When I played, a lot of players didn’t start

Lufkin volleyball hosts Alumni game to start season

With the opening game of the 2019 season looming just days away, the Lufkin Lady Panthers used Saturday to take advantage of several years of experience.

The Lady Pack hosted its annual Alumni Game, with former players lining up across the net from the current varsity group. Those former Lady Panthers ranged from Class of ’05 to Class of ’18 and featured a collection of former all district players. They weren’t about to let the upstarts show them up. The Alumni took home bragging rights and the best of five match in three games, wining 25 17, 25 23 and 25 17 at Panther Gymnasium.

The day served a couple of purposes for Lufkin head coach Leah Flores. It was part of the “family” tradition she and her staff want to ensure lives on in the program, and it gave her youth laden current roster a peek at where the players are developmentally at this stage of the summer.

“When I took this job, I wanted to create a family atmosphere, not just for the fans but for all our players,” Flores said. “I wanted them to have something to come back to and feel proud to remain a part of this program. I want our current players to see it and think it’s cool that they can always come back on this Saturday and feel a part of the program for the rest of their lives.”

Tish Wilson, who graduated in 2005 and was a member of the volleyball program, said Saturday’s game showed how far Lufkin volleyball has come.

“It was great being out there, but it was really great seeing how many more opportunities the girls have in this sport now,” Wilson said. “They’re getting the chance to start volleyball at a much younger age through club ball and other options. I’m just excited to watch and support.”

Morgan Anderson, Class of 2014, is the new volleyball coach at Corrigan Camden. She said the new crop of Lufkin players’ overall development is exceptional.

## ## “I played today because I wanted to see just how far this program has come, and it’s phenomenal,” Anderson said. “I’m also seeing girls getting to play different positions. When I was here, you pretty much learned a single position and played it the whole time. These girls can play all the way around, and their skill level is impressive. They’re volleyball savvy already. When I played, a lot of players didn’t start volleyball until they got to high school. You can tell such a big difference with this program.”

Kennedy Shelton, Riley Latham and A’Neka McKind also played for the Alumni squad on Saturday. They were part of the 2018 team responsible for the most wins in program history.

Shelton, who will start her collegiate career at Calgary University this year, said she came back to support her sister Brodie (a sophomore) and to check on her former teammates as they embark on a new season and perhaps share a little hard earned advice.

“I wanted them to know obviously I’m not the fastest or the most athletic naturally, but I pushed myself and worked to get where I wanted to be,” Shelton said. “You have to give up afternoons and summers to get there, and you have to listen to your coaches.”

While some of the former players haven’t been away from the sport as long, others, like Wilson, were already dreading what they’d done to themselves on Saturday.

“I know I’m going to be sore and aching like crazy when I get out of bed tomorrow,” Wilson said.

“But it was worth it. I do it all for the love of this program and this sport.”

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