pictured left to right: Mariah Shaw, Shay Mitchell, Madison Taylor, Alexis Nettles,
Ma Kayla Lenamon
WHARTON, TEXAS – The Wharton County Junior College Pioneers capped off a winning volleyball season by having five players make the Region XIV All-Conference teams.
Named to the All-Conference First Team were Madison Taylor, a middle blocker from Centerville; Mariah Shaw, a libero from Sugar Land; and Shay Mitchell, a right side hitter from Lumberton. Taylor and Shaw are both sophomores and played their last season for WCJC. Mitchell is only a freshman and will return for next year's team.
Making the All-Conference Second Team were Alexis Nettles, an outside hitter from Conroe; and MaKayla Lenamon, a setter from Lolita. Both are sophomores.
WCJC volleyball coach Brianna Florus was pleased that so many of her players made the All-Conference teams.
"Having three make the first team is really great for us," she said. "That's a pretty big accomplishment and the girls definitely deserve it."
Having so many All-Conference selections is especially impressive considering that WCJC plays in a very competitive region, one that includes nationally-ranked Blinn College – a school that the Pioneers tangled with twice this season.
"You have to excel and stand out in every area of the sport to receive the coaches' recognition of All-Conference," Florus said.
Taylor had a particularly outstanding season for the Pioneers as she led the region in blocking. Her competitive, never-say-die attitude made her a frequent play-maker. Shaw had a far different – though no less critical – role as libero, a position that doesn't usually attract a lot of glory due to the fact that the player stays away from the net.
"Mariah is one of only two liberos to make the first team," Florus said. "It's hard (to garner attention) because that position only plays the back row."
That Mitchell made the First Team is especially noteworthy due to the fact that she's only a freshman. Florus said such attention can be difficult later on, however, as the player becomes a "target" for opposing teams.
"Shay is a leader and will have to step up next year," Florus said.
Nettles and Lenamon, both sophomores, played consistently throughout the season, Florus noted. That was despite some ill-timed injuries.
"We endured quite a few injuries," Florus said. "But that didn't stop us. The girls performed like we wanted them to."
The Pioneers had a solid season, making it all the way to the Region XIV Tournament in Baytown earlier this month. Unfortunately, WCJC drew a first round match against No. 1 seeded Tyler Valley Community College and lost, 10-25, 9-25, 17-25. They then lost a hard-fought match to Trinity Valley Community College (28-30, 13-25, 25-23, 16-25) to end their season.
WCJC's overall record was 17-16.
Though the season could have turned out better, Florus said she was pleased overall with her team's effort.
"I'm proud of them for never quitting and for putting up a great fight all season long," she said.