McKINNEY — Thursday, May 25, was a grand evening for Melissa High School athletics. With over 500 in attendance in the Sheraton McKinney Hotel's Throckmorton ballroom, athletes, coaches and staff were honored for their achievements at the school's annual Sports Banquet. The event was hosted by the Melissa Booster Clubs, Inc.
After dinner was served to the 52 packed tables, each varsity sports team was individually called to the stage with their coaches for award presentations. Head coaches spoke of the past season's accomplishments, highlighted individual achievements, touted their seniors and announced team awards. Speakers also offered thanks to administrators, staff and family members for their support.
Below are some highlights from each team's time in the spotlight.
Led by first-year Lady Cards head coach Frank DePaolo, Melissa placed in second in District 11-4A with a 27-13 overall record and advanced to Regional quarterfinals. Team members earned two district superlative awards after the season — Susan Blake, Offensive MVP, and Amanda Kocsis, Libero MVP — and two members earned First-Team All-District picks — Brittany Melcher and Alli Boedeker.
“More importantly,” DePaolo said, “every single player and manager made the Academic All-District team.”
Earning this year's “3-D” volleyball awards — for desire, determination and dedication — were seniors Henley Walker and Karen Whitson. The team's Offensive MVP, with 470 kills, was sophomore Susan Blake. Blake was also the district's Offensive Player of the Year. Defensive MVP honors went to two girls, right-side hitter Boedeker and middle blocker Gill Gray. Boedeker was second on team in blocks, with 88 digs, 39 aces and 232 kills. Gray led team with 66 blocks and had 208 kills.
Senior libero Kocsis was named team MVP. DePaolo noted he'd brought in a new type of defense and the adjustment was tough at times.
“It didn't take long for me to realize that if we were going to be our best, it wasn't her that needed to change — it was me,” he said. “When I finally wised up, this young lady really started to shine. … No one did more for her teammates when they needed it.”
Kocsis led the team with 535 digs and posted 30 service aces and 793 service receptions in less than four years.
Head coach and boys athletic director Seth Stinton thanked all Melissa coaches for “being passionate about your sports and for being passionate about the success of our student athletes.” He added, “Our Booster Club is the best one in the great state of Texas.” Stinton credited football captains Gunnar Murphy, Tate Whittington, Alphonso Viramontes, Carlos Mendez and Joe Ragon for bringing this team together to forge a turnaround 8-4 season.
Junior linebacker Payton Wallace was named Defensive MVP. He led the team in tackles, fumble recoveries and was a First-team All-District pick. The team's Offensive MVP was junior quarterback Whittington, who threw for more than 1,800 yard last year, with 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for 500 yards with four TDs.
“This young man is more than just stats,” Stinton said. “This young man's character and integrity surpass any stat that you can imagine. He is the ultimate teammate and the leader of our team.”
Murphy was named the team's overall MVP.
“He's one of the hardest-working and most determined kids,” Stinton said of the senior. “His competitiveness is something that each kid in our program should strive to emulate.”
Murphy, a two-way player, was in on 96 tackles at linebacker and tallied five sacks with four fumble recoveries. As a tight end on offense, he had 39 catches for 637 yards and nine touchdowns. He was the district's Utility MVP.
Stinton also presented an award to student-athlete trainer Kandra Valazquez
Head coach Heather Lane and the Lady Cards were 10-0 district champions and also bi-district champs last season.
“Every single player on our team earned an award,” Lane said. “Highlights this year were Krista Butterfield's Texas Girls Coaches Association Academic All-State selection and Taylor Thomas's Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All-Region Team selection. … All 10 of our players contributed big-time in some form or fashion.”
Co-Defensive MVP awards went to junior Taylor Carney and senior Lauren Brown. Carney led the team in blocked shots and was second in steals and rebounds. Brown was Melissa's third-leading rebounder and was often called on to defend taller opponents.
Named Co-Offensive MVPs were junior Natalie Conlin and sophomore Sally Clemmons. Conlin ranked second in assists for the Lady Cards, led the team in both offensive and defensive rebounds and was the team's third-leading scorer. Clemmons was second in total points and third in points per game.
