Volleyball Bees healthy, ready to fly as season opens

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Alee McClendon

The Stephenville High School Honeybees had their second-highest volleyball win total ever last season, and they’re ready to make that a trend.

The Bees swept through District 7-4A unbeaten (8-0), reached No. 15 in the Class 4A state rankings and finished with a 35-10 season record. They were eliminated from the playoffs just one victory short of reaching the regional tournament.

With nine returning lettermen in 2020, head coach Shay Douglas said that their goal is “to improve off last year because we have our core group back. We’re improving every day. Ultimately we have a goal to go as far as we can.”

After a scrimmage Friday, and another one today (Saturday) versus Krum, the Honeybees will begin their regular-season schedule at home on Tuesday, Aug. 11, in Gandy Gym against Bridgeport.

SHS is in District 6-4A now, but with a slightly different alignment — Lampasas, Gatesville, Glen Rose and Brownwood. The district opener will be Sept. 22, at Gatesville.

Douglas, starting her third year as the head coach of the Bees, was part of Stephenville’s best volleyball season ever, in 2003 as an all-state player under former head coach Fran Metzger. That team posted a 42-6 record in capturing the only state title in SHS volleyball history.

The graduation losses from 2019 included setter Karlee Easterling, who earned all-state recognition, and libero Gabie Lucero, who had been named all-state as a junior.

Among the key returnees are the district’s Most Valuable Player Landri Withers, a junior outside hitter, and Offensive Player of the Year, senior middle blocker and four-year starter Alie McClendon.

Withers was named second-team all-state by the Texas Sports Writers Association, and McClendon earned honorable mention.

Outside hitter and setter Jaylee Matthews, now a junior, was first-team all-district as a sophomore.

Also, junior setter Kennedy Coffee and junior outside hitter Emma Giddings, both second-team all-district performers last season, are back, along with three other returning letter-winners — senior libero Cali Carter, senior defensive specialist Macie Sheets and senior Emma Elliott. Carter and Sheets earned all-district honorable mention last season.

McClendon is ready to go after suffering a knee injury during the basketball season and having surgery in January.

Jaydi Griffin, who had made an impact as a sophomore but missed last season because of an injury, is also healthy again and gives the Bees another key offensive weapon.

“We’re better because we’re healthy,” Douglas said, adding that Withers, Giddings and Matthews are “looking really good offensively. The combination of having those two (McClendon and Griffin) I think can be pretty lethal.”

Douglas said that the Honeybees’ serve-receive skills are looking good, and that they should be “gritty” defensively, while the offense should be “super explosive,” and “will take care of itself.”

“The juniors have a year under their belts, and their confidence is greater,” the coach added, pointing out that they should gain from the experience they got last year.

McClendon led SHS in blocked shots last season, with 93. Withers led the 2019 Bees in kills, with 308, and was second in blocks, with 74.

In district play this year, Douglas expects Brownwood and Glen Rose should be the key foes the Bees will have to fend off in trying to win another district crown.

“If we stay healthy and play to our capability, we should win district,” Douglas said.

Landri Withers