The NCTC Lady Lions are used to players moving on to other colleges, usually four-year universities.
In their upcoming season, they’ll have to fill six starting spots as seven sophomores are transferring.
Assistant coach Madison Fortenberry, who enters her fourth season, said losing the sophomores is a bittersweet situation.
“For us, they can only stay for two years, so part of that is nice because we get to be a part of the process to help them move on,” Fortenberry said. “They bring so much, not just in volleyball, but in our lives and in the school and community. It’s hard to watch them move on, but we obviously want to see them reach their goals.”
Setter Averi Foster is continuing her career at Arkansas-Fort Smith, while outside hitter Kaleigh Conger moved on to Tarleton State.
Outside hitter Madison Little will next appear at Texas Wesleyan and right-side hitter Kamryn Weaver will transfer to Texas Woman's University.
Libero Breanna Crain is bound for the University of New Orleans while middle blocker Jenna Hampton transfers to UT Permian Basin and Keyonna Ganious continues at Huston-Tillotson University.
Fortenberry said she and head coach Angie Bullard, who is entering her 19th season, felt like the team fell short of its goal of advancing to nationals.
The Lady Lions finished second for the past two years in Region 5, losing to Hill College in five sets.
“Overall, there was a lot of success because all seven of our sophomores signed to play at the next level, which is great and they’re all on some sort of scholarship,” Fortenberry said. “In that way, the season was a success. We were pretty much in second the entire season behind Hill, so to lose to them in five sets was disappointing, but you could see progress.”
As each class of players enjoys success, Fortenberry said that has led to better future classes of players.
“We have to get out on the recruiting grind because we want to keep outdoing ourselves,” Fortenberry said. “Our past few classes have been great, so it’s been tough to replace [departing players], but it also makes it easier to find good kids to fill their role.”
The Lady Lions have 11 incoming signees, highlighted by Lindsay’s Jocelyn Grewing, who is no stranger to the area. She helped the Lady Knights to the regional tournament last season, while being named the district offensive MVP in her junior and season seasons.
At the club level, Grewing played for Empire Volleyball. Grewing is an all-state team member for both the Texas Girls Association and Texas Sports Writers Association the last three years.
“It’s definitely nice to get Jocelyn... Not only were we competing with other junior colleges, but four-year schools as well,” Fortenberry said. “We’ve been watching her play since she was a freshmen and even before that. I’m glad she’s staying local because she has the potential to be one of the best athletes to come through NCTC.”
Mia Cooke of Burkburnett brings with her some serious high school credentials as she was voted newcomer of the year as a freshman, district MVP in her sophomore and junior seasons and offensive player of the year as a senior. Cooke also competed for Zone In Volleyball Academy and helped them finished 13th at the Tour of Texas Qualifier this season. They were also the Lone Star Champions in Houston and took second at the girls’ Junior Nationals 18-and-under in Anaheim this summer.
Katelyn Erickson hails from Kahuku High School in Hawaii, where she helped her high school team finished third overall at the state tournament in both her junior and senior seasons. Erickson also graduated as the valedictorian of her class. Her club experience was at Aces Volleyball in Utah, which was ranked the highest 16’s team in the state along with her experience at the North Shore Volleyball Club.
Allie Hamsher comes from Forney, where she was named to the District 15-5A first team all four seasons along with being accepted by the National Honor Society. She was also named the district newcomer of the year in basketball in 2015.
From Carrollton, Megan Herris was a member of Hebron’s three consecutive state 6A championship teams as a sophomore, junior and senior. She also played for the DCX club team and competed at the national level.
Forteberry said she and Bullard look for a wide range of qualities for their recruits.
“We’ll take a couple players just based on physicality that we think we can develop,” Fortenberry said. “We’ll take a couple kids that are athletic — that can do it all and that will go full speed. We’ll take some high-IQ kids that know the game really well and some stud, high-talent kids. Between all of that, we usually end up with a good mix.”
Audrey Henson was named second-team all-district for Frisco Centennial in her sophomore season and first team in 2017. She also attended the girls junior national championship.
Meredith McPeek joined the Lady Lions in in the spring and played for the Empire Club team.
Crislynn Autry played with McPeek and also played on the Empire Club team.
Veronika Webb is a transfer from Texas Woman’s University and joined NCTC in the spring. Finally, Lena Srdanov is a transfer from Lamar Community College, where she was an outside hitter. She is originally from Serbia, where she had a background in both indoor and sand volleyball.
“We’re really excited about this upcoming class,” Fortenberry said. “Adding all these fresh faces is good because they’ll all be on an even playing field. They’ll get to compete and grind for a position on the court. ... That group will be a great core that sticks together their sophomore season, so they’ll know each other.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip