The toughest part of being a dominant high school athletics program is keeping the momentum every year, and the Sachse volleyball team knows all about those challenges.
One of the best programs in the area, the Lady Mustangs graduate several seniors following a 35-win season and regional quarterfinals appearance. For head coach Rikki Jones, it’s nothing new. She’s been with the program since the school’s inception, and won’t deter from her expectations.
“The roster will change every year, but our expectations don’t,” Jones said. “We want to win the district and go deep in the playoffs again, but we understand there will always be challenges. I think there will be more parity in the district this year and without players like Macy [Taylor] and a couple of our back row players, it may take us a little longer to gel than usual.”
Sachse’s biggest challenge is replacing District 9-6A MVP Macy Taylor, who led the team with 500 kills and 406 digs last season, showing her versatility as a six-rotation player. As she goes to Providence College on scholarship, along with the graduation of senior defensive players Chi Tran, Bailey Malone and Mackenzie Colwell, the Lady Mustangs know what challenges lie ahead. Early in the preseason, they preached ball control and defense to help make up for the losses.
“We have to work hard to be where we want to be, and that’s the case every year,” Jones said. “We’re going to highlight what we do well and continue to work on what we don’t, but a lot of credit should go to the players this summer, who have worked hard and are coming together now. We’re excited for the new season.”
Sachse’s dealt with losses to senior players in the years past and still managed to put together strong seasons following. The year before last, the Lady Mustangs lost Zoria Heard, one of the top liberos in school history, and managed to win all 16 district games.
Part of that development has been the internal leadership of the program, as teammates push each other to get better every summer. It’s something that Coach Jones appreciates, and it is how she likes her team to operate.
“It’s their program and it will always be about the players,” Jones said. “If the kids are pushing each other to get better, it’s a lot better than me trying to push them and coach them constantly. They’ve had some great influences over the years with some of our former players, who were great ancestors of the program and they pass along that leadership to the next generation. We’ve seen that this summer with some of our returning players.”
The three key returners for the Lady Mustangs include Favor Anyanwu, Kaelynn Sims and Scarlette Young. Anyanwu is one of the top players in the country, playing for the USA under-19 national team. She was second on the team with 410 kills and led the team defensively in the middle with 122 blocks. She’ll lead the team from the front her senior season, after committing to USC last year.
“She’s just a physically dominant player, one of the best we’ve ever had,” Jones said. “She’s big, quick on her feet and has great leaping ability, plus a terrific volleyball IQ. Put all of those qualities together and you have a fantastic player.”
Anyanwu has worked to add more to her game each season, with last season improving her serve. She was third on the team with 40 aces, and that versatility allows her to stay on the floor all game and be a six-rotation player.
“We want her to continue to work defensively and on ball control, that way we can take advantage of attacking from the back line,” Jones said. “She works hard to be great and makes the game look easy.”
Sims has been with the program since her freshman season, heading into her junior year as one of the most veteran players. She’s worked this summer to assume the leadership role left by some of the other players and embraces being a focal point for the team, however, she can affect a game.
“She’s a middle blocker on her club team, but for us, she moves outside and does a terrific job,” Jones said. “She works extremely hard and will do whatever it takes to be good and help the team win. That rubs off on her teammates.”
Young is the Lady Mustangs’ top setter heading into her senior season but is working to take on a bigger defensive responsibility this season. With her effort, Sachse should have a potent attack behind their big three.
“Scarlette works hard to deliver the best service and master her craft,” Jones said. “She’s a real team player, and has a thick skin on the court and when she’s coached. She’s been a dedicated player for us for a long time now.”
Sachse begins its season on Aug. 8 at home against Rockwall-Heath, with its first district game on the road at Wylie High School on Aug. 22.
For more sports, subscribe here.
For more sports pictures, see here.