There were no long faces around
The Woodlands (Texas)
girls volleyball program in 2013. Not on the varsity team. Not on the junior varsity squad. Not on the freshmen team, either.
Not in September, October or November. Not on Friday the 13th or the first day of winter or the last day of fall break.
The program posted an astonishing 176 wins and no losses overall. On the varsity side, that included a sparkling 45-0 record and a 117-5 margin in games, plus a Texas 5A title and a No. 1 finish in the Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings
For all their perfection, the Highlanders are the 2013-14 Girls Team of the Year. For any sport. In the entire country.
The Woodlands coach Leslie Madison said her team of seven seniors and five juniors was just that — a team. From top to bottom. The Highlanders won the school's first volleyball state title and were the 18th undefeated Texas state champion since 1967.
"We had a good player in every position and each played unselfish volleyball," Madison told MaxPreps correspondent Tom Mauldin. "We were a complete team."
The team was led in hitting by 6-foot senior outside hitter and setter Madison McDaniel,
who had a team-high 462 kills. Courtney Quinn
, a 5-9 junior, was second with 422 kills, junior Rachel Reed
had 237 kills and senior Morgan Eason
Senior setter Courtney Eckenrode
was remarkable with 1,189 assists (9.8 per game). Kelly Quinn
led the squad with 674 digs, McDaniel had 446 and Courtney Quinn added 430.
Eckenrode was at her best in the state championship match, a 25-22, 26-24, 25-17 win over Churchill (San Antonio)
, with 46 assists and 11 digs. She was voted match MVP.
"In my eyes, everyone is MVP," Eckenrode told The Courier
after the match. "We play as a team, every single one of us contributes, and I think that's what makes us win."
But to win 45 straight? Against first-rate competition in Texas? Madison didn't see it.
"We knew we were talented, but never figured we wouldn't lose," she said. "Every time we play, the other team always brings their best game for us. But we knew it would be difficult for someone to beat us three times in a match."
In their final 19 matches, they swept 18 of them. These Highlanders were good. But No. 1 in the country? Madison was humbled.
"It's just amazing," she said. "We are very honored. It's well deserved. This group deserves all the accolades it receives. They worked very hard."
Among other finalists: Long Beach Poly (Calif.) track and field:
Under National Coach of the Year Don Norford
and National Girls Athlete of the Year Ariana Washington
, the Jackrabbits won their California state record 14th crown.
Manvel (Texas) basketball:
The Mavericks (38-2) stunned national No. 1 Duncanville 58-53 in the Texas 5A final and broke its 105-game win streak in the process. Notre Dame signee Brianna Turner
had 17 points and 17 rebounds to win game MVP. She also won MVP honors at the McDonald's All-American Game.
Granite Bay (Calif.) volleyball:
The Grizzlies went 45-0, finished third in the Xcellent 25 and won California's Division I title with a 25-22, 14-25, 25-19, 25-17 win over Los Alamitos. It was Granite Bay's first state crown. Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) basketball:
The Blaze went 34-1 and finished No. 1 in the Xcellent 25. They were led by sophomore Crystal Dangerfield
(14.5 points per game) and junior Alex Johnson
(12.2), so watch out next season.