxPreps All-American
What she said: It’s crazy to win this award while being up against a lot of great girls. It’s another thing like getting the school record in kills; all my hard work is paying off. Every one wants a great senior year and going in we all had that mentality. We didn’t go as far as we wanted, but we definitely left a mark on this program and hopefully it continues to develop. I think my legacy here is being a hard worker and a leader on and off the court. I got to play varsity all four years and I started as a freshman so I think it helped me grow and instill that discipline. It was awesome to get the record for kills, but honestly I don’t look at stats that much. I broke it last year and again this year so it’s nice to see that I have gotten better and that I’m not complacent with where I am.
What Coach Taylor Elrod Dennehy said: I remember hearing about her when she was at the middle school. “She’s 6-4, she’s great” and then she walks in and she’s just a humble kid. I had her play with varsity that first day and we all kind of looked at each other. She’s been great all four years. I know she’s the best that has come through here in my four years and just being around the area, I’d say at least the last 20, 25 years. On and off the court, she’s the all-around package. She’s just a good kid that works hard and has the talent to prove it. We’re going to miss her leadership the most. She did a great job bringing the girls in and ready to go. We know she’s going to do great things at Texas, but these last four years have been astronomical across the board. This is a huge honor for her and the school. It’s probably the first one we’ve ever had.
Offensive Player of the Year
Paige Flickinger, Jr., Byron Nelson
College: LSU (indoor and beach)
2018 Season: Byron Nelson finished 42-2, won the district title and was ranked No. 1 for most of the season. The Bobcats finished No. 6 in the country after a trip to the regional quarterfinals. Flickinger recorded career-highs of 540 kills and 60 blocks along with 24 double-doubles. She registered 20 kills and 20 digs in six games.
Accolades: 5-6A MVP, TGCA 6A All-State, TGCA 5A-6A All Star, TGCA 5A-6A Player of the Year, MaxPreps All-American, MaxPreps Junior All-American
What she said: It’s a huge honor considering all the players in the area. There are a lot of great hitters. It also means a lot to Byron Nelson. It shows that our coaching staff has had a big impact on the player I am. I was shocked to win district MVP. Our district is the toughest in the state with so many talented players. It was a different feeling this year, being ranked No. 1 and having only two losses on the season. Overall, we took on the challenges and played great a lot of times. It’s disappointing we didn’t go as far as we wanted, but I still think we had a great season and I had a very special team that I’ll always remember.
Setter of the Year
McKenzie Nichols, Sr., Southlake Carroll
2018 Season: Helped the Dragons to second in 5-6A and a trip to the regional final. Nichols finished with career-highs of 1,365 assists, 370 digs, 117 kills and 39 aces. Registered 14 double-doubles and had 30 or more assists in 20 games. She averaged 10.2 assists per set and leaves Carroll with 2,910 in three seasons.
Accolades: 5-6A Co-Setter of the Year, TGCA 6A All-State, TGCA Legacy All Star, Under Armour All-American, MaxPreps All-American
What she said: I’ve worked hard these past four years so it’s an incredible accomplishment to be setter of the year. I started out as a hitter like every other volleyball player, but my rec coach said I had great hands and leadership so that’s why I made the move to become a setter. I think me and the rest of the seniors here left a legacy with some new traditions and enforced some old ones. I think we were role models to our other teammates too. I wouldn’t want to be anything else but a Lady Dragon and it’s a huge honor to represent this school.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jillian Dits, Sr., Colleyville Heritage
2018 Season: Recorded career-highs of 825 digs and 58 aces, and averaged 6.2 digs per set as the Panthers were co-district champs and reached the regional tournament for the second-straight season.
Accolades: 7-5A Defensive Player of the Year, TGCA 5A All-State
What she said: It’s great to go out on a high note with this award. Colleyville Heritage has a great athletic program and it means that much more to get recognized for all the hard work. We had a lot of competition this year especially moving into a harder district. We had a couple teams make it to the regional tournament so to be honored for all the work and time I’ve put into the sport is an amazing feeling.
Middle Blocker of the Year
Annabelle Smith, Jr., Southlake Carroll
2018 Season: Smith set a career-high with 544 kills, a .501 hitting percentage, 157 blocks and 41 aces. She also registered three or more blocks in 30 games for the 39-win Dragons.
Accolades: 5-6A first team, TGCA 6A All-State, TGCA 5A-6A All Star, MaxPreps Junior All-American
What she said: Playing for Carroll this year with such a great group of girls and even better people was amazing. I think winning an award like this shows the work my teammates and I put into the season to “protect the tradition.” One of my strengths is that I read the court well. I’ll place the ball where the defense isn’t. When it comes to blocking, I read the setter well. I also need to give a shout out to my setter McKenzie because she always gave me great opportunities to score.
Utility Player of the Year
Symone Wesley, Sr., Grapevine
2018 Season: Wesley helped the Mustangs to a co-district championship in 7-5A and a trip to the regional quarterfinals after recording 457 kills and career-highs of 541 digs and 84 blocks. She hit .321 and registered 20 double-doubles. Wesley leaves GHS as the all-time leader in kills and digs.
Accolades: 7-5A MVP, TGCA 5A All-State
What she said: I get really excited when I get recognized for something because it feels so good to know other people see your hard work. Utility on the court just means being able to do whatever you’re needed to do. When you’re a huge competitor I think it’s really easy to be a “utility” player because you just want to do whatever it takes to win. I loved my time at Grapevine so much. No one will understand how sad I am to leave. I loved every girl I met and every coach I had, and I’m just so glad I got to compete with them.
Most Improved Player of the Year
Emily Rich, Soph., Burleson
2018 Season: Set career-highs with 566 kills and 48 aces, and added 318 digs. Also set career-highs in hitting percentage, kills per set, blocks and assists. Rich had over 250 more kills from her freshman year and was 100 points better in hitting percentage. She had 10 or more kills in 33 games, including the final 18 games and registered 13 double-doubles for the district champion Elks.
Accolades: 5-5A MVP
What she said: I’ve worked so hard and I want it to pay off. The season in general was amazing. To get over 500 kills and district MVP is an accomplishment and shows how much I’ve improved. Being on this team was a true dream. We had 12 girls with one common goal and we accomplished it and so much more. Next year is going to be even better. It’s an honor to receive the MVP award especially because it was voted on by opposing coaches. I’m very humbled by these awards and thankful for being on a team with teammates that support each other and have supported me.
Newcomer of the Year
Maya Duckworth, Fr., Birdville
2018 Season: In her first high school season, Duckworth not only led Birdville in kills, but set a school-record with 616. She added 70 blocks, 489 digs and a team-high .320 hitting percentage. She registered 18 double doubles and had 15 or more kills in 14 games for the Hawks, who reached the regional final for the first time in program history.
Accolades: 7-5A Newcomer of the Year, TGCA 5A All-State, MaxPreps Freshman All-American
What she said: It means a lot. Just being nominated was enough. To break the school record and to have the season we had, it was amazing and the best year.
Coach of the Year
Jordan Rudolf, Trimble Tech
The Bulldogs were pushed up to 6A following February’s UIL realignment despite having 5A numbers. Trimble Tech is just shy of 1,700 students when the next highest in its district is more than 700 away. In a nine-team District 4-6A, the Bulldogs finished third place at 12-4 and went 33-8 overall after winning their first playoff game in program history.