GLEN ROSE — For Glen Rose volleyball coach Sandy Langford, the 2017 volleyball class will hold a special place in her heart because of its success and the quality of girls who make it up.
“All my girls are so special to me, but it is exciting that my first full group is the one that is leading our program, school and community to the state tournament,” she said.
Laiken McAnear, Emma Bozarth, Ally Andress, Annie Bryant and Sasha Payne are winding up their careers in Lady Tiger uniforms and will go down as the winningest volleyball class to date with a 155-24 overall record (.865) and a 45-4 district record (.918) with three district championships (two undefeated), four regional tournament appearances, three regional final appearances and one state tournament appearance.
McAnear, Bozarth and Andress have been on varsity since their sophomore years, while Bryant made varsity as a junior and Payne as a senior.
“They have just been silent leaders, and what I mean by silent is they just quietly work hard, are dependable, lead by example on and off the court, and have just always done everything I have asked them to do with a 100 percent work ethic,” Langford said. “These seniors are so different and have such different roles that I feel like they have been groomed to do well.”
And replacing them next year isn’t going to be an easy task.
“These girls and I are very close, and of course, there will be a huge void,” Langford said. “Our team this year is a family. All the years I have coached we have been fortunate to have close, drama-free team, but this year is different and had been since Aug. 1. They are so, so close.”
For three years, Bozarth has been a setter for the Lady Tigers. Last year, she was named the District 8-4A Setter of the Year.
“She is the most mature, level-headed and focused athlete I have had,” Langford said. “She is very smart in games and in practice and with the girls. She is the leader that keeps everyone in check and brings them back to reality when needed.”
Andress, the state high jump champion and a 2016 all-district first-team selection, has patrolled the middle for the Lady Tigers with her speed and athleticism.
“She leads by example and is very competitive,” Langford said. “She is a college athlete and has every characteristic to be a great one. She likes to win, be first and the best in everything so that pushes the others in practices and games. There isn’t a time when she steps on the court, in the weight room or on the track that she doesn’t strive to be better than the last time she was there.”
McAnear, who underwent knee surgery after being named honorable mention all-district last year, has returned stronger than the year before and her blocking and ability to put balls away has been a big asset on the right side.
“Coming from a double knee surgery, she is a fighter,” Langford said. “She has fought to be a key player and has really come through during the playoffs when we have needed her the most.”
Bryant, who is also a track star for the Lady Tigers besides being a defensive specialist on the volleyball team, is more than just a player, she is a quasi-coach.
“She loves to win and wants perfection doing it,” Langford said. “She keeps everyone in check and tells the girls what to do. She is constantly encouraging and uplifting the girls, and she’s not afraid to tell me or them what they need to hear but don’t want to hear.”
Not only is Payne a defensive specialist for Glen Rose, but she is a varsity cheerleader as well.
“She is always smiling and is in a good mood,” Langford said. “She works her hardest and is a great friend to everyone. She is so respectful and loves everyone. She is a great defensive player who will be missed dearly.”
This class potentially still has more history to write with one, and possibly, two games left in the season. A win over Argyle (26-18) Thursday night would propel the Lady Tigers into the state championship match against the winner of Needville and Liberty Hill.
Winning Glen Rose’s first team state championship in any sport would be a great final chapter for the Class of 2017.