Courtesy photo

Mashequa Gentry, who has been a big part of Corsicana’s emergence in volleyball the past six years, takes over as the Tigers’ head coach after spending six years as the team’s assistant coach.

She has been there every step of the way for the past six years, and now after being a big part of Corsicana High School’s turnaround in volleyball, Mashequa Gentry will now be the Tigers head coach.

Gentry, who has been the assistant coach at CHS for the past six years, replaces Ashley Grace, who did a remarkable job turning the Tigers into a powerhouse. Gentry was right there and shares in the turnaround that saw the Tigers go from a mediocre program that had to strive to make the playoffs to a team that won district titles, earned state rankings and became a playoff team six consecutive seasons.

“I’ve wanted to be a head volleyball coach for a few years,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to build upon the succes me and Ashley have built over the last six years.”

The Tigers had their best season in decades last year, marching all the way to the Class 5A Region Quarterfinals, where they lost to Red Oak, a team they had split matches with in the regular season.

It was a tough loss because Kiki Blanton, one of the best players on the team who has 23 kills in the previous meeting against Red Oak, injured her ankle on the second volley of the match and never returned.

Blanton, Mariah Lee and Abby Harlan, who were all starters and key players since they were sophomores. Those three were two-time All-Golden Circle Players of the Year.

The threesome graduated along with Gracie Griffin, another senior who was a huge part of last year’s success.

But Gentry knows better than anyone what the Tigers are losing and what they return.

“We lost the Big 4,” she said of Blanton, Lee, Harlan and Griffin, but I’m excited to have the other girls step in this year. They know how to compete. Obviously, they have some big shoes to fill, but we have five seniors an a junior back this year and I’m excited about this team.’’

Gentry, who was a star player at Southeastern Oklahoma State university, knows the program and knows her kids.

“I have been working with these girls since their sixth grade year,” she said. “I know them well.  I know what it will take to motivate them and build their skill level to help them be successful.

 “I have a genuine love of the sport,” she said. “Playing volleyball should be challenging yet fun.”

Gentry also has been successful as Corsicana’s head powerlifting, but her first love is volleyball, and she hopes to take the Tigers to the next level.

“We had a lot of success and I want to keep it going and make it my own,” she said. “We had a great foundation.

“I would like to bring more mental toughness to the program and bring a grit and passion for volleyball and wanting to win.”

Volleyball practice begins Aug. 1 and the Tigers will play their first scrimmage on Aug. 3 before opening the season a week later against Fairfield.

There’s plenty of talent returning. Claire Johnson, Paige Franks and Lara Bwicheilug were all a big part of last year’s team, which went 29-13 and reached the Region Quarterfinals for the first time in 32 years.

Those three will provide experience for a team that should keep going with a new head coach who has already been a huge part of the program’s success.

“I want to take us to the next level,” Gentry said.