by Moses Leos III
Excellence. From the field to the soccer pitch to the hardwood, excellence was the theme for Rebel Athletics in 2012-2013.
The stellar play of many teams culminated in one team reaching heights never before seen by a Hays High team.
Beyond that one team, athletic success at Hays continues to burn bright.
1. Lady Rebel softball wins State
The number one moment should come as no surprise.On June 1, the Lady Rebels made history, becoming the first athletic team in Hays CISD to claim a State Championship.
Under the guidance of head coach Aaron Fuller, the Lady Rebels ran through their district schedule in 27-4A, compiling a 12-2 mark to claim the first District Championship for the program in nearly a decade.
Aiding the Lady Rebel effort was a group brimming with experience. Seniors Brayden Pinckard, Hannah Ramsey, Clarissa Gonzalez and Gabi Albarez provided a strong presence at the plate, with each batter hitting no less than .300 on the year.
In the circle, ace pitcher Sarah Leal provided a strong backbone for the Lady Rebel defense, with a consistently low earned run average and a penchant for working out of jams.
With all of the elements in place, the Lady Rebels made their run through the post-season, dispatching San Antonio Jefferson in the Bi-District round, then sweeping Cedar Park in the Area round. Hays then defeated local favorite Dripping Springs in the Regional Quarterfinal, before travelling to Floresville to play Corpus Christi Moody in the Regional Semifinals.
Hays and Moody faced off in a three game battle royale, splitting the first two games. Despite losing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, eventually losing 4-2 in game two, Hays persevered, rallying late to defeat Moody 6-4 in game three to advance to the Regional Final against Leander.
Once again, Hays battled back from long odds, defeating Leander 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh to reach the State Tournament in Austin.
The team’s road through the playoffs helped shape the contenders they eventually became.
“Our playoff run is what prepared us for this game; our tough game against Dripping Springs, the tough series with Moody and the back and forth with Leander,” Fuller said after the State Tournament. “For the last month, we have been battling. No matter what the circumstance was, when we have the bat in our hands, we have the chance to make something happen.”
In the State Tournament, Hays dispatched Aledo 8-1, forwarding the team to play Lucas Lovejoy in the Championship game.
The title game was a back and forth affair, with both Lovejoy and Hays trading leads and runs. However, the Lady Rebels continued to battle back, scoring three go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh to win the State Title 11-8.
The moment was one that helped culminate a memorable season for Hays.
“I told my team all week that we are happy that we are here, but there was still work to be done,” Fuller said. “When Traci squeezed the [fly ball]in the seventh inning, that was satisfying. I cannot say how happy I am and how proud I am of these kids. They worked hard to get to this point. They deserve every bit of this [championship].”
Hays finished the 2012-2013 season with a 31-10 record.
2. Five Lady Rebels named to All-State Tournament team, Ramsey wins MVP
As a result of strong play during the UIL State Softball tournament, five Lady Rebels earned All-State Tournament team honors. Their dedication on the field at Red and Charlene McCombs Field helped the team win the first state title in Hays CISD history. Earning All-State Tournament honors were:
• Sarah Leal-14 innings, 11 strikeouts in State Tournament
• Clarissa Gonzalez-5 for 7, 4 singles, 1 home run, 2 RBI’s
• Maddy Shannon-4 for 9, 4 singles, 2 RBI’s
• Hannah Ramsey-4 for 8, 2 singles, 2 doubles, 2 RBI’s
• Brayden Pinckard-2 for 3, 3 singles, 2 doubles, 4 RBI’s
In addition, Ramsey was named as the Most Valuable Player during the State Tournament.
“It is a great honor,” Ramsey said after the Lovejoy game. “I honestly thought it was going to go to Sarah [Leal]. She played amazing; she pitched incredibly well. I was a little surprised.”
3. Gray wins pole-vault silver at UIL State Track Meet
On May 10, Mike Meyer Stadium was abuzz with the performance from sophomore Meagan Gray, who bested numerous upper classmen to claim the silver medal at the UIL State Track and Field Meet.
Gray, who cleared 12-feet-.75 inches at the 86th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on March 30, used the experience to guide her to the second place finish.
“It was awesome to accomplish what I did,” Gray said. “I was not expecting to place this year; my hope was to go out there and do my best. It felt amazing to stand on the podium.”
Also pushing Gray to the remarkable finish was the ability to compete against elite pole-vaulters from around the state. None more so than eventual State Champion Lakan Taylor from Fort Worth Boswell, who set the state pole-vault record with a jump of 13-feet-8-inches.
