Beckville’s Payton Jones seems to have everything coming her way.
She won a state volleyball title with the Ladycats last season and now she’s a freshman playing for the Panola Fillies as they head to the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
That gives her a step over Panola teammate Riley Seegers, a sophomore for the Fillies.
She was part of the building process toward the state title but graduated a year before it came to fruition.
So she’s got her hopes riding on the Fillies.
They will open the national tournament at 3 p.m. on Thursday against Polk State.
“I was glad to see them finally pull through,” Seegers said. “I felt a sense of pride. We (other graduates) were a part of it.
“But it was hard to take not getting to accomplish it myself. But I think this team is a lot like that one. We work hard, we care about each other and we’re a good team. In high school I never got the chance (to play for a title), so it’s an even bigger thing now.”
“It was an awesome feeling winning last year,” Jones said. “We set our goal and we worked hard. We want the same thing now at Panola. When you work hard every day and you set goals like that (a national championship), you create a special bond.”
Seagers has had back issues, which has limited her playing time. However, she said she’s ready for the Fillies final run.
“I’m taking every precaution and make sure I warm up enough,” she said. “I feel like I really have heart for the game. We have heart as a team, and I think a lot of teams don’t have that and they’re through playing.
“I play with a lot of emotion and I’ll do anything to pick up my team.”
The Beckville girls aren’t the only ones who’ll be getting another opportunity at nationals.
Panola Head Coach Nicole Thorn is back for a second turn at the school after leading them to the national tourney for the first time in 2009.
She and the Fillies will also be getting another shot at Polk State, who beat them 3-1 back in August at Tyler Junior College.
“We’ve played them already and lost, but I think it will help,” Thorn said. “That was the beginning of the season and we were still trying to figure out what we were doing. We’ve grown a lot. It’ll be a different team playing against them on Thursday.
“We really started to play at the regional tournament. And I think we can still do even better. We need to put it all together and play the best volleyball we can play this weekend.”
Thorn feels she was blessed when the Panola job came open, and she thinks this is where she needs to be.
“It’s an awesome feeling in my first game back,” she said. “It’s truly a blessing from God that he put us here. We brought in the right players that we wanted and they melded with the girls who were still here.
“This has been a great journey thus far. We have accomplished a lot, but we’re not done yet. We’re looking forward to competing his weekend.
“This would be a good weekend to bring a state championship and a national championship back to Carthage.”