For eight Lake Highlands girls, this year marks the end of an era. Not only is it their senior year at Lake Highlands High School, but it’s also their last year to play on the same volleyball team — a team they’ve been on together since seventh grade. 


“I’ve loved playing with these girls for so long,” Michaela Huff says. “There are so many things I will miss — not just one thing. I will miss these girls all around, both as people and as players.”


Last year, the team had one of the best seasons in school history, taking second in the district and making the semi-finals at state regional playoffs, finishing with an overall record of 32-10.


This year, they were ranked No. 8 in the state by LoneStar Volleyball and expect even bigger things in the playoffs.


It all started with the formation of a club team, where junior high girls from Lake Highlands paired up with girls from rival school Forest Meadow. While practicing a serve at tryouts, one of the players nailed another in the nose with the ball.


“That was the first time we ever met,” laughs senior Anna Ferguson.


For six years, the girls —Gloria Carey, Kristin Durant, Ferguson, Paige Gillum, Huff, Taylor Inman, Megan Rommel and Mackenzie Short — have played volleyball together year-round, competing in both regular season for school and the rest of the year for their club team, Texas Assault.


Not only is that kind of longevity for a team very unusual, says their coach, Cory Williams, but she adds: “It’s not very common to get eight great athletes in one class.”


But the success has not come without a price. The girls have suffered through torn ACLs, tendonitis, knee and wrist problems, and the fact that they spend most of their time with each other — all year long.


          “When you have girls, it’s a miracle to have them get along for that much time,” says mom Nancy Ferguson.


Anna is the funny one, Paige is the girly one, Megan is the organized one, and so on, the girls say. But despite their different personalities, the girls connect in a way that makes them a better team, both on and off the court.


“We spend more time with each other than with our own brothers and sisters,” Ferguson says, explaining that between school, practice and games, the girls spend nearly 12 hours a day together most of the year, not to mention all the time spent on the road traveling to tournaments and away games.


“We know stuff about each other that no one else knows. It’s almost like they’re your sisters,” Ferguson says.


          Knowing each other so well is one reason why the team feels confident about making state playoffs this year. Most of the time volleyball teams have to spend the first few weeks of practice getting to know their teammates — figuring each other out, Williams says.


But for these girls, that’s not the case.


          “They know what to expect out of each other, and that helps with communication and expectations. It makes us stronger as a team,” Williams says.


But their hard work hasn’t been without hard times as well. Of the eight seniors, four have injured ACLs, which is no small deal: Typically a torn ACL means no playing for about sixth months. Williams says the support of the group played a key role in the recovery of each girl.


“It was nice for them to have a support group where someone else has been through the same thing and can help them get through it. The girls may be able to recover physically, but mentally — that’s the toughest part — not to be afraid to get back out there. I think it helped having that support group where someone could say, ‘Hey, I’ve been through this and gotten over it — you can too.’” 


          Mom Lori Huff echoes this.


“From a team standpoint, the girls are really cognizant of how something will affect the team — more so than other teams I think because they play with each other year round.         


          And nothing showed that sense of team more than when it came time to choose this year’s captain. Instead of voting for one person, the girls decided all eight of them should be captain.


          “For our girls, it was natural. They wanted it to be ‘team,’ as opposed to ‘I,’” Huff says.


          Many of the girls hope to play college volleyball next year, and Williams says that’s a definite possibility for all of them.


“I love this group,” Williams says. “As a whole, they’ve really got it together. They’re hardworking, they get good grades. You don’t have to worry about them. They’re very well-rounded.”