HORN VOLLEYBALL JADA SHEPHERD

Jada Shepherd and Horn are looking to return to the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.

After a busy month of tournaments and other matches, the real season gets started for Mesquite ISD teams on Friday with the start of the 10-6A and 13-5A seasons.

The five squads have experienced mixed results thus far, but the non-district slate is more about gaining experience and forging team chemistry than wins and losses.

Last season was a tough one for Mesquite ISD as a whole, with only Horn able to crack the playoff field.

The 10-6A landscape will once again be a tough one to navigate with Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath continuing to be the teams to beat.

Making the playoffs has become commonplace for the Jaguars, who have made eight straight appearances and have been in the field in 13 of the last 14 years.

Horn would appear poised to not just continue that run of success, but perhaps take the next step with a talented nucleus.

Sophomore Madison Mosley, last year’s newcomer of the year, has picked up where she left off, tallying a team-high 2.5 kills per game to go along with 1.9 digs per set.

Sophomore Jada Shepherd was a second-team all-district pick a year ago, and has done a little of everything. She is averaging 2.2 kills per game, has served a team-best 23 aces, has 12 blocks at the net to go along with 2.8 digs per set and also contributes as a setter at times.

Ryan Henderson, another first-team all-district selection, has been the leader in the back with a team-high 5.9 digs per game and recently recorded her 1000th kill as a member of the Jaguars, while Arianna Tubbs has been the primary setter with 6.2 assists per set.

Juliet Esomchukwu is tallying 1.1 kills per game and has 20 blocks, Bryanna Stanford has a team-high 23 blocks and freshman Keelea Alexander has made an immediate impact on defense with 1.6 digs per set.

Mesquite and North Mesquite have fallen on some hard times in recent years. The Skeeters have not made the playoffs since 2012 and it has been a decade since the Stallions have seen the postseason.

Mesquite return an all-district performer in senior Anna Wilson, but if they are going to make a push, they will need newcomers to make an impact.

North Mesquite had some returning talent to build around with the likes of, junior outside hitter Tanaiya Antwine and junior defensive specialist Michelle Lopez.

Rockwall enters the 10-6A season looking to defend its district championship from a year ago.

Junior Becca Kelley is off to a hot start to the season, averaging 3.9 kills and 2.5 digs per game to go along with 30 blocks.

Madison Goellner, last year’s outstanding attacker, is tallying 3.0 kills per game with 27 blocks and Kylie Nott and Feyi Ogunlari also rank among the team leaders in kills and blocks.

The Yellowjackets have a pair of reliable setters in Gabi Ashcraft, who is averaging 5.9 assists per game, and Anna Villarreal, who is recording 5.6 assists per set.

Addison Goss leads the defense with 3.7 digs per game, while Harley Krouse, Ashcraft and Villarreal have been other key defensive contributors.

Rockwall-Heath will be in the hunt again, as well.

Reagan Rucker leads the team with 2.4 kills per game,Grace Horvath is recording 2.0 kills per set.

Blair Adams, a second-team all-district selection, leads the defense with 4.9 digs per game and the Hawks also have a pair of capable players to run in the offense in 10-6A outstanding setter Danyelle Prado, who is tallying 4.4 assists per game, and Kenley Koetter, who is averaging 4.1 assists per set.

Also back in the fold for Rockwall-Heath are all-district performers in Lilly Homeyer and Caroline Thomas.

Tyler Legacy is actually off to the best start record-wise, but most of their matches have been played in East Texas.

The Raiders returned 10-6A outstanding defender Anna Gates, as well as second-team senior setter Catherine Wise.

13-5A

Poteet found itself in an unusual position when it missed the playoffs a year ago.

Since starting the program in 1990, the Pirates had qualified for the playoffs in 25 out of 30 years, including the last two, but they slipped to a 4-10 mark in district last season.

The road back to the playoffs does not appear to be any easier with a talented field that includes Highland Park, the No. 1 team in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 5A state poll, as well as four other teams that have winning records during the non-district slate.

Last season, Highland Park won the district title in undefeated fashion, followed by Greenville, North Forney and Forney.

Those top three teams all advanced to the regional quarterfinal round, where North Forney made it to the regional semifinals courtesy of a five-set win over Greenville.

Poteet does have a couple of nice pieces to build around in senior outside hitter Aniyah Harrington and senior setter Margeaux Shields.

West Mesquite did not win a district match last season and if they were able to make a push at the playoffs, it would be a historical run.

In nearly 40 years of competing, the Wranglers have only two playoff appearances and the last one of those came back in 1993.

The Scots returned a talented group that includes the reigning 13-5A most valuable player in junior Sydney Breon, as well as outstanding hitter Emily Hellmuth and all-district selections in outside hitter Presley Wright and defensive specialist Bela Alomar.

Greenville was the district runner-up last season and is off to another good start.

The Lions feature a trio of strong hitters with Brooke Hutchings, who is averaging 3.6 kills per game, Jenna Wade (2.3 kpg) and Allie Johnson (2.0 kpg).

Wade has also been a defensive force at the net with 50 blocks, they have three players tallying at least 3.3 digs per set in Sydney Walker, Hutchings and Laney Himes and Walker also runs the offense with 7.5 assists per game.

North Forney finished third in district and had a number of returning honorees, including newcomer of the year Camryn Bertoglio, a sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist, who averaged 1.4 kills and 1.3 digs per set, first-team senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Davalynn Brooks who recorded a team-high 3.5 kills per set to go along with 2.7 digs per game, senior libero Karsyn Hunter, who had 6.1 digs per game, senior middle hitter Arianna Escuerdo and senior setter Arissa Givens.

Forney, the fourth-place team from a year ago, is off to a great start with a 18-9 record and so is Royse City, who missed the postseason last year but is 17-9 through the first month.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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