Kilgore High School’s volleyball program has a banquet at the end of every season.
But it’s been a long time since they’d had one like this.
The Lady Bulldogs were honored at their annual banquet Sunday night, held at the First Presbyterian Church here on Kilgore Street, the fourth Kilgore team to make the University Interscholastic League’s Class 4A playoffs in the last five years.
But this team did much more than that.
The 2019 Lady Bulldogs, coached by Madeline Harris, were up and down throughout their non-district schedule, but then things began to heat up. A positive sign was a sweep of Pine Tree, who once ruled the day over not just Kilgore, but seemingly every program in East Texas, for many years.
District 16-4A play began for Kilgore with a loss at Henderson. And things began to change – drastically.
The Lady Bulldogs reeled off 10 straight wins, including a monstrous win on Oct. 4 against defending district champion Bullard, here at KHS in front of a packed house. Kilgore would lose the rematch, but sat atop the district standings for most of the district schedule, and wound up going to the playoffs in second place, their highest finish since the early 1990s.
Kilgore was matched up against North Lamar, which had been a nightmare for the Lady Bulldogs the last two times that occurred. But this time, Kilgore took it to North Lamar in the first-round pairing and won, the first playoff win for a Kilgore volleyball team since 1993.
The Lady Bulldogs lost their second-round matchup, taking 40-1 Farmersville to the limit in the process. Kilgore finished the season with a 22-15 record.
But the 2019 Lady ‘Dogs turned the tide and Harris – in her first year here as head coach – told the team, parents, family and friends at the banquet that this is a special team, one that laid the foundation, hopefully, for years to come.
Harris concluded the banquet with presentations to her varsity players: to Jada Abercrombie, overall most valuable player; to Dayton McElyea and to Lauren Couch, for academic achievement; to Couch, the Lady Bulldog award; to Skyler Day, the Fighting Heart award; and to Miah Thomas, the team captain award. Thomas is the only member of that group returning in 2020 – the others are seniors.
But more talent returns with Thomas, like Ashton Vallery, A’viana McIntyre, Skye Cotton, and Alexis T. “AT” Anderson.
Junior varsity and freshmen awards were presented, as well.
JV coach Trushundra McGill, also the girls head basketball coach at KHS, presented the overall MVP award to Isabell Witt; the defensive player of the year award to Mackenzie Cooper-Johnson; the Bulldog award to Ashtyn Lucas; and the most improved award to Kadi Limburg.
Freshmen coach Cheyenne Kirkpatrick, also the school’s head softball coach, presented the freshmen their awards: to Addi Wood for most improved; Kaitlyn Porter for Bulldog award; to Kilynn Higginbotham for defensive player of the year and to Kynlie Gillespie for overall MVP.