Successful seasons for the Mill’s athletes

Panthers dominate region awards for volleyball, softball, and football


Shelby Foster and Aelise Gagliano

The fall 2016 sports season was a successful one for volleyball, softball, and football players at the Mill. A number of Panther athletes received a region award or was selected for the All-County First or Second team depending on which sport they play. Junior and varsity softball player Emily Nieuwstraten. said that “being named an All-County and region team was very important to me because it meant that all of [her] hard work had paid off.” The game has taught her “about teamwork and how you can’t just play the game by yourself. You have to depend on the team as a unit,” Nieuwstraten said.

Chandler Cummings-McBride, Editor-in-Chief

As senior and varsity volleyball player Emily Schafhauser and teammates huddled-up for an announcement from their coach Walt Ellison during practice one day, she was ecstatic and surprised to learn that she had made the 2016 All-County First team for volleyball. “As a freshman and sophomore, members of my team made the All-County team and I didn’t really know what that title meant. Now that I am older and have made it myself, I’ve realized what an honor it is to know other schools’ coaches have remembered me and my playing,” Schafhauser said.

I’ve realized what an honor it is to know other schools’ coaches have remembered me and my playing.”

— senior Emily Schafhauser

At the Mill, it’s hard to miss the accomplishments that female athletic students received this school year. Two of the most prominent accomplishments come from a large handful of athletes who made the All-County First and Second teams for their respective sport, either volleyball or softball.

According to Chris Dunn at Fayette News, naming the All-County team members starts with nominations from the coaches in the county. He then asks them to include the players’ stats. “From there, I pick [the] actual teams using the stats and All-Region teams to figure out what team they end up on,” Dunn said.  “In the case of softball, I had a freelancer who covered a lot of games for me so we picked that one together.” For larger individual awards, if there isn’t an apparent choice, Dunn will ask the coaches to “nominate one of their own players and one from another team and see if there is a consensus.”

One of the coaches’ picks was Schafhauser, who is one of three seniors from Starr’s Mill to make the All-County First Team for volleyball. “Making the All-County team is a really cool honor. It’s nice to know that others recognized me and some of my teammates as memorable players,” Schafhauser said. As a setter this season she made 447 assists, 196 digs, 61 aces, and 16 kills.

Schafhauser has been playing since she was in the fifth grade and completely committed to the sport in seventh grade when she tried out and made her first club team. After she started playing club volleyball, Schafhauser said that her life “revolved around volleyball and [her] family and [she] spent most of those club years traveling to different states on the weekends.” Despite the accelerating speed of volleyball  in her life, looking back, Schafhauser recognizes that volleyball “has blessed [her] with great experiences, friends that [her] family and [she] will keep forever, and given [her] the opportunity to develop and practice discipline,” Schafhauser said.

Part of that discipline Schafhauser appreciates comes from her coaches over the years, who each taught her something unique. “One of my favorite coaches was from my club team at Tsunami Volleyball. He always pushed me to be my greatest and gave me a new appreciation and greater understanding of the game,” Schafhauser said. “A piece of advice he gave me was to not worry about what the other team does on their side of the net. The only thing that matters is what you do on your side.”

When senior Alexis Barrios made the All-County First team she recognized that all her hard work since the age of 11 paid off. “The countless hours of training taught me discipline, perseverance, and dedication. Playing the game taught me how to earn the things I wanted and really drove me to keep pushing myself in the sport as well as life,” Berrios said. The libero player made 656 digs, 103 assists, 55 aces, and 30 kills.

Senior Dani Simonsen, a senior outside hitter, also made the First team with a notable 190 kills, 90 digs, and 38 aces.

It could be argued that Simonsen, Berrios, Schafhauser, and freshman and varsity volleyball teammate Tessa Laney pushed themselves the hardest this season, as this was the first time any of them had made the volleyball All-County First team.

As the only freshman on the varsity school team, and one of two freshman on the All-County team, Laney said that making the First team meant a lot to her. “There are a lot of great volleyball players around me and I was one of the fortunate ones to be chosen. I’m in the gym a lot to improve all areas of my game,” Laney said.  “What’s crazy is I got this award playing a position I don’t normally play.” Laney carried out 286 digs, 182 kills, 26 assists, and 9 aces.

