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New era of Waxahachie volleyball begins with 5-set thriller and ‘growth mindset’

By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports

WAXAHACHIE — For the first time in over two decades, a new head volleyball coach led the Waxahachie Lady Indians to a victory Tuesday evening. 

First-year Waxahachie head coach Erika Weber credited the five-set victory against visiting Burleson Centennial to a newfound “growth mindset.” The Lady Indians won the first two sets and recovered in the fifth for the season-opening win at Mike Turner Gymnasium, 25-19, 25-20, 20-25, 16-25, 15-12.

Waxahachie did struggle at times in serve receive and general back row defense. It was fairly obvious for those watching that the occasional string of related momentum shifts was not due to a lack of talent. 

As Weber noted after the match, this is a Lady Indian team with several first-year varsity starters and members. 

“To be really honest, I saw a lot of nerves. We also saw a lot of inexperience, to be quite frank,” Weber admitted. “But that is what the preseason is all about — growth. We did see our serve receive finally improve during the fifth set, which is why we were able to run our offense better. Tonight definitely showed us that we have a lot of opportunity for improvement.”

According to Weber, the coaching staff has focused the first four full days of fall workouts on the timing between setters and swings by the ladies along the front row. She noted the opportunities tonight to swing were plentiful, which was a “big win” for the coaching staff.

“We actually just had a culture meeting [Monday] with the varsity,” said Weber, who often clapped and cheered on her hitters even after they sent one deep or into the net. “One of the biggest key points in that meeting was to ‘go for it’ and to celebrate our mistakes when we do.

“[…] Trying to help these ladies have that growth and positive mindset that even if it doesn’t go our way, we can still celebrate the mistake and continue to learn.” 

Migdalia Bernal led the Lady Indians with 13 kills (0.235 hitting percentage) and Allie Gilliland added 16 assists from the setter’s position. 

REPLACING THE LEGEND

Weber’s victory Tuesday marked the first time in 22 seasons that a head coach not-named Sandy Faussett-Stoops has recorded a win for the Lady Indian program. 

Faussett-Stoops amassed 923 career victories at Waxahachie, Greenville and Highland Park High Schools — which ranked third in active coaches at the time of her retirement and remains inside the top 10 all-time in Texas.

The surefire hall-of-fame head coach took the reins of the Waxahachie program in 2001 and ultimately led the Lady Indians to 710 wins to just 237 losses, 21 consecutive playoff appearances, 19 bi-district championships, 16 area championships, 12 regional quarterfinal appearances and one regional semifinal showing (2022). 

“She is a legend here,” said Weber of her mentor. “Her not being here, even just for tryouts…that was hard. I’ve called her a lot and we’ve texted a lot. We even texted this morning. She is definitely missed, even just the confidence that she exudes when she is around…That is something I hope to continue to do my best to continue with this program.” 

Weber is a 2006 graduate of Waxahachie High, where she starred at libero and helped lead the first Faussett-Stoops-coached team to the 4A postseason. She played collegiately at Southern Nazarene University, spent seasons as an assistant at Waxahachie (2010-17) and Cuero, and compiled a 79-47 overall record, 34-1 district mark and five 4A playoff wins over three seasons as the head volleyball coach at Midlothian Heritage (2019-2021). She returned to Waxahachie as the varsity assistant this past season and was officially named the head coach in December. 

There is very little doubt that Faussett-Stoops — who is enjoying extended family time in Michigan as the summer comes to a close — will soon attend a match or 12 in support of Weber and the Lady Indians. Even 900 miles away, Faussett-Stoops was still glued to her phone and scoring updates Tuesday evening.

“A win is a win,” exclaimed Faussett-Stoops via text. “[Erika’s] going to be amazing!”

FIRST WIN OF 2023

Burleson Centennial recorded the first point of the season inside the MKT on a block of a Migdaly Bernal back-row attack. Spoiler: She would eventually get her revenge — often. 

A Spartan service error was followed by an Averie Lujan (soph) ace to give Weber and the Lady Indians their first lead of the season. 

A few serves later, a big right-side swing by senior Trinidy Gaines put the Lady Indians in front 8-5. 

Centennial eventually retook the lead, 11-10, and won the race to 15. The Lady Indians rallied with stellar play in the back row to force a Centennial timeout with a 19-16 lead. 

A pair of kills by 6-foot-1 senior Tionna Owens put the Lady Indians up 22-18. Senior outside hitter Macy Murphee promptly slammed home another point from the outside for a 23-19 WHS advantage. 

A nice Lujan dig resulted in a point. The effort was followed by an unforced Centennial hitting error to give the Lady Indians the first-set win, 25-19. 

Waxahachie began the second set strong, running an 8-3 advantage. Unfortunately, the same out-of-synch play from the middle of the first set returned in the second, allowing Centennial to crawl back within one, 14-13.

The Lady Indians eventually used a back-row kill by junior Allie Gilliland, ace and kill by Bernal and a big-time Kennadi Haynes block to close the set on a 6-1 run and secure the second-set win, 25-20. 

Burleson Centennial won sets three and four, 20-25 and 16-25, respectively. The Spartans led by as many as 6 points in the third set. 

Lujan rocketed home an ace to put the Lady Indians ahead for the first time in the fifth set, 2-1.

A few serves later, Weber raced up the sideline toward the net after a failed Centennial block of Gaines, clapping and reminding the Lady Indians, “This is our game, our game!”

Bernal recorded a pair of aces and kills in the fifth-and-deciding set. Her second ace capped a 7-2 Waxahachie run to put the Lady Indians on top and with all of the momentum, 12-5.

“Watching Miggy is a lot of fun and she provides a lot of offense from the front and back rows,” Weber complimented. “She exudes leadership on the court and it’s obviously something her teammates can feel. She always seems to find a way to take a deep breath and not panic.”

Bernal’s confidence — combined with Ka’mari Pointer’s match-clinching kill — secured the season-opening and fifth-set victory, 15-12. 

“Most of these girls haven’t played together, so we still need to find that chemistry because I think everything else will fall into place,” Weber said. “They have really good relationships with each other and they are always positive. This is the first of three seasons and we’ll continue to stress that to the girls. Tonight was a good win.”

PHOTO GALLERY

All photos by Travis M. Smith/Ellis County Sports

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Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

tsmith@elliscosports.com

About Travis M. Smith

Travis M. Smith is the owner and content director of Ellis County Sports and has over a decade of award-winning sports coverage. He most recently served as the digital sports director for KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM. He is the former managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Midlothian Mirror and Glen Rose Reporter.

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