As we near the end of the season, it’s time for an update on all the VC Pirates sports teams heading into South Texas Club Sports League (STCSL) Post-season Tournament, which will be in San Antonio the weekend that kicks off Spring Break, March 12 & 13.
Let’s start with the women’s basketball team. This was the first season for the women’s basketball team and for first-timers—they’ve done an amazing job. They’re headed into the post-season tournament ranked #3 in the league with a 7 – 5 record, which is remarkable considering their rocky start to the season.
VC Pirates Women's Basketball Team
“I expected the women to be better at first, but they just weren’t running plays and had no offense or defense at all,” said Head Coach Josh Moore. “But then they decided they just didn’t want to lose any more—and their record has improved tremendously.”
Head Coach Josh Moore
Team member Heather Bryan admits that working together as a team was a struggle at the start, none of the women really knew what to expect from college basketball.
“There were some growing pains and getting the team unified was difficult,” said Bryan.
But as the season has progressed, she says her team is much more prepared now—they’ve built up their confidence as a team and they all have a much better idea of what to expect.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Escalante
Even so, she says that because this is the women’s first year in the post-season tournament, they have no expectations regarding the outcome and they know the competition is tough. But she also says they know what they need to do and the women’s team intends to give it everything they’ve got.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Escalante
Their team to beat in the tournament playoffs? Northwest Vista College—who beat the women’s team by 40 points at their last match-up.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Escalante
Moore also admits that the competition will be tough; the women need to beat Palo Alto College and Northwest Vista College. But he also says anything can happen in basketball, and he’s looking for the women’s team to play the kind of basketball he knows they can play—with all their heart.
The VC Pirates women’s volleyball team is set to finish out a truly triumphant season and much is expected of them given that all of VC’s STCSL post-season tournament wins so far have been in women’s volleyball. Not only is everyone expecting them to win a fourth, but as this season marks the last season for all five of the team’s sophomore team members, a final win for those ladies is all but required. The women’s volleyball team is heading into the post-season playoffs ranked #2 in the league with an 11 – 4 record*.
The volleyball team is about to bid a bittersweet goodbye to Jenna Braden, Heather Stubbs, Kaycee Hillmer, Chantal Beaudoin and Katie Lytle. Each of them is finishing out a second year playing for the VC Pirates and the STCSL (which includes only two-year colleges) will only allow students to play for two years.
For their part, each of the exiting women said that leaving the team makes them sad and they all admit that their time as a team seems to have gone by very quickly. But at the same time, they all have big dreams and big plans to continue to pursue and so, onward they go with three continuing on in nursing, one headed to the University of Houston-Victoria and one intending to pursue radiology at Citizens.
In the meantime, their team to beat in the tournament playoffs? Palo Alto College, according to head coach Josh Moore.
“They’ve been our toughest competitors this year and we’ve lost to them several times,” said Moore. “They have a lot of really tall ladies this year and they’re playing better.”
*UPDATE: The Lady Pirates did beat Palo Alto College in their last home game of the season!
When asked how he feels about losing these five players, Coach Moore admits that their departure is going to be difficult.
Back row: Chantal, Kaycee, Katie, Josh Front row: Heather, Jenna
“Our team these past two years has really been a great group of girls,” he said, “they’re always motivated to do more, they want more for themselves and that has helped them individually and as a team.”
Collectively, the team and their coach know that they can win their fourth post-season tournament championship next weekend.
“These women are very tough competitors,” added Moore, “and I think the odds are very good that they’ll win the post-season—especially as this is the last year for Jenna, Heather, Kaycee, Chantal and Katie.”
What does it feel like to begin a championship legacy? Usually no one can tell you because usually they don’t know that they have begun one. But the VC Pirates men’s basketball team can tell you, because they have done it this year. They’re conference champions this year and in the #1 spot heading into the post-season tournament in San Antonio with a 7 – 4 record in conference and an overall record of 15 – 14.
Last year, the new team finished 3rd in conference and placed as runner-up in the STCSL post-season tournament. And even though that record is remarkable for their first season in the STCSL, it was tough to go all that way and miss winning it all by just that much.
