It is no secret that Ellis County has quickly become a hub for some of the most talented volleyball teams and student-athletes in Texas.
If there were any doubt, the eight all-state representatives as selected by the Texas Girls Coaches Association from Waxahachie, Midlothian, Midlothian Heritage, Red Oak and Maypearl High Schools would certainly prove otherwise.
Maypearl head coach Jim Wood and 47 other head volleyball coaches comprised the TGCA all-state selection committee that selected players that were nominated by coaches in one of four positions: defensive specialist, outside hitter, middle blocker or setter. The TGCA guidelines also note the head varsity coach must be in good standing with the organization in order for any nominated player to receive consideration.
Audrey Nalls recorded a team-high 756 kills this season and has 2,044 kills, 927 digs, 139 aces and 392 total blocks in 443 sets played over her four-year high school career.
The Texas Christian University-signee lettered all four years while at Waxahachie and has a plethora of all-district, state and national awards. She also owns the Lady Indians single-season kills record (756), which she previously broke in 2016 with 683 kills. Her efforts this season led the Lady Indians to a program-best 44 wins to just five losses and highest-ever national ranking (9).
Molly Phillips, a senior at Mansfield High who signed with the University of Texas, was the lone other District 7-6A representative on the TGCA 6A all-state team.
Phillips edged Nalls in kills this season 768 to 756 to lead 7-6A. The two were nearly 300 kills clear of the third most effective attacker, Madison Williams of Mansfield Lake Ridge (463 kills).
Nalls did, however, average more kills per set (6.4) than Phillips (5.6) and took nearly 200 fewer swings — 1,676 attempts to Phillips' 1,867.
Samantha Rodgers is a senior outside who ended her career at Midlothian High as the District 14-5A Hitt of the Year and TGCA 5A all-state placement.
Rodgers, who officially inked her National Letter of Intent with Sam Houston State University in November, compiled team-highs in kills (527), hitting percentage (.316) and aces (48). She also added 84 total blocks (54 solos) and 434 digs in 118 sets.
Rodgers helped the Lady Panthers and first-year head coach Shain Sackett to a 27-13 record and second-place district finish.
Hailey Hunt, a junior outside hitter from Red Oak, was also named to the 5A all-state team. She was recently announced as the District 14-5A MVP, as selected by district coaches.
The junior is verbally committed to Stephen F. Austin University. She accounted for a team-high 492 kills, 4.0 kills per set and a .272-hitting percentage in 124 sets played. She also finished second on the team with 426 digs and 39 aces and added 72 blocks.
Hunt's efforts led a young Lady Hawks squad to a 30-17 record, second consecutive district championship and second consecutive regional tournament appearance.
Rodgers and Hunt also both finished one and two, respectively, atop the District 14-5A kills list.
Senior libero Katie Chambers and junior outside hitters Kelsey Carpenter and Hanna Larson all received TGCA 4A all-state recognition after taking Midlothian Heritage on a historic run to the 4A state semifinals.
Heritage finished the season 34-15 overall and claimed the first-ever district championship, regional championship and state tournament appearance in just the program's fourth year.
Chambers excelled in her role as the Jaguars libero with 863 serves received to just 31 errors and a team-high 577 digs (4.3 digs per set) en route to her selection as the District 17-4A Defensive Specialist of the Year.
Chambers also recorded a team-high 48 aces, 238 service points and converted on 95.1 percent of her serves. She ends her varsity career at Midlothian Heritage with the career digs record (2,195)
Carpenter was a double-double machine this season — and a triple-double threat each time she stepped onto the court. She led the Jaguars with 472 kills and 3.5 kills per set, while also recording 43 aces with a 90.2-serve percentage, 55 total blocks, 209 digs and 587 assists.
Carpenter was also recently named the District 17-4A MVP after she broke the single-season program record with 472 kills, besting the previous record of 356.
Larson is currently tied with Karena Tipton for the career program record in blocks (268). She also broke her own 2017 record in single-season blocks (124) with 144 this season and finished second on the team with 394 kills (2.9 kills per set). Her .457-hitting percentage was the highest mark recorded by any Jaguar with 10-or-more attempts.
District coaches selected Larson as the District 17-6A co-Hitter of the year, sharing the recognition with Alvarado senior Malanie Potter.
Madison Ball and Steelie Ledbetter, both seniors, represented the Maypearl Lady Panthers on the TGCA 3A all-state team.
The two helped the Lady Panthers to a 25-8 record and regional tournament appearance this season.
Ball led the Lady Panthers with 471 kills and a .330-hitting percentage this season. She also recorded 46 aces, 63 total blocks, 539 digs, and converted on a team-high 98.4 percent of her service attempts (382).
Ledbetter notched a team-high 679 digs in 128 sets (5.3 digs per set) and added 51 aces.
Ball was selected as the District 17-3A MVP, while Ledbetter received District 17-3A co-Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
There were no Ellis County representatives on the 1A or 2A all-state teams.