Eagles volleyball team ready for the challenges of stiff competition

Rick Bailey,
The Prosper Press
Senior Samantha Jacobs (4), an outside hitter, returns to play for the Prosper Eagles this season.

Prosper Eagles head volleyball coach Erin Kauffman is looking forward to getting the 2020 season rolling at full speed.

The team has been working hard with the time they are given under the UIL protocols. Class 5A and 6A are allowed to begin regular season matches on September 18.

As usual, Prosper is preparing to make their annual run to the playoffs and hoping to improve on last season’s regional finals appearance, when the Eagles (27-9 record) were eliminated by Klein.

Prosper has been a perennial playoff favorite with runs to the state tournament in Kauffman’s first season in 2013 where they were state runner-up in Class 4A. The Eagles brought home the gold in 2017 when they captured the Class 5A state championship while posting a 44-6 record.

In her seven years at the helm in Prosper, Kauffman has garnered an impressive 254-66 record while never advancing to less than the regional quarterfinals (two times) or the regional finals (three times) along with the two state tournament appearances.

When asked about her team’s dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Kauffman noted, “We are abiding by all the UIL protocols and actually being more proactive than reactive. We sacrifice some of our time being able to practice 6 vs. 6 as we would in the past, but have supplemented it with more position specific work.

“We practice in masks and make sure that we can do what we can to avoid a positive test for one of our players. The girls have stepped up and continued to work like champs. The only downside of this is that we give up some team chemistry building time by not going 6 vs. 6, but we are getting all the work done.”

Kauffman is also excited for the season as she returns all but two starters from last year's squad.

“Senior leadership is going to be very important. We are fortunate that we are blessed with exceptional athleticism and have great net play (very athletic and tall). As coaches, we are looking for our team to improve ball control and develop more team chemistry. We’re counting on a vocal leader to emerge from the pack,” she added.

The graduation of Mackenzie Jefferson (District 9-6A setter of the year), who is playing this fall at Hofstra University in New York, has the Eagles looking to improve the connection of the hitters with a new setter. This is another step of building team chemistry and communication so that the Eagles can be successful running their normal 6-2 offense.

Up front, the returning starting rotation and others expected to contribute hitting and blocking include middle hitter Taylor Youtsey, senior, 6-4 (Cal Poly-SLO), and middle hitter Ella Chaney, sophomore, 6-2 (uncommitted). Outside hitters would most likely be Samantha Jacobs, senior, 6-0 (Alabama), and Nikki Steinheiser, senior, 6-0 (Boston College).

Right side hitters include Bailey Birmingham, senior, 6-0 (Tulsa), and Kendall Hewitt, junior, 6-0 (uncommitted).

Jazzlyn Ford, junior, 5-11 (uncommitted), will be working as the Eagles’ setter. Riley Price, senior 5-11 (uncommitted), will be in the starting rotation as defensive specialist/libero.

Callie Kieffer (sophmore/setter), Hayley Harrington (junior/DS), Carsyn Clayton (senior/DS), Brie Martin (sophomore/DS), Abby Goertemiller (senior/DS), Kamryn Vanatta (junior/OH), Maddy Melancon (junior/DS), Abby Crawford (senior/DS), and Kialah Jefferson (senior/OH-RS) will round out the expected varsity roster for the 2020 Prosper Eagles.

The Eagles were moved to District 5-6A with the realignment. For the first time in many years Prosper will not be in a district with all of the Plano high schools.

District 5-6A includes opponents Denton Guyer, Allen, Denton Braswell, Little Elm, McKinney and McKinney Boyd.

According to the Texas Girls Coaches Association preseason rankings the Eagles are ranked number 3 in Class 6A behind Flower Mound (1) and Plano West (2). Denton Guyer was also ranked in the USA Today Super 25 High School preseason rankings at number 4. Prosper was ranked number 23 by the same publication.

The competition in Class 6A Region I is some of the toughest in not only Texas, but in the nation. Both District 5-6A and 6-6A are loaded with talent and will see each other in the playoffs at the end of the season.

“We have our work out there in front of us. Guyer is number 4 in the nation ... and Boyd is always really good. It will be different from last year’s district without the Planos, but I think Guyer, Prosper, Boyd, McKinney and Allen will all be very competitive,” Kauffman said.

Nikki Steinheiser (15), a Prosper High School senior, is committed to play volleyball for Boston College next year.