BECKVILLE — The Beckville Ladycats volleyball team — the reigning 2A state champions — have experienced some change heading into the 2022 season:
A new coach, and some of the players have changed positions.
The thing that hasn’t changed is their desire to finally get the season underway and repeat as state champions.
“I’m ready for it to get here,” Beckville first-year Coach Andee Poteet said. “Monday is our very first game, and I’m really excited to see what these girls can put down. I’ve seen them in summer league and I’ve seen them in practice, but I’m ready to see what they bring to the floor.
“It’s going to be excellent what they can bring to the floor, I’m just ready to see it in person.”
Poteet takes over a program that Cherry Downs had led the previous 10 years. Downs guided the Ladycats to a record of 357-64, including two 2A state titles in the last four years, before resigning to take an administrative role at Baker-Koonce Intermediate School in Carthage.
Beckville is stacked as they return eight of their top nine players from a season ago.
Poteet says her staff and the team are meshing very well so far.
“We all work with each other,” Poteet said. “They bring us drills that we have never seen before, and we bring them drills that they have never seen before. It’s all about learning.”
Beckville returns seven seniors and is led by 2A state tournament Most Valuable Player Avery Morris, all-state setter Sophie Elliott, college prospect Amber Harris, Laney Jones, MJ Liles, Aubrey Klingler and Karissa McDowell.
The talent doesn’t stop with the magnificent seven, as junior Maddie McAfee will be another impact player, and you can expect fellow junior Lexi Barr, who got called up from the junior varsity team for Beckville’s playoff run a season ago, to make an impact.
“To say I’m at Beckville is a big accomplishment for me,” Poteet said. “Everybody knows Downs is a legend, and I kind of fan girl over here, she’s a great volleyball coach. To be able to come in and take her place is a big accomplishment for me.
“I’m excited but nervous at the same time — who wouldn’t be? I think we are going to go back to state and win. These girls deserve to have two rings on their fingers.”
Sophomore Karsyn Coleman made the varsity team and will provide some size and defense to a team chalk full of talented all-around players.
For all the Ladycats return, the one thing they don’t return from last year’s state championship team is their leader Kinsley Rivers, who was the 2A Player of the Year.
When asked who will lead this talented bunch this season, Poteet didn’t hesitate for a single second to answer.
“It’s MJ,” Poteet said. “She starts the practices, leads the stretches and is so encouraging to everybody. Not saying these other six seniors aren’t leaders, but she’s the one who has stepped up and is more of my vocal leader.”
Beckville is fine with Liles leading the way because it allows everyone else to be in the roles they are most comfortable.
Harris will be one of the players taking on a new role as she will move from a right outside hitter to the middle position.
“It’s a pretty big change because I’ll be at the net blocking the whole time,” Harris said. “Not coming off (the court) so I just need to be quick because middle sets are quick. I can play wherever they need me and I can do whatever for the team.”
The back line will consist of Jones at libero and McDowell at defensive specialist.
The Ladycats don’t just want to make it back to state; they fully plan on repeating as state champions.
Morris — who Poteet describes as playing on another level — wants to run it all back this season.
“My goal is to get back to where I was last year,” Morris said. “If we win state again, my goal is to win MVP again. That’s everyone’s dream and it’s crazy that I’ve already lived that dream.”
Beckville opens on the road at Sabine on Monday before hosting Central Heights — a team that took the Ladycats to five sets last season — before playing in the Tyler Tournament later that week.
The Ladycats will visit the likes of Hallsville, White Oak and Pleasant Grove in some of their newsworthy road opponents. Beckville will host Lufkin — a team that handed the Ladycats two of their three losses last season — on Sept. 13.
“The schedule the first half is pretty tough competition,” Poteet said. “We’re playing a lot of bigger schools and playing some 5A and 6A schools is only going to make us better for the regional tournament and the state tournament.”
As for district play, Beckville will compete in District 19 for the next two seasons. District play has been glorified scrimmages for the Ladycats over the last decade, as they have amassed 104 consecutive district matches dating back to 2012.
The Ladycats haven’t dropped a single district set in nearly three years, and that streak looks to continue for another season.
The rest of District 19 consists of Big Sandy, Union Grove, Hawkins, Overton and Carlisle.
“I think we are really good obviously,” Elliott said. “All seven of us seniors went to state and experienced state and all want to get back there and do it again.”
This year’s squad isn’t just content on going to state; it’s about winning it all.
With such an abundance of talent returning from a team that went 47-3 overall last year, just including dropping one set in their entire postseason run and not losing a single five set match, Beckville isn’t being cocky, they are simply being confident .
They can be because they have all the pieces to the puzzle to repeat as 2A state champions.
“I think it’s going to be a great season,” Harris said. “We’ve all been playing together since junior high. Seven seniors and we have two coming up from last year and I think overall we’ll be back to where we were — state champions.”