Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

November 7, 2012

Jacksonville quartet lead Brook Hill volleyball to impressive 24-5 season

Doc Smith
Jacksonville Daily Progress

BULLARD —  For the past two seasons, the Brook Hill Lady Guard spikers battled into the TAPPS playoffs with high hopes of a trip to state. A huge input on the floor came from four local  Jacksonville residents and a little different approach than most playoff teams and participants.

Four seniors, Abigail Baker, Baylee Rozell and Alyssa Eden, and Jessica Tipton each made their own contributions to the recent Brook Hill success that continues to grow each year.

In 2011, Brook Hill posted a 15-11 ledger for the year and a tie for second-place regarding district rights and a 6-4 mark left a young Brook Hill team hoping for bigger and better things. The Lady Guard bowed out in the bi-district round.

The experience paid off in 2012 however after the Lady Guard experienced one of the best seasons in recent years with a 24-5 record overall and an undefeated, 8-0, district championship.

Winning an exciting five-game, comeback win in bi-district over Carrollton Christian Academy, the Lady Guard fell to Irving-the Highlands recently in Area round play in another five-game shootout that played out to a 15-13, final game for the Lady Trailblazers.

The elected team motto for the season has also been a key motivator in the banner season this past year, ‘All for Him and to Him we are thankful,’and a reading from Philippians 2: 3-4 in the Bible.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vein conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself.”

That is exactly, how the Lady Guard played all season and became the team’s biggest asset.

“Playing as a team and these girls are all like family,” 2011 Lady Guard head coach, and 2011 assistant coach, Ricky Clements said. “The key to their success has been their unselfish team attitude and their willingness to leave it all on the court and play.”

But the win and lose record is not really the focus of a program that has grown from only 22 girls in the middle school and only nine playing varsity during the 2010-11 season.

After Head Master, Rod Fletcher, Athletic Director, Wally Dawkins and Clements had a meeting of the minds about the volleyball program, and some new team philosophies were adopted.

The trio apparently came up with some great ideas and a prominent direction unlike most successful programs with the number in the two programs now pumped up to 78 players.

“Sometimes coaches, dads and moms, school fans, and friends focus completely on winning,” said Clements after switching coaching gears at the first Lady Guard basketball practice and his first as head coach. “Our coaches are looking for overall attitudes, skill development, and late bloomers.

“Many of our players are new to volleyball so we are more interested at his point of them learning the correct technique, having great attitudes, and not so much about the wins,” Clements added.

The new philosophy seemed to work.

It shows in the record and you can see and hear it in the players themselves.

“Sports has meant for me to always have a positive attitude and cherish the girls on the team,” said Jessica Tipton, a vital cog off the Lady Guard bench. “Brook Hill has meant so much to me because it has helped me in academics and grow in my walk with God.”

Tipton has her sights on achieving a Business degree at the University of Texas.

Two players, Alyssa Eden and Baylee Rozell have been starters for the past four years, and will miss the teammates and both on and off court lessons Brook Hill focuses on.

“I played varsity all four years and my favorite memory is having the opportunity to play volleyball with my sister Erica her senior year,” said Eden about her highlights with the sister and former Lon Morris volleyball player. “Winning district this year with this group of players was just awesome too,” added the future nurse, headed for LeTourneau University in Longview.

Rozell mirrored the comments of Eden, having played behind an older sister that played at Brook Hill. Rozell began playing in the sixth-grade and was a four-year starter also for Brook Hill.

“I have enjoyed my time as a volleyball player with such amazing teammates,” Rozell began. “Playing with them this year and winning first place in district was a great way to end my senior year, and will miss all of them next year.”

Rozell has her sights set on The University of Texas at Tyler in pursuit of a accounting degree, with a CPA job in her future.

The libero of the team, Abigail Baker, really stepped it up in the playoffs and led the team in digs on the season. Baker is another four year varsity player that has grown in faith as well as skill.

“Brook Hill has been a safe Christian environment for me where I can learn and grow in my faith,” Baker said about her four-year stint with the spikers. “The teammates have been great and I had the opportunity to play under some wonderful coaches,” the Baylor hopeful said.

All in all, the Brook Hill Lady Guard volleyball team has had its perspectives in order, and it seems success follows right behind.

For the first time, the school put a ninth-grade team on the floor, as well as a junior varsity and varsity squad. All the coaches, Anthony Springer, Jessica Mize, Clements, and this year’s first year head coach, Joanna Rathbun all are excited about this past season and the growth of the program, win or lose.

For Brook Hill volleyball, the bar has been raised with a undefeated league record and district title. With 48 players in the middle school program, and the return of four starting players next season with such a great attitude, but the seniors will be missed.

“We are really going to miss those four girl’s next season,” said the first year head varsity coach, Rathbun. “They were all just like family both on and off the court, and they shared in each other’s good and bad, but always kept a positive attitude regardless and they are each such a great role model for the younger players.”

A growing program from 31 total in ’10, up to 17 high school and 45 middle school players last year, on to an impressive 78 players now awaiting next season.

“We are proud of the progress our players have made this year and we are poised to have another great season next year,” added Clements in final saying, “But at Brook Hill we want to make sure our players realize the importance of focusing on the whole, rather than the parts.”