In previous years, the Texas Girls Coaches Association All-Star Volleyball Games provided seniors with one final opportunity to represent their respective schools on the court.
A change in rosters — players are now juniors — means East Texas standouts Miranda Mize of Beckville and Essence Allen of Tatum now have the opportunity to represent their schools and also hone their game against some of the best players in the state before beginning their final high school seasons.
Mize, who helped the Ladycats earn a Class 2A state championship in 2018, and Allen, who helped lead Tatum to a 31-6 record a year ago, will both suit up for the Red team in tonight’s Class 1A-4A TGCA All-Star Game at Arlington High School.
Things will tip off at 7:30 p.m., and the East Texas duo will be play against a Blue team coached by an East Texan. Beckville’s Cherry Downs will be an assistant for the Blue squad.
“I’m excited,” said Downs, who led Beckville to a 42-8 record last season. “It’s an honor to coach in the game. I told a lot of people that I don’t have any secret key to success. I just work hard, and I have kids that work hard for me. That’s what made it happen.”
Mize recorded 337 kills, 132 digs, 58 blocks and 67 aces in 2018, earning first team all-district and honorable mention all-state honors for the Ladycats. Beckville went undefeated in district play before knocking off Hawkins, Detroit and Gary to reach the regional tournament. After defeating Iola and Leon to earn a trip to Garland for the state tournament, the Ladycats defeated Amarillo Highland Park in the state semifinals and won the 2A title with a five-set victory over Lindsay.
“Miranda did a really good job for us last season,” Downs said. “This will be her third season on the varsity, an she’s progressed each year as a middle. She’s a go-getter. She excels at everything she does and is just one of those kids that if you ask her to do something, she’s going to do it 110 percent. She just wants to go up there (Arlington) and do her best and represent Beckville well. That’s her number one goal.”
Allen recorded 401 kills, 275 assists, 329 digs and 56 aces for Tatum last season. She was the All-East Texas Volleyball Newcomer of the Year in 2016, and earned All-ET Most Valuable Players in basketball last season.
“To me, she’s one of the best all-around athletes in East Texas. She can do it all,” Tatum head volleyball coach Leven Barker said of Allen. “On the volleyball court, she’s a leader. She had a good junior year, and anytime you get invited to play in an all-star game, which means you’re one of the top 24 players in the state, you have to be excited about that.”
Tatum reached the area playoffs a year ago, and Barker is hoping the experience of playing against the state’s top players this week will carry over to the 2019 season for Allen.
“You’re playing the best of the best, and it’s a chance to see where you stand as a player,” he said. “She’s already one of the hardest working kids in the program, but hopefully this will help her set even higher goals.”
■ NOTES: East Texas players suiting up for the Blue team tonight in the 1A-4A game are Chloe Cook of Central Heights and Kamryn Courtney of Timpson ... Downs is 243-44 in seven seasons at Beckville.