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Class 6A >>

Frenship
59
Burges
Final 7
Odessa
45
Monterey
Final 7
Weatherford
50
Coronado
Final 38

Class 5A >>

Canyon Randall
21
Plainview
Final 0
Sweetwater
66
Lubbock High
Final 35
Cooper
43
Idalou
Final 22

Class 4A >>

Midland Greenwood
49
Seminole
Final 36
Estacado
37
Hereford
Final 36
Roosevelt
45
Lamesa
Final 32
Muleshoe
48
Levelland
Final 46
Littlefield
28
Snyder
Final 0

Class 3A >>

Fort Stockton
49
Brownfield
Final 42
Denver City
33
Pecos
Final17
Floydada
33
Slaton
Final 6
Abernathy
24
Post
Final 21

Class 2A >>

New Deal
55
Dimmitt
Final 14
Smyer
35
Hale Center
Final 28
Friona
23
Olton
Final 13
Crosbyton
34
Tahoka
Final 7
Springlake-Earth
13
Morton
Final 12
Sudan
19
Ralls
Final 13
Lockney
40
Lubbock Christian
Final 22
Bovina
40
Plains
Final 0
Seagraves
53
Jal
Final 0
Sundown
48
Calvary Christian
Final 18

Class 1A >>

Jayton
Ropes
10 a.m. Sat.
Lorenzo
Wellman-Union
7:30 p.m.
Spur
58
Anton
Final 13
Meadow
46
Santa Anna
Final 14
New Home
64
Amherst
Final 14
Whiteface
69
Christ the King
Final 22
Borden County
78
Knox City
Final 45
Klondike
88
Dawson
Final 43
O'Donnell
77
Southland
Final 49
Petersburg
Follett
Sat. 4 p.m.

TAPPS >>

Trinity Christian
New Mexico Military
Canceled
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With coaching in her blood, Gafford seems like a natural

With Frenship's Jennifer McCulley's health deteriorating, Toni Gafford, who had no high school head coaching experience, was put in charge.

Posted: December 29, 2011 - 12:53am
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Toni Gafford, Coach of the Year  Zach Long
Zach Long
Toni Gafford, Coach of the Year

Toni Gafford wondered if she could do it. Though she’d taught for 25 years, she’d been a coach for only nine, and never a head coach.

Even though coaching was in her blood — her mother, Joyce Elrod, had 15 very successful years as the head volleyball coach at Snyder — she’d never ventured out on her own as a head coach, instead serving nine years as the assistant to Frenship coach Jennifer McCulley, happy with what she was doing and where she was.

“I was coaching my older daughter on a club team and one of the high school coaches in San Angelo told me I needed to be doing this for a living,” Gafford said. “My mother had been a coach and they told me I reminded him of my mom, so I thought, ‘Hey, I guess I can do this.’”

Gafford had coaching experience at the club level during the offseason, but never had she been in charge of a high school program until this season — and not by choice.

Gafford and the rest of the Tigers program were thrust into an unfortunate situation last spring when McCulley became ill and doctors struggled to find the problem.

Over the next few months, McCulley’s health continued to deteriorate until finally the Tigers realized they were going to have to start their season without their head coach.

“We were just waiting for when (McCulley would return) and we all did think it was going to happen,” Gafford said. “But as we went on and she wasn’t getting any better we knew that she wasn’t going to be back to coach this year, and we just kept doing things the way we started off doing them and how we’d been doing them for nine years.”

Gafford, who had no head coaching experience outside of club volleyball, was put in charge.

To look at what Frenship did in 2011, though, you’d never know anything was different. The Tigers, competing in a tough district that would eventually produce regional finalists Dumas and Randall, finished third and made an appearance in the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs before losing to the District 3-4A champion Lady Raiders.

That success was a tribute to the character of the kids, Gafford said. But it also comes from having strong leadership at the top, which is why Gafford gets the nod as this year’s Avalanche-Journal All-City Volleyball Coach of the Year for holding the program together and keeping its focus on the court.

“I guess I’d always doubted myself and wondered if I’d be able to do it,” Gafford said. “When you’re in a situation like this you have to do it, so I guess I just didn’t think about it but just did it. The girls handled things spectacularly and I couldn’t ask for them to handle it any better than they did. They were wonderful and accepted me and did all I asked them to do.”

Gafford said she tried to keep things as structured and familiar as possible, doing things exactly how she thought McCulley would want them done. But at the same time she interjected her own personality into the equation, motivating the players before matches, during timeouts and throughout the season.

Gafford added that coaching four of this past year’s seniors — Taylor Wallace, Marisa Rodriguez, Chelsey Driskill and Gafford’s daughter, Kristina — in club volleyball beginning six years ago helped make the transition smoother on both her and the team.

Eventually during the season, McCulley was diagnosed with Lyme disease, Gafford said, with a possibility of lupus that runs in the family. Gafford still considers herself in a stewardship role, just holding the rope until McCulley is healthy enough to return, but at least now knows she has what it takes to lead a program of her own when and if that time ever comes.

“When Jennifer comes back and she takes over again, I’ll do whatever job she wants me to do, whatever it may be,” Gafford said. “But if the opportunity comes up then I know I can do it and I’ll be willing to give it a try.”

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All-City Volleyball

Coach of
the Year

Toni Gafford

Given the circumstances surrounding the health of head coach Jennifer McCulley, it could have been a year in which the Tigers might not have performed as well as they did. But Gafford was outstanding in keeping the Tigers focused on what was happening on the court, leading them to a third-place finish in District 3-4A behind regional finalists Randall and Dumas.

First Team

Chelsey Driskill, 6-0, Sr., Middle Blocker,

Driskill was a one-person wrecking crew for the Tigers at the net and a main reason for their success. The first-team all-district selection led Frenship with 651 kills to go with 123 blocks and 445 digs en route to a third-round playoff appearance.

Second Team

Marisa Rodriguez, Outside Hitter, Frenship

Kristina Gafford, Setter, Frenship

Kelsie French, Defensive Specialist, Frenship

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