By BRAD KEITH
(September 4, 2016) — Stephenville won four of seven matches over the weekend, but it was where they played them, and the experiences that came with the trip, that mattered most to senior Niconal Stilwell.
Once in a lifetime experiences were enjoyed, lifelong memories made.
Exactly what you expect at the Wonderful World of Disney.
Stephenville competed seven times from Thursday through Saturday in a high school showcase at Disney World in Orlando, but that was just part of what the Honeybees did. They toured Epcot Center and Hollywood Studios. One Bee rode a roller coaster for the first time, while others had their inaugural experience with flying.
“This trip has been amazing. Even only being here three days we’ve had time to bond and we’ve become so close even with the girls who were moved up from the JV,” said senior middle blocker Nicona Stilwell in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a learning experience on the court and off. It’s just an experience that we couldn’t have had anywhere else.”
The Bees faced teams from around the country and even one from Canada:
Stephenville d. McGill-Toolen (Ala.), 25-19, 25-12
Giddings (Tex.) d. Stephenville, 25-16, 25-22
Stephenville d. New Bedford (Mass.), 25-13, 25-16
Dumbar (Ky.) d. Stephenville, 26-24, 25-20
Stephenville d. Ursuline (NY), 25-8, 25-13
Stephenville d. Saugerties (NY), 25-11, 25-8
St. Mary’s (Canada) d. Stephenville, 25-12, 28-26
“The teams here, we don’t know anything about them and can’t scout them,” said Stilwell. “I thought overall it was good and we’re getting better.”
Head coach Fran Metzger, who has more than 600 career wins and is the only coach in Stephenville volleyball history, even leading the team to a 4A state title in 2003, has always scheduled tough early in the season, and this fall has been no different.
Stephenville (15-16) has faced just one Texas 4A, losing at Disney World to Giddings, which is coached by 2003 Stephenville state champ Shay (Gracy) Douglas. The Honeybees faced six out of state opponents and 24 Texas 5A and 6A schools.
“It helps a lot because it gets us ready for our district and teams like Glen Rose and Godley,” Stilwell said. “We’ve already faced some really good teams, so hopefully when we play in district that will help to calm our nerves and just play our game. We know we can do it. We’ve beat some 6A and 5A teams that we didn’t think we could, so now we know we can play with anyone in 4A.”
But Disney wasn’t just about the continued improvement of the latest Honeybee team on the court.
Stilwell enjoyed sharing the experiences of roller coasters and airplanes with younger girls like Hannah Huckabee and Ashley Crosswhite. And of course, that was just the beginning of the Disney experience.
“We’re doing Magic Kingdom (Saturday) and (Sunday) we’re going to Animal Kingdom,” she said in an excited tone. “It’s hard to choose my favorite part of the trip so far. I really liked Hollywood Studios, but Epcot has so much culture in it. I loved both.”
And of course, bonding and developing chemistry is crucial for any group aspiring to come together and achieve success as a unit.
“We got to travel together and wake up with each other and have breakfasts together, things like that just bring you so much closer,” said Stilwell. “I’ve come closer to some friends on this trip and even made new ones with younger girls I didn’t really know very well before this.”
The Bees aren’t just returning home to Stephenville, but gearing up for their first home match of the season. They host West on Tuesday, the JV starting at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity to follow.
“I think it’s going to be so exciting for us and our parents and even our student section,” said Stilwell of the later than normal first home match. “Home games are a different experience, and there can be nerves there, too, because you know everybody is watching you. But it will be good, I know we can handle it.”
Following Tuesday’s match is the start of 8-4A district play. The Bees visit Waxahachie Life on Friday, Godley on Tuesday and welcome Alvarado for their home district match on Friday, September 16. Here’s a look at the remaining schedule for the Bees:
Sept. 6 West 6 p.m.
*Sept. 9 @Waxahachie Life 6 p.m.
*Sept. 13 @Godley 6 p.m.
*Sept. 16 Alvarado 5 p.m.
*Sept. 20 Glen Rose 6 p.m.
*Sept. 23 Venus 5 p.m.
*Sept. 27 @Mid. Heritage 6 p.m.
Sept. 30 Brownwood 5 p.m.
*Oct. 4 Waxahachie Life 6 p.m.
*Oct. 7 Godley 5 p.m.
*Oct. 11 @Alvarado 6 p.m.
*Oct. 14 @Glen Rose 5 p.m.
*Oct. 18 @Venus 6 p.m.
*Oct. 21 Mid. Heritage 5 p.m.
Oct. 25 Peaster 6 p.m.
*-Indicates 8-4A district match