Not too long ago the Cedar Hill High School volleyball program was having a couple seasons they’d just as soon forget.
Now, they are having an unforgettable season and making history.
They enter the playoffs with a 29-9 overall record and a 10-4 mark in District 11-6A. At press time their bidistrict foe had yet to be announced, along with the match’s time and place.
Among their highlights so far this season, the Lady Longhorns defeated Mansfield for the first time since 2015. They also won both matches against Waxahachie, 3-0 at home and 3-1 on the road, their first wins over the Lady Indians in more than 15 years.
They also swept Mansfield Lake Ridge (3-0 at home, 3-1 on road) for the first time ever.
It is the Lady Longhorns’ first playoff appearance since 2018, and now they are going for their first postseason win since 2012.
Also, Senior Jamia Johnson has verbally committed to play for the University of Denver next season.
It hasn’t been that long since the Lady Longhorns were circled on calendars as an almost certain victory. They had five wins combined in 2019 and 2020 before Amanda Blackney took over as head coach.
Blackney offers one word as the biggest reason for the turnaround – discipline.
“That’s really what it is. Talking about a team that’s been together for four years. The core is the same,” she said. “Bringing up their volleyball IQ significantly, and that’s a huge thing. Athleticism has always been there. It wasn’t utilized properly.
“They know the expectations. We come from behind to win sets. In my first year, if we got down, we’d end up losing the match.”
Still, they saw significant improvement in that first season, going 17-19. Last season they were 17-17 and narrowly missed the playoffs, finishing fifth in district.
Blackney’s squad is indeed senior-oriented. The roster includes eight of them, four-year players Jamia Johnson, Kameryn Johnson, Benite Anuman and Benedite Anuman, along with three-year players Kadence Busby, Kasey Watkins, Mariyah Johnson and Sawyer Arbuckle.
Blackney said she sees a similiarity between the Lady Longhorns and her previous team at Everman, which she also turned around from 12-25 to 25-12 in just one season.
“I always go back to discipline. I’m not easy to play for, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” she said. “The more disciplined we become, the less hands-on I am. They are more player-led.”
Whatever the reason, folks around school and in the community are loving it, Blackney said.
“I feel a lot more people are paying attention. Teachers who I haven’t talk to come up to me and say ‘good game.’ It gives our team more of an edge,” she said.
She’s also looking forward to what the postseason brings, one that is particularly special after getting close last season.
“We looked at other team’s to fulfill our destiny. This year, we took it into our own hands. We created our own destiny and made our own path to playoffs,” she said. “That is a huge accomplishment. It was earned outright. It wasn’t handed to us by default.
“Good feeling. Go in as a higher seed. Will be a good postseason run as long we handle our business.”
Blackney isn’t only thinking about the success of this season. With several underclassmen returning and a junior varsity that is third in district, there’s plenty of reason for optimism – especially if they listen to their coach.
“I think it will be good. I’ll do what I always do. Discipline and grind,” she said. “We’ll lose a lot of seniors, but we have a lot of good returners coming back.”