Gunter volleyball duo makes college choices
GUNTER — Jacee Childers and Beth Gilbreath have been teammates for nearly a decade. Now after helping the Lady Tigers to the best season in program history, the Gunter seniors will soon be in opposite divisions of the same college conference.
“We’re both super competitive with each other. We’ve pushed each other personally,” Gilbreath said. “I’m really excited to see her on the other side of the net.”
Childers announced her decision to play for Hardin-Simmons University while Gilbreath is headed to LeTourneau University.
Childers, a setter who committed in late January, chose the Division III program over LeTourneau and East Texas Baptist.
“There was just something about Hardin-Simmons,” Childers said. “I really liked the coach. She’s my position so we have that connection. I’m a competitor and I wanted to go where they’re going to be good.”
Beth Gilbreath, an outside hitter who committed in early December, chose her American Southwest Conference program over Southeastern, Hendrix and Southern Arkansas.
“I fell in love with the campus,” Gilbreath said. “I really liked the coaches and the big thing was the players. They were all really nice and welcoming.”
Both are four-year starters and been key pieces to the best stretch in program history where the Lady Tigers made the region tournament all four years with three appearances in the region final.
“You can look at all the tangible things, the success and the trophies. The biggest thing was the leadership,” Childers said. “It really set the tone for Beth and me to help drive and reach the same goals.”
Gunter earned a spot in the Class 3A state semifinals for the first time this past fall, finishing with a 29-4 record and losing to eventual state champion Bushland.
“We always had the idea of going to state, winning state,” Gilbreath said. “We were always working towards that goal. It was an amazing opportunity to be successful through all four years.”
Childers was the District 11-3A MVP this past fall and finished with 996 assists, 206 digs, 75 kills and 55 aces.
She was an all-state selection by the Texas Girls Coaches Association and an honorable mention all-state pick by the Texas Sports Writers Association.
Childers is the program’s all-time assist leader with 4,956 and set the Gunter single-season mark with 1,723 assists as a junior, when she was the 9-3A Setter of the Year. She also added 415 digs and 70 aces in 2019.
Gilbreath closed out her senior season, in which she dealt with an injury, as a first-team all-district choice with 199 kills.
She was the 9-3A MVP as a junior with 518 kills, 334 digs and 52 aces and in her career has been chosen as a TGCA All-Star and a two-time all-state selection by the TGCA.
As sophomores, Gilbreath was a first-team all-district selection and honorable mention all-state by the TSWA after totaling 533 kills, 280 digs, 75 aces and 71 blocks and and Childers was also a first-team all-district pick.
During their freshmen seasons, Childers was the 9-3A Newcomer of the Year while Gilbreath was first-team all-district.
Hardin-Simmons went 6-12 overall and 6-10 in ASC action to finish tied for fourth in the West Division this past season.
In 2019 the Cowgirls went 12-13 overall and were third in their division with a 9-6 mark. Hardin-Simmons went 15-12 overall the season prior.
The program has won five American Southwest Conference championships and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years, including four straight from 2010-13.
LeTourneau finished its season 16-6 and went 11-5 in American Southwest Conference play to finish second in the East Division. The team lost in five to McMurry in the ASC Tournament quarterfinals.
It was the second straight year the YellowJackets were second in the East Division — last year they went 18-14 overall and reached the semifinals of the ASC Tournament. It was the most victories for the program since moving to the NCAA level in 1998 while the 11 conference wins this spring set the program mark as well.