Walker, Pluenneke commit to Paris Junior College

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Senior co-captains Payton Walker (#3) and Jaycie Pluenneke (#15) committed to Paris Junior College this week. Both will play volleyball for the Dragons, while Walker also committed to play softball. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Senior co-captains Payton Walker (#3) and Jaycie Pluenneke (#15) committed to Paris Junior College this week. Both will play volleyball for the Dragons, while Walker also committed to play softball. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By TAYLOR GRAFT

Liberty Hill seniors Payton Walker and Jaycie Pluenneke can breathe a sigh of relief after committtting to Paris Junior College this week. With their post-Liberty Hill futures secured, they can now fully focus on the volleyball season, the SATs, and their senior years.

Walker’s recruitment started this summer at a softball tournament in College Station. She was offered and accepted a full-tuition softball scholarship from the Dragons after the softball coach attended one of her games.

While softball made the first offer, Paris Volleyball Coach Justin Maness was actually the first coach to recruit Walker at Paris. Maness told the softball coach about the Liberty Hill senior and that led to her softball recruitment.

“Right then and there, after the game, the softball coach offered me a full ride,” said Walker. “The softball coach told me to contact the volleyball coach immediately and see what they were going to offer me for volleyball.”

Walker went on a visit to Paris in late June to see the campus and talked to both coaches. On that visit, Coach Maness asked Walker if she knew any good middle blockers that might like to play there.

“That’s when I told him about Jaycie (Pluenneke),” Walker said. “I told him she was looking for a team and was an amazing blocker. I told him she was 6-foot-2 and he got really excited and responded that he’d give her a full ride right then and there.”

That day, Coach Maness emailed Pluenneke and asked her to send her a recruiting video and information.

“I actually called him on the phone and got to talk to him,” said Pluenneke. “He invited Payton and I to come up to Paris for a visit and practice with the team in August.”

On that visit in August, the coach offered volleyball scholarships to both Pluenneke and Walker and asked them to consider playing for the Dragons.

Pluenneke took about a month to weigh her options and then decided to pull the trigger and commit.

Walker, who had already decided that she was going to play softball for the Dragons, then had a much easier decision to also play volleyball at Paris with Pluenneke’s commitment.

“After I heard that Paris was really interested in Jaycie, I thought maybe I should consider playing two sports,” Walker said. “Having her with me was the final thing that helped me decide. When we went up there and practiced with the team it felt really good and I felt like we really fit in there.”

Even though Walker and Pluenneke are verbally committed to Paris, they say they are still open to offers from other schools.

“It’s a really great fallback,” Walker and Pluenneke said, together. “Obviously if bigger offers come in we’re going to have to listen, but it’s nice knowing that we have a great program that really wants us to be there.”

One big draw for Pluenneke and her parents was the ability for her to take biomedical classes at Paris and then later transfer them to Texas A&M University.

Walker has similar plans and hopes that playing both softball and volleyball at Paris will open opportunities to Division 1 or 2 collegiate programs.

“Seven out of eight girls last year on both teams went D1 or D2,” Walker said.

Coach Maness is expecting both Pluenneke and Walker to step onto the Dragon team as freshmen and assume starting spots if they work hard.

Liberty Hill 3, Robinson 1

Liberty Hill went on the road and defeated Waco Robinson in four sets on Tuesday night. The Panthers opened the match with a loss, 25-18, but rallied and won three straight sets to pick up the victory.

Liberty Hill will travel to Waco Connally at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

It will be the Panthers final non-district game before District 25-4A play begins. Liberty Hill will open district play next Tuesday.

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