Co-MVP awards went junior Taylor Thomas and senior Krista Butterfield for a second straight year. Butterfield has been the district's Defensive MVP those two years as well. Thomas missed the first 13 games last season with a broken hand but still had a team-high 67 steals. She also shot 38 percent from 3-point range and led Melissa with 11.3 points per game.
Butterfield was unable to attend but enjoyed this portion of the evening via Facetime.
First-year Melissa head coach Eric Benton led the Cards to a second-place finish in District 11-4A, followed by a heart-breaking, triple-overtime playoff loss to Ferris.
“I'm very proud of the success we had,” Benton said.
The Cards' Offensive Player of Year honors went to sophomore Junior Castleberry, who averaged 10.4 points per game and led the team with 66 3-pointers. Castleberry was also a First-Team All-District selection. Junior Cole McCraw, the team's leading rebounder, was named Defensive Player of the Year.
“This young man was probably our most physical, toughest player,” Benton said.
Sophomore Matt Holloway was named team MVP. The team's leading scorer and best free-throw shooter, Holloway erupted for 25 second-half points in a double-overtime win over Aubrey.
“Three years in a row these girls have been successful,” Melissa head coach Manuel Avila, District 5-4A's Coach of the Year, said. “Three-straight years in a row they've had 20-plus wins — and they were district champs for the third-straight time, with a third-straight trip to the regional tournament.”
He added that this group of seniors — Amanda Kocsis, Josie Monk, Abby Minchey and Katie Brown — leave with 70 wins and have never lost a district game. Kocsis, he pointed out, collected a school-record 100 goals in her career, with over 40 assists.
The team earned numerous district accolades and numerous All-State mentions for this year's performance: Kendall Bates, District MVP; Kocsis, Offensive Player of the Year, Reagan Eichel, Defensive Player of the Year, and Brittany Morgan, Goalkeeper of the Year. Bates was also a Second-Team All-State pick.
Avila, this night, named junior Gillian Stopinski the team's Offensive MVP. Defensive MVP honors went to junior Sarah Weideman and Bates was tabbed team MVP.
“Sometimes we didn't win the games we wanted to win,” Cards head coach Kelley Pitzer said, “but they definitely had heart and they definitely tried very hard. All of these boys worked diligently to make the team better throughout the season.”
Pitzer highlighted, first and foremost, senior midfielder August Greer, who will be Melissa's Valedictorian for 2017. The team's Offensive Player of Year award went to senior Jose Malvica, who played only one-third of the season due to injury but still scored 13 goals and earned a First-Team All-District pick. Junior Erasmo Paulin, District 5-4A's Defensive MVP, was named the Cards' Defensive Player of the Year. Junior Josh Love, the district's three-time Goalkeeper of the Year was tabbed Melissa's MVP for 2017.
Girls track and field
This group of Lady Cards were Area champions and placed third in the regional meet. They were also the runner-up in District 11-4A.
“These young ladies up here tonight are successful,” head coach Theodore Mackey III said. “There's not one girl up here that did not PR (personal-record) or set a record — that did not do something this year to show a sign of improvement.”
Mackey designated five awards. Top Field event honors went to senior Gill Gray, who owns the school record for triple-jump and was an Area champion in the event. The Top Endurance pick was senior Maddie Kane, a state-qualifier in the 300-meter hurdles. Senior Karrington Lewis, who set school records in the 100 and 200 meters, and was a state-qualifier, was named Top Sprinter. Top Distance-Runner recognition was earned by talented freshman Alison Kocsis.
The MVP, to no one's surprise, went to state shot-put champion Priscilla Adejokun, who holds school records in both the shot and discus.
“She's a phenomenal young lady,” Mackey said of the senior. “She has a pure heart — always seeking the best for others, never whimpering in the face of setbacks.”