Although Laney didn’t expect to play right side hitter for the school team, she knew she would have the unwavering support of her parents. “My parents are my biggest supporters. They do whatever they can to help me improve my game and always on the sideline cheering me on,” Laney said.

There are a lot of great volleyball players around me and I was one of the fortunate ones to be chosen. ”

— freshman Tessa Laney

Berrios had similar feelings when it came to her support system. “My biggest supporters are my family, my mom especially. I honestly can not thank my mom enough because she sat through everyone of my extra training sessions, all the practices, and she’s never missed a game. Without the love, support, and encouragement from my family I do not know where I’d be today,” Berrios said.

Throughout her eight year volleyball career Schafhauser has always felt the day-to-day support of her parents.Through the good and the bad, they have never left my side. My dad has taught me that the two things only I can control are my hustle and attitude, and as long as I take care of that, everything else will fall into place,” Schafhauser said.

The female sports domination didn’t stop with volleyball. Senior Shelby Daniel was named Hitter of the Year and made the All-County First Team for softball. Although she said that she is “truly blessed to have received these awards,” these accomplishments “aren’t a major factor in [her] life because [she’s] just working hard and playing the game [she loves],” Daniel said. “I don’t work to get awards. I work because I want to get better and want to be successful and produce for my team.”

The Lady Panther Daniel did produce for her team according to varsity softball coach, Mark Williamson. “She [Daniel] had a great year and she really, down the stretch of the region and state tournament, she carried us. She had six or seven home runs, in the state tournament, which I haven’t seen in 15 years from anyone at Starr’s Mill,” Williamson said. For this past season, Daniel hit .452 with a .513 on-base percentage, 8 home runs and 39 RBI.

Along with Daniel, several other varsity softball Lady Panthers made the First team including sophomore catcher Kate Ashmore, infield players sophomore Laura Sellers and junior Emily Nieuwstraten, and pitchers freshman Paige Andrews and sophomore Wakana Soto.

In addition to the All-County First team, an All-County Second team was drafted for both volleyball and softball players from around the county. For volleyball, freshman Piper Dedrick and junior Gabi Ramkissoon made the team. For softball, the number of Lady Panthers was noticeably greater with infield players sophomore Alyssa Angelo and junior Jordan Childress and outfield players junior Kennedy Dennis and sophomore Lea Duben.

Even still, the Lady Panthers’ counterparts had a successful year as well.

Members of the football All-County First team from Starr’s Mill include junior running back Cole Gilley, offensive linemen seniors Andrew Loftis and Ryan Fogg, defensive lineman and junior Austin Schriver, defensive back and sophomore Carson Walter, and Specialist of the Year sophomore Michael Lantz.

Gilley was also named Player of the Year, with 1,666 yards rushing on 7.9 yards per carry with 24 touchdowns.It was a well deserved honor. He accounted for nearly 2,000 yards of offense on a team that won a region title for the fifth time in school history,” head varsity football coach Chad Phillips said.

Gilley attributes his success this past season to hard work. “It makes all the mat drills and summer workouts worth it.  It shows that hard work [through spring, summer, and fall] pays off, and I feel thankful for my offensive line and the whole team because it takes all 11 on the field to make things work the way we did this year. To be successful you really have to dedicate yourself to it,” Gilley said.

As for the Second team, members include junior running back Nick Brown, senior and offensive lineman Matthew Hill, junior and defensive lineman Andrew Fierbaugh, junior linebacker Ryan Cockes, and junior defensive back Phillip Pfaffman. Junior Mitch Prowant is also on the team and Starr’s Mill’s honoree is junior Joey DeLuca.

Despite the division between First and Second teams, and those who are on the varsity football team but weren’t publicly recognized, the Panthers as a collective whole contributed to some major accomplishments, including setting a new school record for rushing yards (3,327) and first downs (218).

With impressive statistics like these, an outsider might find it difficult to ignore each of the three athletic teams’, both female and male, accomplishments from 2016. “We are excited about going to work and earning an opportunity to compete for another title. ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins and finishes with a single step.’ That first step begins in 2 weeks,” Phillips said.