By KEITH SPARKS
On Nov. 8, senior Lady Panther outside hitter Jenna Lyons signed a letter of intent to play volleyball for Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, where she’ll become an Islander once her time in Liberty Hill is done.
Lyons gave her verbal commitment to the Islanders over the summer after taking her first visit to campus as a junior, but waited to sign her official letter of intent until she could do so in the company of her friends, family, and Panther teammates last week during Liberty Hill High School’s official signing day.
Lyons said one of the biggest reasons she chose TAMUCC was its location, just a few minutes from the Gulf Coast.
“It’s just a really cool place,” Lyons said. “I love the beach and the warm air. The coaches and the faculty were great, but I really love the campus.”
While Lyons was approached by some schools prior to her commitment, she credited her recruiting coach, Jacob Thompson, for working behind the scenes to get her noticed.
“Some schools approached me, but I had a lot of help from my recruiting coach,” Lyons said. “He really helped me get my name out there and helped me with all my emails and video. The recruiting process, you can ask anyone, is very stressful and long. It’s such a relief when you finally know and have a plan where you’re going and everything.”
In addition to the school’s location, Lyons was looking for a volleyball program that had experienced consistent success, which TAMUCC has. After playing for a team like Liberty Hill that wins District Championship after District Championship, Lyons wasn’t interested in playing for a sub-par program.
“It’s always great being in a winning program,” Lyons said. “After being at Liberty Hill, I was looking at not just somewhere to play, but a winning program that always does really well. A&M Corpus always wins their conference and does extremely well, so I was looking for that and somewhere not too far from home, but far enough so that I couldn’t go to my parents’ every weekend and stuff like that.”
Lyons has already had an opportunity to meet her future teammates, including the incoming recruiting class that she’ll be a part of and the players that are already on the team. After meeting the team, she already feels like she fits in.
“I went on my official visit a couple weeks ago, and I got to meet all of the girls that are in my recruiting class, and we got to meet the current players,” Lyons said. “It was really great. I can see myself fitting in very well, and it was just awesome.”
While the quality of the volleyball program was important to her, Lyons was also looking for a school that offered a solid nursing program, as she plans to become a nurse once her volleyball playing career is over.
Before she committed to TAMUCC, Lyons considered Stephen F. Austin, Lubbock Christian, Sam Houston State, Central Arkansas, and Arkansas Fort Smith. In the end, her decision simply came down to a gut feeling.
“I think it all just came down to that I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else,” Lyons said. “I would be upset if they gave the spot to someone else. It was just this feeling I had. I sat down and talked about it with my parents, and we came up with a pros and cons list. It just came down to where I felt like I belonged.”
The Lady Panthers’ starting outside hitter still has plenty of time between now and her freshman year at TAMUCC, and in the meantime, Liberty Hill Head Volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson is working with Lyons on how to become a consistent player at the collegiate level.
“This year has really been an eye-opening experience,” Lyons said. “(Coach Peterson) has really helped me step up my game, getting ready for college, and just being the best player I can be all the time. I’m really working on seeing the court and hitting my shots better. Just being a more consistent and aggressive server.”
Lyons will head to campus between the end of July and early August to get ready before her freshman season with the Islanders begins in September. For now, however, her sights are set on a State Championship for the Lady Panthers, who will head to the State Tournament in Garland.