|Five seniors lead Lady Panthers into volleyball playoffs|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Nov. 2, 2005 - BIRTHRIGHT - North Hopkins volleyball coach Danna Lewis said one of the unique things about the five senior Lady Panthers on her team is they make her laugh.
The girls want their coach to laugh all the way to state, but getting to Austin is a tough road coming out of Region III in Class A.
The Lady Panthers, ranked No. 7 in the state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association, will take on No. 11 Leverett's Chapel in bi-district at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mineola High School.
Whoever wins will likely play No. 4 Collinsville in the area round. Also in the region are No. 9 Thrall and state-ranked teams in Iola, Colmesneil and Anderson Shiro.
Lewis and the Lady Panthers have several things on their side. First is a record of 31-4, which is the most wins in NHHS annals, and the other is experience. Three of the seniors are four-year lettermen and part of a group that has compiled a district mark of 39-1 over their high school careers.
The Lady Panthers have also faced Leverett's Chapel each of the last three years in bi-district and have won each time, including an amazing comeback from down 5-12 in last year's fifth game to an 18-16 victory.
"It'll be a tough one because it's the fourth time we'll have seen them in bi-district, so they're going to be looking for a win. That's what so scary about them," said Lewis. "On the other hand, we're looking for a win, too.
"They have a couple of girls who can hit the ball, but we do, too."
Two of the main hitters are seniors Katy Williams and Tashona Berry, who along with libero Ashley Wilson have played four years on varsity. Setter Maegan Baxter and Ashly Hooten joined the squad last year.
"I think we're playing a different level. I think we're really stepping up and playing at a higher level than what we thought," said Wilson. "I think we can make it to state as long as we keep everything going. This is the best team we've had in a long time."
Coach Lewis didn't want to compare this team to others, but said she has depended on this senior class "a long time."
"This is a team that works together well. They always work well together and put aside everything else to make something happen on the floor. I think that's one of their unique abilities," Coach Lewis said.
"One of the other things they do is make me laugh. They're always up to something. You need that every once in a while - it's important."
The girls also make each other laugh.
"Everybody gets along, and there aren't any conflicts on the team," Baxter said.
But, their camaraderie goes deeper than that.
"I think our best quality," Williams said, "is that we trust each other."