• Burleson sophomore outside hitter Emily Rich was recently honored as the Most Valuable Player on the District 5-5A All-District team. BURLESON STAR/ANGELIQUE HAYS

Burleson's Rich honored as MVP

There were times this season when Burleson sophomore outside hitter Emily Rich had some epic celebrations following one of her many kills.

On the way to winning the District 5-5A volleyball team Most Valuable Player award, Rich finished with a team-high 566 kills this season.

“It’s a very deserving award for her considering her play in the district and the leadership she displayed,” Burleson coach D’Anna Newton said. “I was pleased with her getting the MVP honor. She’s a heavy hitter for us and gets the job done. When she was on the front row, we fed her.”

Along the way, Rich was second on the team in aces (48) and digs (318). She was fourth on the squad with 28 total blocks.

The Lady Elks lost their first district match at Granbury then reeled off 13 consecutive wins to claim the district title. Burleson sweep Fort Worth Eastern Hills in the first round of the playoffs then lost to Birdville in three sets in an area-round playoff. The Elks finished with a record of 31-10.

“That first game of district play we got an outcome we weren’t expecting but after that we got things together and peaked at the right time,” Newton said. “It’s exciting to think about what we are going to get in the future.”

Newton and her coaches landed district Coaching Staff of the Year honors. Newton said all the credit for the award goes to her staff and the players.

“I’m very blessed with the coaches that I get to work with every day,” Newton said.

Three Lady Elks, junior outside hitter Ellie Strebeck, sophomore setter Mia Smalls and freshman libero Emma Dustin, were named to the first-team.

Strebeck, like Rich, was an all-around player for the Lady Elks. The junior finished second on the team in kills (427), third with 37 total blocks, fourth with 36 aces and fifth with 94 digs.

“Ellie was a huge offensive threat for us this year,” Newton said. “Her hitting and serving were bonuses for us. I’m hoping for more from her next year. She gave us a great offensive threat when Emily Rich was on the back row.”

Netwon called Smalls one of the top setters in the district. Her team-leading 1,206 assists leave no doubt of that. Smalls also was first on the team with 55 aces and third on the squad with 276 digs.

“Mia had the ability to use the pass she is given and finds a way to get the ball to our hitters,” Newton said. “She’s only a sophomore and she has already exceeded my expectations and I still get two more years of her playing for me. I’m excited about that.”

Dustin started the season playing as a defensive specialist and moved into the role at libero at the start of district play. The freshman finished with a team-high 392 digs and was fifth on the team with 20 aces.

“She stepped right into the role of libero and never missed a beat,” Newton said. “It’s pretty amazing how she went from playing in eighth-grade to varsity play She handled the move with grace and did a great job this year.”

The Lady Elks entered the season without a middle blocker. Junior Maddie Gregory and sophomore Emily White moved smoothly into the position and earned second-team all-district honors.

Senior defensive specialist Kyra Smith and senior outside hitter Kenady Moore were the Lady Elks honorable mention selections.

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