MURPHY, Texas — For more than 28 years, Sandy Faussett's name has become synonymous with winning in the state of Texas.
Her 700th win, claimed during Saturday's Lonestar Circle of Champions volleyball tournament at the Plano Sports Authority Sports Complex, however, is about more than wins, losses and title trophies.
It's about how her fundamental and straightforward style has historically helped make good teams — and players — great and created lasting legacies across University Interscholastic League (UIL) 3A, 4A and 5A levels.
"Sandy is one those coaches in the elite category," said Stephanie Poole, an assistant coach at Highland Park High School. "She's coached in several different places, but she's always proved one of her greatest abilities is taking over the reigns of a program and really making that program strong."
Poole has known Faussett for more than 20 years since she met Waxahachie's winningest volleyball coach as a sixth-grade student at Highland Park Middle School.
Though coaching intermittently at Bishop Lynch High School and in club volleyball leagues, Poole said she received her first real break in the high school coaching circuit under a familiar face — as an assistant volleyball coach at Waxahachie High School during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
"It's like I've been around or something," Faussett said with a smile as she wiped tears away from her eyes. "I've worked with a lot of good people and coached a lot of great kids. It's a great feeling. It's them who got me here, not the other way around. They've been wonderful teams and a great bunch of girls and I'm glad it was with them."
In classic Sandy Faussett-style, Waxahachie volleyball's leading lady smiled, chuckled and deflected her accomplishment to the players she coached, noting she wouldn't be anywhere if not for the luck of running into so many talented athletes.
Under Sandy Faussett, the 1996-98 Highland Park Lady Scots reached the playoffs three times in a row and finished third-or-better in the district standings. Poole said that was the first time a Highland Park team had done that in more than a decade.
"She started out at Greenville [High School] and did a lot for those athletes," Poole continued. "When she came to Highland Park — which is now known for being strong in almost every sport — volleyball wasn't really on the map. With Sandy, there's a side she brings out that has great respect for her and doing the right thing. You want to win for her and the team. She embraced me as a gym rat and made me better than I would have been without her. That's Sandy in a nutshell. She has the ability to bring out the best in her athletes, on the court and off of it.
"She's committed to not only creating a strong program through teaching the game of volleyball, but she taught us how important respect for the game and opponents we played was. Through her, Highland Park volleyball became the strong, competitive thing it is today."
Throughout the last 15 seasons, Waxahachie Independent School District and its Lady Indian volleyball teams have felt the impact of Faussett's steady, guiding hand, too.
Volleyball has been one of the most successful sports in Waxahachie since the turn of the century. In more than a decade of dominance under Faussett, the varsity Lady Indians have amassed eight regional quarterfinals, 11 area and 12 bi-district championships in their quest for state gold.
Lesli Priebe, the WHS girls head basketball coach for more than 20 years, knows what winning takes on the high school level — she is on pace to reach the 500-win mark during the next two or three seasons. She said Faussett's level of production, regardless of sport, is astounding and lends to her ability to guide her players less like a coach and more like a loving mentor.
"If you look past the winning, she's been a huge supporter of our program and vice versa. We have a great girls' athletic program and she's a big part of that," Priebe said. "[Winning 700 games] shows how great of a job she does coaching and getting the most out of her kids year-in-and-year-out. It's remarkable. I met her in 2001, and my first impression was being impressed. I was impressed with how knowledgeable she was about her sport."
Stick around long enough and a coach will develop quite the full coaching tree. Like others, Faussett's coaching tree has many, sturdy branches — like current assistant coach Erika Webber.
Webber, a three-year varsity starting libero and setter, helped a 2004 Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) No. 1 ranked 4A Lady Indian team reach the regional semifinals, only to narrowly lose to Hebron High School. Weber also captured the district Defensive Specialist of the Year the same season.
Weber, who was Erika Knowles when Faussett reached win No. 300 nearly 10 years ago, said the head coach hasn't changed much through their battles together in Lady Indian green and white.
"She's always had a passion for the game," Weber said. "She's my role model. It's my goal to become a head coach one day and if I can be half the coach she is, I'll be able to impact players on a level beyond volleyball. The winning is just icing on the cake. It's never been about her individually as a coach. If you talk to girls who have been through the program, you'll see the positive change she's made in their lives.
"For her, it's always been about the program. Girls grow up dreaming of being in the program. That speaks volumes about who she is and how important she is to Waxahachie volleyball. I truly believe that's why she is successful."
Faussett has also produced 11 players who have broken 14 different WHS volleyball records, including current single-season points and assists leader Kelsey Vitek, formerly Teal, and single-game and single-season blocks leader Maggie Glover, formerly Ross.
"Winning is her expectation, no matter who she plays," Vitek said. "It's not always because she has the best players, either. That's not the case. There were times there were teams that were technically better than us. They were taller, bigger and faster than us, but we still beat them. She has a heart for the game that's contagious and I've learned through experience the team that has more heart is usually the team that wins."
Vitek scored 353 points and set up 1,072 assists in 2004, while Glover stuffed 195 kill attempts in 2005. Those seasons helped cement collegiate roster spots for each, with Vitek attending Division II St. Edward's University in Austin and Glover choosing to don the blue and yellow of Southern Arkansas University.
Glover said the years she spent with Faussett didn't only help prepare her for athletics on the collegiate level; it created a love for the cerebral nature of competitive volleyball.
"If she told me to stand on the line and run today, I'd probably do it," said Glover, letting a laugh squeak out. "When you get to college, you realize very quickly you have to put in the work if you want to do the fun stuff. She prepared me so well for college. I didn't know it until I left. It was the first conditioning test of the season my freshman year of college when I realized it. The drills and hard practices were second-nature to me after being coached by Coach Faussett."
"She was tough, but she made you love the game. Every player wants to play for their team, but she made you want to play for her. There aren't a lot of coaches like that. It's rare. I was there when she won her 300th and 500 games, and she'll probably reach 1,000 before she's done. I'm just grateful to be a part of the legacy."
Throughout Faussett's tenure, WHS has reached the area round of the UIL 4A or 5A playoffs all but one year — her first — and have a 424-130 overall record. The team has lost only 61 of a possible 294 (20.7 percent) games in the last six years.
Though there is no timetable for when Faussett will hang up her clipboard or retire her well-documented sideline glares, one thing is sure — No. 700 is one of the highest win totals in any sport in WHS history.
The latest win also places Faussett No. 17 on the TGCA's all-time wins list, behind legendary coaches like Copperas Cove High School's Cari Lowery (701), Dumas High School's Jack Wilson (713) and LaGrange High School's Ann Rigden (725).
"It's not about me and it's never been," Faussett said. "It's about all the kids and coaches who have played and coached with me through the years. It always has been and it always will be. I'm fortunate I get a lot of recognition for a group effort and that I have been blessed with the people around me."
Marcus is the sports editor for both the Waxahachie Daily light and Midlothian Mirror. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI. Contact the sports desk at 469-517-1456 and on Twitter by using #WDLsports and #MirrorSportsNB in tweets!