Eleven years ago Tammy Clark was a new head volleyball coach with a struggling Granbury High program.
The once-proud program that had advanced to the playoffs numerous times had fallen on hard times. They hadn’t been to the postseason since 1996, and by 2003 – her first year – they were battling to win just six matches while losing 20.
But Clark was determined to make the program the best it had been. A winning season wouldn’t be good enough. She had her sights set on district championships – and more.
In the season just concluded, the Lady Pirates finished a best-ever 41-6 and advanced to the program’s first-ever regional final.
“Oh my gosh, 41 wins in one season, that’s incredible,” said Clark. “But the girls believed, the fans believed, and we got here.
“And we’re not finished.”
Indeed they most likely are not. The Lady Pirates graduate just two seniors from the team.
Granted, they are two very good seniors, with Sydney Carpenter being named District 7-4A Blocker of the Year and Hannah Hiler earning honorable mention accolades.
But a slew of other phenomenal talent returns, such as 7-4A Player of the Year Aubrey Ezell, a junior, and freshman Newcomer of the Year Amber Strange.
SLOWLY BUILDING A POWER
But the time was when the Lady Pirates were fortunate to land anyone on first team, much less garner superlative honors. But Clark steadily built her powerhouse.
Her second season they improved to 10-26, then 12-21, then the first winning season since 1996. The 2006 team finished 21-16, but was still just 5-9 in district.
Clark toughened up the predistrict schedule in an effort to further push a return to the playoffs. Seasons of 18-18 and 22-20 followed, but still the district records were 5-11 and 6-8, though the latter almost got them to the playoffs.
Then came the 2009 breakthrough season.
The Lady Pirates finished fourth in district and returned to the postseason for the first time in 13 years. Once there, they made up for lost time, advancing to the third round.
They would reach the third round each of the next three seasons. They won their first district championship since 1996 when the 2010 squad breezed through 7-4A with a 14-0 record on the way to what was then a school record 32-13 final mark.
The next year, 2011, featured a district co-championship with Burleson. Last season the Lady Pirates were second in 7-4A to state finalist Aledo.
AND NOW, BEST EVER
And this season they shared the 7-4A championship with the Ladycats.
The season included the best start in school history (17-0). They won a tournament in Hawaii , followed by capturing the title in their own tournament for the first time under Clark.
They climbed in the state rankings like never before, reaching No. 4 in Texas before the regional tournament.
Ezell set school records for aces in a career (261) and season (153), along with records for assists in a career (3,120) and season (1,438).
Junior Breanna Crain, a first-team all-district pick, made the record books for digs in a season (751) and is only four shy of breaking Sierra Smith’s career record of 1,375.
The Lady Pirates will also return second-team all-district picks Shelby Shade (junior), Karis Beasley (sophomore) and Taylor DeYoung (sophomore), along with honorable mention Erin Jones (sophomore). Also on the roster at the end of the season were juniors Madison Miller, Taelyn Beadle, Hannah West and Kennedy Shelstead.
And both the freshmen and junior varsity had sensational seasons, prompting Clark to say that while there aren’t a lot of varsity spots vacated, there will always be room for competition in two-a-days.
“There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then, but we will always have battles for those varsity spots,” said Clark.
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