What a difference a year makes! Just earlier this week, the men’s team was still teetering on the edge of that legacy, but with a win against Southwest Texas Junior College combined with a propitious loss for Northwest Vista College against St. Phillips College, the VC Pirates men’s basketball grabbed their brass ring and won themselves the conference championship and secured their legacy.
After the prior week’s disappointing loss where the team gave up a huge lead and lost due to poor officiating, a win on the road this week was important.
“The team this year is positive and they’re prepared,” said Head Coach Jonathan Anderson. “Last week’s loss was pretty demoralizing, but they bounced back and shook it off.”
Head Coach Jonathan Anderson
The legacy of a conference championship is most important to the four sophomore men who will be leaving the team after this year. A.J. Irwin, C.J. Smalls, D.J. Hybner and Jonathan Flores have set the bar high and left a legacy of winning for future VC Pirates men’s basketball teams.
“When upperclassmen are lost, the team loses its leadership and, while that is the nature of sports at a two-year college, it’s a challenge to overcome,” said Anderson. “We’ll be looking for some of our freshmen men to step up next year and lead the team.”
In the meantime, according to Anderson, this team’s only real threat—is themselves.
“Throughout this whole season, these guys have never failed to show up for every game and they absolutely do not give up,” said Anderson. “There have been a lot of great moments and many games where they have played 30 minutes of great basketball, or even 35 minutes of great basketball. But what they need to do is consistently play a full 40 minutes of great basketball.”
He also says he knows this team is well capable of 40 minutes of great basketball.
“I’m proud of these guys,” he said. “They just… they never quit.”
And what does the team think?
D.J. Hybner is completely confident they’ll win the post-season tournament this year and C.J. Smalls agrees.
“The team is ready,” said Smalls. “We have the experience that we need now to win the tournament.”
“We need to play every game like it’s the most important game,” said A.J. Irwin.
Jonathan Flores agreed and added, “We also need to have good officiating.”
In discussing this season’s toughest competitors for the men, Anderson said the field this year has been pretty even; the top three or four teams in the league were all within one game of each other throughout most of the season.
Now, coming into the post-season tournament as champs, the team to beat is VC. And while being the team to beat is sometimes not an enviable position, it’s pretty clear that this team has the talent and certainly has the drive to win the tournament as well.
As for the departing players, it may be difficult to give up competitive play at the college level, but each of them has plans to continue on at a university to pursue higher degrees.
D.J. Hybner says he’ll study business at Texas State University or UHV and is looking forward to becoming a respected local businessman. A.J. Irwin will pursue interdisciplinary studies at UHV and coach women’s basketball. Jonathan Flores intends to finish a bachelor’s degree at UHV so that he can teach math and coach in high school, but he is also looking at other 4-year schools where he might still be able to play basketball while he finishes his degree. C.J. Smalls wants to finish working on a bachelor’s degree at Texas State University or UHV in communications to become a sports writer.
C.J., A.J., D.J., Jonathan
Anderson is always quick to point out that winning and losing is only part of what it means to be a member of the VC Pirates men’s basketball team. It’s not just about the number of wins and losses, it’s about the competition and this year’s competition has gone well beyond the STSCL conference.
Throughout the season, the men’s team plays sanctioned teams as well—really tough sanctioned teams such as Blinn College, San Jacinto and Texas A&M-Kingsville.
“This team’s record doesn’t tell their whole story,” said Anderson. “Their level of play, the level of competition and how they always fight to the end no matter who they’re playing—that tells a much more accurate story of how these guys play.”
Above all else and through every win and every loss, Anderson emphasizes academics. The men’s team spends hours in required study hall and attend tutoring—maintaining good grades is mandatory to remain a part of the team. The men are also required to gain experience in leadership and giving back to their community—the team has a partnership with the local Boys & Girls Club and the players give their time playing with and coaching the children who are part of the Boys & Girls Club.
All three of VC’s STCSL conference teams have done an amazing job this year and given VC a season to be proud of along with establishing a legacy upon which future teams can build. Regardless of the outcome of this year’s post-season tournament, all of VC’s athletes should know that all of VC—administration, faculty, staff and fellow students—stand behind them all the way.
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