“I am thankful to have (Taylor) in the competition this year. She’s a great jumper” said Gray. “She pushed me to do better. The adrenaline of staying in competition with her helped me reach my heights.”
Gray finished the competition with a height of 12-feet-9-inches.
4. La Hue hired as Hays’ Athletic Coordinator/Head Football coach
The start of 2013 was a whirlwind for the Hays Athletic Department, as they were scrambling to find a new athletic coordinator and football head coach. On January 11, Blake Feldt announced he was departing Hays for Odessa Permian High School. Along with Feldt, offensive coordinator Bill Gambs left for the bright Friday Night Lights.
The district was left to find a replacement for a squad whose head coach helped guide the team to three straight playoff appearances.
After an exhaustive month-long search, with the district sifting through a pool of over 100 resumes, Hays CISD chose Neal La Hue as the third head coach in the history of Hays High School.
La Hue, who previously was the head coach and athletic coordinator at San Antonio Roosevelt, helped the Roughrider program amass a 29-21 record in a tough 26-5A district. Other coaching stops for La Hue include a stint as athletic coordinator and head coach at Kerrville Tivy.
He also has connections to Austin, as he graduated from Lanier High School. La Hue was eager to match up against a strong coaching pool in the area.
“In terms of high school football, the Austin area truly intrigues me. While at San Antonio Roosevelt, we played against Bowie last season; Round Rock two seasons previous,” La Hue said. “The Austin area has a tremendous pool of coaching talent. I have been impressed with the challenge that brings, which is one of the reasons I chose to take the Hays coaching position.”
During the latter part of May, La Hue was able to helm his new team during spring practice. La Hue was impressed with the progression his team possessed, learning a new system of offense and defense.
“They are exactly where I thought they would be,” he said. “They are hardworking kids.”
5. Lindsey McCurdy makes third straight appearance at State Golf Tournament
After winning the 2012 UIL 4A Individual Golf Championship last year, it could have been very easy for Lindsey McCurdy to sit back and rest on a groundbreaking achievement.
Such was not the case for the future member of the SMU Golf team as she tore through the District and Regional golf tournaments, en route to a fourth place finish at the UIL State Golf Tournament at Onion Creek Country Club on April 29 and 30.
The 2013 trip to the State Tournament was the third straight appearance for McCurdy, who notched her third straight top-five finish at the highest level in the state. Head golf coach Danny Preuss was incredibly impressed with the development by McCurdy on the links.
“In her sophomore year, finishing in the top 5 (at the State Tournament) was a big deal. When junior year rolled around, there was only one goal: win state,” Preuss said. “Everything she does is workmanlike; her demeanor is the same – she has a job to do. Her improvement from year to year is great, which will take her into college. She’s a great kid.”
While McCurdy was unable to defend her title, she was eager to perform well on the course, regardless of placement.
“Winning state is great, but I want to do well in general,” McCurdy said before the tournament. “Whenever I walk off the course, I want to make sure that I want to play as well as I can. That’s what matters most to me. Winning will be nice too, but as long as I can come off the course liking how I played, I will be okay with that.”
McCurdy shot a tournament total of 145.
6. Rebel Football repeats as 27-4A champs
Inspired play from a senior laden group helped Hays claim their second straight District 27-4A crown, the first time in program history such a feat had occurred.
Hays clinched a share of the 27-4A title with Alamo Heights and Kerrville Tivy . The penultimate title clinching moment occurred on November 9, as the Rebels attempted to thwart a late Alamo Heights rally.
Hays held a 21-0 lead at halftime, but the Mules surged back, cutting the Rebel lead to single digits. With a 24-21 lead and less than three minutes to go in the game, Hays’ defense stepped up to the task, forcing a field goal attempt from Heights which sailed wide.
With one final possession, Hays’ Emory Cuzze forced a fumble, helping claim the second straight district title under former head coach Blake Feldt.
Hays advanced to the playoffs, defeating San Antonio Highland 60-7, before falling to Leander in the Area round. Hays finished the season with a 10-2 mark, 6-1 in district.
7. Null excels in first year as head coach of Rebel baseball
2013 saw the beginning of a new era in the dugout of the Hays baseball team.
In August of 2012, longtime head coach Doug Ragsdale announced his retirement, ending a 17-year career at Hays that saw the program amass nine district championships and 14 playoff appearances.
Null understood the shoes he had to fill, and was eager to begin work with the Rebels.
“When you replace a legend, you have to maintain the level of excellence, but you also have to do it in your own way,” Null said. “Coach Ragsdale brought a winning tradition to the baseball program that our team will benefit from. It will be my job to keep the winning tradition alive.”
