W.T. White Volleyball Team is on the Rise
Lakita Dockery remembers being in her teens walking the hallways of W.T. White as captain of the volleyball team. Fifteen years later, she’s now Coach Dockery and is in awe of how the school has evolved. The words “Longhorn Pride” are painted on several walls, reminding her of the immense honor it will be to lead the varsity volleyball team to victory at the state playoffs next month. This is the first time since 2007 that the program has made it to the playoffs for two consecutive years. Before last season, the Lady Longhorns had not made it to the playoffs in almost a decade.
“Last year, coming from a really bad season, we were just happy to be there,” Coach Dockery said. “This time, we feel like we belong. This year, we’re not just happy to be there, we want to compete. Now, we know what to do and we’re ready to take it as far as we can.”
Small but mighty
At the start of the season, the team didn’t yet know how to play together, so Coach Dockery took the girls on a trip to Tyler where they played volleyball for three days straight. “It was really hard on us [before that], because we lost a lot and couldn’t communicate. Going on that trip meant we had to rely on ourselves. I think it really honed them as a team to say, ‘We’re in this together.’ In that moment, everybody was relying on one another.”
A fairly small group compared to teams in other districts, the 11 girls that make up the varsity team are doing everything they can to make their hard work pay off. Maddie G., one of the team’s captains, says although they are fewer in number, they’re a strong team made up of close friends. “It’s a really solid team. We all want to win and we have a lot more talent than I think this program has seen in a while,” she said.
As freshmen, Maddie and her co-captain, Jully H., advanced from junior varsity to varsity. They use their experiences to shape the team’s culture and make new players feel welcome and motivated. “Every game day, we have a little pre-game meeting. We talk about our goals and how we’re going to implement them. We just talk to them as people and tell them to have fun,” Maddie said.
The strength of the team’s bond is also important off the court, which is why the captains hosted several pre-season get-togethers. The girls live relatively close to one another and some already knew each other. Many of them dressed for homecoming together and hung out afterward.
“They love each other. I can honestly say this group of girls are friends, and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful,” Coach Dockery says. They are friends first and always rooting for each other, instead of competing against each other.”
The coach has faith that her team is on track for success since this year they won’t be losing any players due to graduation and they’ve built a strong foundation for next season. She believes there is no “small person” and emphasizes that every player belongs on the team.
“One thing our girls have that other schools don’t is smarts. We know the game and how to work around our small group. We can’t help what God gave us, but we can play around it and run the game better,” Coach Dockery said. “At the end of the day, their success is my success. Our girls deserve great opportunities, and the best part about coming back as an alumna is getting to see my community and school pride come to fruition. It’s beautiful to see these kids find joy in something that you also found joy in.”
The 2023 UIL Texas Volleyball State playoffs begin at 6 p.m. on Oct. 30, and the Lady Longhorns will play the West Mesquite Wranglers at Conrad High School.