Volleyball Preview: Lady Lions return most of their top players

John Tyler volleyball coach Stephanie March-Smith instructs her team as Amecia Williams prepares to receive a serve during a volleyball practice on Tuesday at the Lions Den on the JTHS campus. (Staff)

The pieces are in place for John Tyler to possibly ace the district and bi-district rounds.

All that’s left is moving the key parts in the right direction, says JT head coach Stephanie March-Smith as the Lady Lions embark on the 2012 volleyball season.

All but two varsity team members played regularly last year on JT’s 27-win bi-district finalists.

“We have experience,” JT coach Stephanie March-Smith said. “Let’s see what we’re going to do with it.”

Erica Franklin (5-5 Sr., DS) and Quaneshia Johnson (5-5 Sr., Setter) highlight the group of returnees after both earned first-team all-district honors last year. Other key returnees include Breana Choice (5-10 Sr., OB) and Amecia Williams (5-6 Sr. OH), each of whom gained a spot on the all-district second team as juniors.

Four more players return for JT: Jocelynn Brown (5-3 Sr. DS), Jesslan Carroll (6-0 Sr., MB), Kashanti Flowers (5-10 Jr., MB) and Donishia Rouege (5-10 So., OH), the latter three whom joined the varsity as freshmen.

Newcomers include Dakia Allen (5-3 Sr., Setter) and Johnetta Preston (5-10 So., OB).

JT lost a pair of key performers and superlative winners in Jennifer McGowan (graduation) and Amanda Theaker (transferred to Florida).

Still, the current senior class knows winning well, with JT on a three-year playoff streak under March-Smith. Entering her seventh season coaching at JT, March-Smith owns a 136-85 overall record, hitting the 20-win plateau and reaching the playoffs all but one year on the job.

“We should be seasoned and should know one another well,” March-Smith said. “They’re capable of a lot of stuff.”

Two goals rank atop JT’s to-do list: finishing atop District 16-4A and getting a postseason victory. JT tied with Whitehouse for third in district last year behind Hallsville and Pine Tree before losing in the first round of the playoffs.

Realignment kept Hallsville and Pine Tree together in 14-4A, and paired JT in 16-4A with Whitehouse, Lindale, Corsicana, Jacksonville and Nacogdoches. The Lady Lions were picked to finish second behind Whitehouse in a recent 16-4A media poll. March-Smith says the capabilities are in place for first-place, if

“These kids should be able to win district,” March-Smith said. “It’s not that they don’t know what to do. It’s (going to come down to) hustle, being committed to giving 150 percent on the court and leaving everything out there. That’s what it’s going to be about.”

LIONS’ TALES: Senior Breana Choice is the younger sister of Derrick Choice, a former John Tyler and Stephen F. Austin standout now playing linebacker for the St. Louis Rams. …Former JT volleyball players still competing in the collegiate ranks are Chelsea Black (Dallas Baptist), Monecia Preston (Prairie View A&M), Shakendra Mumphrey (Trinity Valley) and GabriElla Wilson (Trinity Valley).

John Tyler 2012 Volleyball Schedule

DateOpponentTime

Aug. 14 Carthage 6 p.m.

Aug. 16-18 at Mansfield #TBD

Aug. 21 at Lufkin 7 p.m.

Aug. 23-25 Groesbeck #TBD

Aug. 28 at White Oak/Rusk  5 p.m.

Aug. 30-Sept. 2  Tyler Invitational TBD

Sept. 4 at REL/Quitman 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Marshall 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 11 at Pine Tree 7:00 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Van 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 Mabank 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 Jacksonville* 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 25 Corsicana* 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Nacogdoches* 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 Lindale* 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 Whitehouse* 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 9at Jacksonville*6:30 p.m.

Oct. 12at Corsicana*4:30 p.m.

Oct. 16 Nacogdoches* 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Lindale* 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 23 at Whitehouse* 6:30 p.m.

Head Coach: Stephanie March-Smith. Assistants: Lamessa Derrett, Angela Moon and Sh’Quinta Petty.

#—Tournament

*—District 16-4A matches

District 16-4A Volleyball Glance

WHITEHOUSE

Coach: Britney Nordin

2011 Record: 26-13 (area finalists)

Returning all-district performers: Fulani Petties, Sr., MB (Co-Blocker of the Year), Angela Knight, Sr., Setter (first team)

Returning statistical leaders: Fulani Petties (192 kills, 121 blocks), Angela Knight (150 kills, 178 digs, 525 assists), Torrie Maae (103 kills, 113 digs)

Predicted finish: First

JOHN TYLER

Coach: Stephanie March-Smith

2011 Record: 27-14 (bi-district finalists)

Returning all-district performers: Erica Franklin, Sr., Setter (first team), Quaneshia Johnson, Sr., Setter (first team), Amecia Williams, Sr., OH (second team), Breana Choice, Sr., MB (second team)

Returning statistical leaders: Quaneshia Johnson (820 assists, 119 digs, 33 kills), Erica Franklin (78 kills, 193 digs, 11 aces), Breana Choice (144 kills, 40 blocks), KaShanti Flowers (145 kills, 29 locks); Donishia Rouege (111 kills) and Amecia Williams (177 kills, 84 digs).

Predicted finish: Second

CORSICANA

Coach: Amber Feist

2011: 25-15

Returning all-district performers: Tamera White (Newcomer of the Year), Maddie Andrews (honorable mention) Kenzie Lee (honorable mention)

Predicted finish: Third

LINDALE

Coach: Meghan Koonce

2011: 3A (area finalists)

Returning all-district performers: Zhanelle Geathers, Jr., OH (Hitter of the Year), Savannah Cantrell, Sr. (first team), Sydney Tiiman, Jr. (second team), Hannah Brown, Sr. (honorable mention)

Predicted finish: Fourth

JACKSONVILLE

2011: 7-28

Returning all-district performers: Shelbi Laney, Sr., OH (second team)

Predicted finish: Fifth

NACOGDOCHES

2011: 17-21

Returning all-district performers: Charity Page, Sr., OH (first team), Taylor Layton, Jr. OH (second team)

Predicted finish: Sixth