‘Family’ Tradition

Trio of volleyballers sign to next level; Miller signs for golf



The Lady Dawg volleyball trio of Mikayla Blount, Destinee Branch and Lexi Perez are not related, but they may as well be. “Sitting before you with these three young women, there are so many awards, accolades and honors they received that I couldn’t remember it all,” said head volleyball coach Cari Lowery before she read a laundry list of accomplishments by the trio. “I had to make some notes.” The trio had been playing together since they were little so it was only fitting they would be together one last time. They started their careers together playing basketball together about a decade ago and they ended their high school careers together in a signing ceremony Wednesday at the high school. “It’s especially awesome because I grew up with Mikayla and Lexi both,” said Branch. “I played basketball with them, then we went from basketball to volleyball and now we all signed together on the same day. It’s pretty crazy that all three of us signed on the same day to all play volleyball.” For Blount, this process was especially tough. The three-sport phenom, who made her name for herself on the volleyball court, the basketball court and on the track, had a tough time deciding, not only where to go, but what to play. She eventually settled on Temple College and volleyball. “It was overwhelming,” said Blount. “I don’t know what I want to be or what I want to do. I didn’t even know what sport I wanted to do. I didn’t really know what school I was looking at. I was just going to tryouts to see how that was going. When I went to Temple and did their tryouts, I really liked the coach and she liked me so it worked out. I like the way coach English coaches and seeing the campus and the dorms, I was just excited after that.” Academics played a large role in which sport she chose. “I was leaning more towards volleyball so I could have a semester off where I can do my harder classes,” she said. “Basketball was both semesters so I couldn’t plan around that. That was one of the main things that made me lean towards volleyball.” Blount finished her career with an all-state nod in two different positions – a feat coach Lowery had never seen before. “In my career, by this point I’ve probably coached thousands of kids,” said Lowery. “I’ve never had a kid chosen to an All-State team in two different positions and Mikayla was.” Although Perez got a late start on the process, it was a much easier decision for her. One trip to Concordia University in Austin and she was sold. “I really liked it when I went up there,” she said. “There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the campus. It’s close to home. It’s in Austin and there’s so much to do in Austin. The campus is nice and I like the class sizes. I love the coach and I love all the players. It just felt like the right place for me to go.” Perez, the Copperas Cove record-holder for digs with 1,025, finished No. 4 in Texas and No. 9 in the nation in digs as a senior.  “It feels really good, she said. “It’s a big burden off my shoulders knowing where I’m going to go. I don’t have to stress about telling coaches to come watch me in club and have to decide. Now, I already know where I’m going to go.” Perez made a legacy for herself in Cove and hopes to continue that at next level. “They just got a new coach last year and so she’s just starting the program,” she said. “I want to help shape that program and make them be more known for volleyball than they already are.” For Branch, there was a higher calling. “I give the glory to God,” she said. “Dallas Christian is like a faith-filled family so I knew that’s where I needed to be.” Leadership is also a calling for Branch. “At first I thought it was kind of small, but then I saw it and it’s like a family and that’s why it’s small. The only thing they were missing was a leader and that was putting me off, but I was like, ‘I’m a leader’, I can’t second-guess it. They need leadership, so I’m so ready to be their leader – even as a freshman.” One of the moments that sticks out most to her is when she finally realized the leader she was after a speech by coach Lowery. “Coach Lowery talked
about a lot of us,” she said. “When she got to me, she really highlighted stuff that I didn’t notice that I really was about. Especially at our volleyball banquet this year when she said all that stuff about me being a leader - that’s when I was like, ‘I really am and people can see that,’ so I might as well show it off. I am a leader and I’m ready to take over the world.” It was all is special to Blount. “The whole team,” she said as she fought back tears. “Playing with the people I grew up with was probably the best thing about it.” For Perez, there were also many, but what she and her team accomplished on the court meant a lot. “Getting to the third round with everybody and being a First Team All-State,” she said, “I told coach Lowery before the season started that I was going to get First Team All-State, and then breaking the school record was pretty good.” Miller, who is ranked third in her class academically, was looking for someplace that would fuel her desire to learn as much as her desire to win on the golf course. That place was Southwestern University in Georgetown. “It’s a great school academically and I’m really passionate about academics as well,” she said. “It’s where I can do both academically and play golf. It’s also far enough away, but close enough to home to come back if I need to.” “She’s third in her class,” said head golf coach Ryan Youngblood. “That’s the biggest accomplishment to be able to play any sport – the connectivity. Our motto is, ‘low scores on the course, high scores in the classroom.’ I’m proud for her and look forward to great things.” The senior, who is midway through her final season as a member of the Lady Dawgs’ golf team, is relieved the recruitment process is over and she can concentrate on her senior season. “Signing early in our season takes the pressure a little off,” she said. “You’re playing for the team and you’re playing for yourself. You’re not necessarily playing to impress someone anymore. Your capabilities have been recognized, so you can go out there and just play and make sure you reach your full potential.” As for the golf program at Southwestern, she likes what she sees. “I’m really excited to join,” she said. “They’re going on with a great team and all the incoming freshmen are really going to boost that team. The program is really great, the coaches are awesome and I’m just really excited to become a part of their team.” Rick Kirkpatrick, CCISD deputy superintendent, summed up the day. “This is a great time for CCHS,” he said. “We had five guys sign this morning and we have four outstanding young ladies sitting here before you today. They are, not only leaders on the court and the golf course, they’re leaders in the high school as well. They are academically sound and they work hard. They set the example for everybody else to follow.”

Copperas Cove Leader Press

2210 U.S. 190
Copperas Cove, TX 76522
Phone:(254) 547-4207