It’s no secret that the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex produces some of the top high school volleyball players in the country.
Look at the state rankings and DFW occupies 17 of the 50 spots in Class 6A and 5A (34 percent), highlighted by 6A No. 1 Flower Mound and 5A No. 1 Lovejoy.
DFW has won at least one UIL state title since 2008, with a total of 19 in that span, and has won in the largest classification each of the past four years and seven of the last nine.
And they’re all from the same district this season, 6-6A: Flower Mound, Hebron and Coppell.
While DFW is a hot bed for recruiting, one school is a hot bed for some of the best coaches around.
Current head coach Kim Spencer played and coached under the legendary Sue Cauley, who was at Arlington HS from 1988 until 2011. Spencer was Cauley’s assistant, starting in 2005 until she took over the reigns in 2012.
“Sue was good about bringing the team together and making relationships,” said Spencer, who won her 200th career game earlier this season. “She was hard on us, but she challenged us to be better. She had high expectations for us on and off the court, and I think we all made her proud.”
Head coaches Heather Woodman (Arlington Lamar), Amanda Shingleton (Mansfield Legacy), Teresa Dunn (Southlake Carroll), Lauren Rao (Keller), Sandy Faussett (Waxahachie) and Claire Gay (Aledo) are all AHS products.
Six of the seven are in the Arlington HS volleyball hall of fame.
“Sue was a good motivator and made sure we came together and were ready to play,” said Woodman, who has over 150 career wins at Lamar. “She made sure we knew what are challenge was every night.”
Gay was the latest to be inducted, back in August. She has over 400 career wins and a couple UIL state titles while at Decatur.
“Sue made sure we never settled. She was a really good coach, who made sure we were working hard and disciplined,” Gay said. “She pushed us and we all kind of bought into that.”
Gay played with Spencer, Woodman and Shingleton.
Her parents started the AHS booster club when she was a sophomore. They created the AHS hall of fame the following year.
“We all have a love for the game and that was Sue. We’re all still really good friends,” Gay said. “It was an emotional night. Getting the win was one thing, but then to turn around and get that honor, it meant so much.”
Gay’s top outside hitter is senior Daleigh Ellison. Her mother, Julie, played at AHS and helped the Colts to the 1990 UIL state tournament, the last time the program made it that far.
“I didn’t know Claire before, but thought it was pretty cool to see her come from Arlington too. I’m happy my daughter is getting coached by someone that knows the game so well,” Julie Ellison said. “It just seems like everyone I know played for Sue and went to Arlington.
“I remember state because it was the best time of our lives. My teammates were all my best friends because we grew up in junior high. It was nice to be able to go that far. I remember decorating the bus, we still have all the pictures. It was a special time.”
The UIL playoffs begin with bi-district games on Monday and Tuesday. The area round is Thursday and Friday.
Waxahachie, led by Faussett, who won her 800th game his season, shared the district title in 7-6A. Faussett helped the Colts to their last state championship in 1982, alongside former UT-Arlington coach Diane Seymour.
Arlington also won state titles in 1969 and 1976.
“For me, I’ve been a Colt since I was a baby. I grew up in the gym, watching my sister (Woodman), watching Claire and Kim,” Dunn said. “Watching them have a passion for the game and for kids, that’s where my heart was. I went to school thinking I wanted to be a sideline reporter for baseball, but my heart for the kids and for the game was too big to let that go.”
Assistant coaches in the area that are Colts: Tarah Derden (Legacy), Adrienne Wiles (Grace Prep), Kendall Stuck (Arlington), Amanda Miller (Frisco Reedy) and Kaitlyn Granger (Pantego Christian).
Every coach, with the exception of Reedy, made the playoffs. Grace Prep won the TAPPS 4A state title last season.
“Those kids were the leaders on the team,” Woodman said. “I played with Claire and we were both setters, and she was one of the few that I learned from. I would take every ounce she’d give me and soak it up like a sponge. She was that person on our team.”
“You could tell which players were going to be coaches,” Spencer added. “They were the ones that were passionate about the game and passionate about the team. I’m not surprised so many are coaching now.”
Keller vs. Flower Mound, 6:30 p.m. Monday, LD Bell HS
Aledo vs. Lubbock-Cooper, 7 p.m. Monday, ACU
Legacy vs. North Side, 7 p.m. Monday, Martin HS
Carroll vs. Marcus, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Lewisville HS
Waxahachie vs. Lake Highlands, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sprague Field House
Lamar vs. Euless Trinity, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Richland HS
Arlington vs. Weatherford, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Eaton HS
Grace Prep vs. TC-Lubbock, 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Waco University HS