Vega senior Katelyn Ruiz, left, head coach Berklee Norris, and junior Mystic Rincon make up a piece of Vega’s historic first volleyball squad. [Kale Steed/ Press Pass Sports]
The Texas Panhandle volleyball landscape will see a big change during the 2021 season.
Thanks to the approval of the Vega ISD school board last March, the girls athletic program added volleyball at the school to immediately compete this fall. Superintendent Jody Johnson says it was a decision driven by the community.
“We had some parents showing interest,” Johnson said. “We decided to send a survey to to parents from third grade to 11th, and 77 percent came back positive. So we felt adding volleyball would be a great addition to our school. We had close to 27 girls show up Monday so there is a lot of excitement around here.”
Vega went right to work after the approval landing Amarillo High graduate Berklee (Dunavin) Norris as its head coach to start building the volleyball program in May.
Norris recently graduated West Texas A&M and has coached club volleyball, however, has a strong volleyball pedigree playing for legendary AHS coach Jan Barker.
“I was looking for coaching jobs, and I never expected to get this one,” Norris said. “I applied because coaching jobs were open.
“I actually reached out to coach Barker when I got this job. She was amazing to play for, and I knew she could really help me get this program started. She told me just be consistent, be patient, and make sure the girls are having fun.”
Johnson and athletic director Jason Porton were thrilled to bring in a quality hire like Norris to open a new chapter in Vega history.
“We’re more than happy to have coach have coach Norris,” Johnson said. She has an amazing volleyball background, and lots of club experience. She’s young, enthusiastic, and a great fit for our girls program.”
Porton agreed with Johnson’s comments.
“With Berklee’s volleyball pedigree you know she’ll teach the girls the right way,” Porton said. “I’ve been to a couple practices and I enjoy her teaching process. We’re a blank slate, and she’ll get to make her own masterpiece.”
Norris had close to 20 players showing up for summer workouts and expects that number to grow when the team opens fall practices Wednesday morning. So far, this youthful group has shown a complete buy-in factor.
“We’re all excited,” junior outside hitter Mystic Rincon said. “It’s new to all of us but we’re going to work really hard and put the best team on the floor we can.
“We love coach Norris. She has a lot of passion and knows so much about this sport. She’s awesome. We’re lucky to have her, and her experience.”
Teammate and senior middle blocker Katelyn Ruiz agreed.
“It offers our girls another sport,” Ruiz said. “I feel that will do a lot to help us all come together. Volleyball is such a fun sport. We’ve never had anything like this, and I think we’re all going to have fun.”
With a roster of little volleyball experience Norris is well aware they’ll be plenty of growing pains in year one. However, just getting the chance to start a program — following in the footsteps of her aunt, Ann Dunavin, who started the AHS volleyball program — Norris relishes the opportunity in teaching this team the game she loves from the ground up.
“It’s cool to be able to do what my aunt, Ann did,” Norris said. “She did a tremendous job at AHS, and I just can’t wait for this chance to hopefully make this something special here in Vega.”
Vega was accepted into a very aggressive District 4-2A to start competing this season.