Boys track and field
The Cardinals were also Area champs and placed third at the regional meet. But this group, led by head coach Travis Roberson, had four members that went on to place fifth at the state meet in Austin — the highest Melissa boys finish ever. The Cards' state point total was also a school record — for boys or girls. Senior distance-runner Elijah Mackey earned two silver medals in Austin and Gunnar Murphy grabbed one in the shot put. Cole McCraw claimed state bronze in the high jump and freshman Ja'Bray Young competed in both the 100 and 200 meters. Roberson called Young “the fastest kid I've ever coached in my life.”
Team MVPs went to Mackey and Murphy. Roberson said Murphy's school-record shot-put mark of 59 feet 3 inches “may stand for the history of Melissa High School.” He added, “These guys are some of the most competitive kids I've ever coached. Both will be missed greatly.”
“We will reload again next year with younger talent … and I firmly believe we'll be better than we were this year,” Roberson said.
Head coach Eric Rodgers and the Lady Cardinals won 23 games in 2017, the most in school history, and advanced to the playoffs for a third-straight season. The team appeared in the Top 15 in two state-wide 4A along the way and not only beat Princeton for the first-time ever, but swept both games with the Panthers. In the bi-district playoff round, the Lady Cards fell to No. 3-ranked Crandall.
“I am so proud of the way those girls fought,” Rodgers said. “It looked like grown women that we were playing. … With five outs to go we were up, 3-2, with a chance to win. Going into the seventh inning we were tied with them, but things just didn't go our way.”
Rodgers named sophomore Audrey Solomon the team's Offensive MVP. Solomon finished with 11 home runs, 46 RBIs and a .450 batting average. Co-Defensive MVPs were sophomore catcher Kylie Brakebill, who posted a .991 fielding percentage, and senior first baseman Becca Pittman, who finished at .950.
The team MVP award went to sophomore pitcher Alexis Pevehouse, the district's Offensive MVP, who posted 19 wins and 200 strikeouts for the season, both school records. And as the team's lead-off hitter, she collected 52 hits and finished with a batting average north of .500.
“Obviously, these numbers are awesome,” Rodgers said. “We couldn't have done it without her, but the way she celebrated her teammates' successes on the field, just showed us she was a true teammate.”
These Cards were 9-1 district champions in 2017 and also advanced to the Area round of the playoffs. Assistant coach Kyle Dezern made the award presentations as head coach Jason Russell was at home with his wife and newborn baby. Russell and his staff, by the way, were named District 11-4A's Staff of Year.
“We lost the first district game,” recalled Dezern, “but we rattled off nine in a row to win the district championship. We lost a three-game series in the second round to Decatur, who is actually still playing right now in the Regional finals.”
Defensive MVP honors went to junior pitcher Andrew Cole, who finished 10-3 on the year with a spotless 5-0 district mark. Cole was also the district's Pitcher of the Year. Junior Adam Davis was named Offensive MVP, in part, for his district-leading 30-RBI season. He was also the district's Newcomer of Year. The team MVP award went to Tate Whittington, who led the team in home runs, on-base percentage and batting average.
Other awardees this night, and their head coaches, included:
Girls Tennis / Head coach: Cambria Dotson
MVP — Madison McCombs
Boys Tennis / Head coach: Eric Benton
MVPs — Brandon Shipes, John Lewis, Jake Fowler and Justin Mercer
Golf / Head coach: Chris Tyner
Boys Most Improved Player — Matthew Brown
Boys MVP — Nathan Foster
Girls Most Improved Player — Kaimberlyn Watts
Girls MVP — Leah Tyner
Girls Wrestling / Head coach: Rick Gagarin
Wrestler of the Year — Makayla Watson
Boys Wrestling / Head coach: Rhett Box
Wrestler of the Year — Tanner Sandoval
Powerlifting / Coaches: Jacob Alford, Josh Gilbert
Boys MVP — Ja'Bray Young.
Girls MVP - Priscilla Adejokun
Girls Cross Country / Head coach: Clay McCarter
Most Valuable Runner: Alison Kocsis
Boys Cross Country / Head coach: Kelley Pitzer
Most Valuable Runner — Elijah Mackey
Cheerleading / Coach: Michelle Cruce-Malone
Leadership Award — Kennedy Hart
Cheerleading Award — Kalee Brewer