With the assistance of an experienced group led by seniors Adrian Acosta, Devin Niles and Granger Studdard, along with the arm of sophomore Tyler Woodmansee, Null saw his ball club perform well during the season, eventually earning a share of the 27-4A district title with Kerrville Tivy and Alamo Heights.
The momentum from their finish during the district season helped Hays advance to the Regional Semifinal round of the playoffs, marking only the fourth time a Hays team had gone that far.
Ultimately, Null was proud of the finish his team produced in his first year.
“I have a great group of guys. I had many of them four years ago (as freshmen). I knew the talent that was here. I knew we could make a run in the playoffs. I believed it all along,” Null said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group in my first year.”
Hays finished the season with a 21-10 record, 9-5 in district.
8. Lady Rebel basketball claims share of district crown
Excellence on the hardwood continued for Danny Preuss and his Lady Rebels, as the team claimed a share of the 27-4A district championship, along with a third straight trip to the playoffs in 2013.
Leading the Rebel charge were seniors Lindsey McCurdy, Jennifer Colonnetta, Kamryn Kent and Rachael Calabrese. All four provided a strong presence on offense, with McCurdy, Calabrese and Kent hitting shots from the perimeter, with Colonneta working in the paint.
Defense was the key for the Lady Rebels’ success. In 2013, Hays allotted an average of 35 points per contest; strong defensive play from post Jordyne Duggar helped keep opponent’s offenses at bay.
As a result of their strong play, the Lady Rebels constantly stayed in contention for the top spot in 27-4A. As the regular season drew to a close, Hays reeled off five straight wins, including an upset of state-ranked Schertz Clemens on Jan. 25. The win over Clemens helped the Lady Rebs acquire a share of the district crown with Schertz Clemens and Kerrville Tivy.
While the Lady Rebels’ season ended at the hands of powerhouse San Antonio Brackenridge, the experience was one to remember for Preuss and his team.
“Winning a district title was one of our goals before the season, and we did accomplish that,” Preuss said. “We knew there were good teams night in and night out, and we always had to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Hays finished the season with a 25-9 record, 11-3 in district.
9. Rebel and Lady Rebel soccer shine on the pitch
Another year, another season of excellence for both the Hays Rebel and Lady Rebel soccer teams in 2013. The Lady Rebels completed a strong campaign with a 17-3-3 record, finishing second in district with an 8-1-3 mark.
Hays began the year with a bang, as they claimed the Marble Falls Classic Tournament, then followed with winning the Lady Rebel cup.
From there, the Lady Rebels began to take down opponents, using strong play in the scoring third to overwhelm opponents. Led by seniors Lindy Mendoza and Savannah Derrick and sophomore Mila Bustos, the Lady Rebels often put on scoring clinics during the regular season.
Hays’ defense was equally as strong, along with sound goalkeeping from senior Sarah Sellstrom. Highlighting the Hays season were the three ties of the season. Two of the ties occurred during the series against Lehman. The final draw of the season occurred against Bastrop on March 8. Hays and Bastrop finished with a 0-0 tie, a draw which ended the Lady Bears bid for a perfect season.
Hays opened the postseason with a 2-1 win over Georgetown East View, before falling 3-2 to Leander Rouse in the Area round.
The Rebel boys soccer team also completed a strong year, finishing 8-3-1 in 49-4A play, making another appearance in the postseason. Led by the strength of center-midfielder John Hinnekamp and forwards Christian Chavez and Omar Rangel, the Rebel closed out district play with a 3-0-1 mark.
Hays finished the season in the bi-district round, where they fell to Georgetown East View.
10. Lady Rebel volleyball reaches Regional Quarterfinals
Hays Volleyball completed a strong 2012-2013 campaign with a 30-16 record and an appearance in the Regional Quarterfinal round of the UIL playoffs.
Much like many of the athletic programs during the season at Hays, a strong core of senior leaders led the volleyball team. Natalie Valdez, Courtney Wilcox, Rachel Normand, Emily Frazell, Dezaray Garner and Hannah Ramsey all played an integral role in the success of the team.
With a 12-2 mark in 27-4A play, Hays took their momentum into the postseason. Hays cruised to a three set win over San Antonio Lanier in the bi-district round, then swept past Vandegrift in Area.
The Lady Rebels fought hard against Cedar Park in the Regional Quarterfinal round, but fell to the Lady Timberwolves for the second straight season in four sets.
Despite the disappointment, coach Erica Walther was pensive regarding the assistance the senior class made to Hays’ success.
“I’m grateful to the players we’re losing to graduation,” Walther said. “They definitely helped us set a foundation for the future.”