Lady Elks garner multiple honors
The youth movement at Burleson had an impact on the District 9-5A volleyball race and the recently released all-district team.
Three Lady Elks landed superlative honors on the list are a senior and a pair of freshman.
Senior Jailah Ivory was honored as the Blocker of the Year while freshman Mia Smalls was named the Co-Setter of the Year and freshman Emily Rich nabbed Newcomer of the Year honors.
The trio played a key role in the Lady Elks strong finish which pushed Burleson into a third-place tie with Granbury. Burleson finished district play on an eight-match win streak including to back-to-back wins over Granbury.
The Lady Elks finished district play with 10-4 record and an overall mark of 21-18. Burleson lost to Mansfield Lake Ridge in the first round of the playoffs.
“The first half of district was tough for us and it took us a while to kind of find our position in this district,” Burleson coach D’Anna Netwon said. “To win eight straight matches and beat Granbury twice was great. I’m so proud of them. The future looks bright with all the young ones we have. I’m excited to see what it all holds.”
Ivory was one of the Lady Elks most experienced players returning at the start of the season. The middle blocker led the squad with 48 solo blocks, 34 combo blocks and 82 total blocks. She topped the squad with a 37.8 kill percentage and was second on the team in kills (210).
“I think she was very deserving of the award,” Newtwon said. “She had a really good senior year and her middle blocking was such a huge part of our game plan. It’s going to be hard to replace her and Sarah Reid but what we have coming up is good. I was glad to have four years with her and Sarah.”
By the time district play rolled around, Smalls was running the offense flawlessly after playing middle school volleyball last season.
It was a struggle for her in the beginning but once she got to know the girls and realized we have something special here she really stepped up and led this team,” Newton said.
Smalls led the team in assists (818) and aces (70) and was fourth on the squad in digs (197).
“I thought of Mia as kind of the nucleus of the team,” Newton said. “She really stepped up considering she was so young and taking over the role as our primary setter. The best part is we get three more years with her because she’s a freshman.”
With not many outside hitters returning, Rich’s emergence as an offensive force was huge for the Lady Elks. Rich led the team in kills (319), was second in aces (35), third in blocks (20) and fourth in kill percentage (32.4).
“I thought she really shined this season,” Newton said. “At times she was our go-to player. She was confident. I was very surprised with the way she stepped up not only as a player, but as a leader on this team.”
Sophomore outside hitter Ellie Strebeck was the Lady Elks lone first-team selection. Strebeck, who played with the junior varsity last season, finished second in the team in kills (271), kill percentage (36.2) and hitting percentage (.192).
“Ellis is another young one,” Newton said. “She stepped up coming from the junior varsity last year. In a few games she had 20 plus kills for us. She and Emily on the outside really helped us.”
Burleson had two second-team members in senior middle blocker Sarah Reid and sophomore libero Makayla Davison. Three Lady Elks - senior defensive specialist Kirstie Gonterman, sophomore right side hitter Madison McCall and junior setter/defensive specialist Kyra Smith - were honorable mention selections.