McGhee sisters having special year

By Pat Turner

Kara and Elise McGhee are having the time of their lives this volleyball season.

During the regular season, the two helped Clark (43-3) run the table (18-0) to the District 28-6A championship. For the second year in a row, the Cougars are in the third round of the playoffs with a chance to reach the Region IV Tournament. Of course, the dream of playing in the 6A State Tournament is also within reach.

What makes the season even more gratifying is the McGhee sisters are sharing the experience.

They look to add another special moment Tuesday when Clark plays New Braunfels Canyon for a spot in the Region IV Tournament.

“I love playing with my sister,” Kara said. “It is so much fun. I love being around her and playing together. We’re really close.

“We’re also exact opposites. Our personalities are so different. She is more outgoing. She is always smiling and so enjoyable to be around. She’s one of those people you want to give a hug to. I am quieter. We get along well. We just enjoy being around here and spending most of our time together.”

The two have been instrumental in Clark’s success. While Kara has slammed 492 kills, Elise has added 236. Their presence has fit nicely with a balanced lineup also featuring contributions from Grace Gibson, Taylor McDonough, Micayla Reiland, Ashley Hu, Irie Mendez and Madison Cuellar.

 “It’s so special to have them here,” Hu said. “They’re so amazing. We can always count on them to make plays.”

Clark coach Melissa Miller also likes the security of having the sisters on the court, especially this season when several new players were manning the roster.

“It is a blessing to have them here at the same time,” Miller said. “They’re phenomenal volleyball players and they have an amazing work ethic. It would be easy for them to be satisfied with where they are but they’re not. They always want to do better. They’re students of the game. And they have fun playing.”

The fun times began last year when Elise made her varsity debut as a freshman. She was excited to be playing next to Kara but knew making the jump to a higher level of competition was going to be different. Having her older sister made the situation easier.

It turned out to be a good year as the two played major roles in helping Clark to a District 28-6A co-championship with O’Connor. The Cougars lost a 3-2 decision to the Panthers in a tie-breaker match for the top seed in the playoffs, but advanced to the third round of the post-season before losing to Reagan.

“Kara helped me right away,” Elise said. “As a freshman I didn’t really know what was happening. I had never experienced anything at the varsity level. I had never been in a playoff game before. Kara helped me prepare for what it is happening. It’s been so much fun playing with her because we’re best friends.”

It’s no surprise to see the two standing out in volleyball. At 6-foot-4 Kara and 6-3 Elise have the height and skills to make plays. They also come from an athletic family. Their father Stephen McGhee, the Clark football coach, starred for the Cougars and carried his skills to Texas, while Mom (Christine) played basketball at high school in Houston. In addition, their brother 6-foot-9 Luke played football and basketball at Clark. Recently, he became a member of Texas A&M’s basketball team as a walk-on.

“Our parents are very supportive,” Elise said. “I think a lot of things about athletics was passed down to us. We know the importance of a work ethic and what it takes to be successful.”

The current season falls in the category as successful as the Cougars have excelled since day one. Going through 28-6A with a perfect record was a great accomplishment, but now they’re focused on accomplishing bigger goals. Sitting at the top of the list would be playing in the 6A State Tournament.

Clark still has work to reach that pinnacle, starting with Tuesday’s regional quarterfinals match against New Braunfels Canyon. The McGhees like their chances because of what has already been accomplished.

“Everyone has been together all season.” Kara said. “Our chemistry is amazing. We decided from the start we were going to work hard and play together. I think that has been very healthy for us. There are so many amazing players on our team.” 

Whatever happens this year, their playing time together won’t end at Clark. It will carry over to the college level as both have made verbal commitments to Baylor.

Being able to share the college experience is already creating excitement.

“I committed to Baylor as a sophomore,” Kara said. “She committed as a freshman. I was so excited. I tried to get her to commit but at first, she was saying ‘no, that’s where you’re going.’ But then one day she walked into my room and said I just committed to Baylor. I was so excited because we’re like best friends.

“It’s going to be fun being at Baylor. It is such a family atmosphere. I liked the Christian atmosphere of the team. That means a lot to me.”

Elise was attracted to the same things at Baylor. Having Kara there was the biggest selling point.

“I wasn’t going to go there, but then I realized going to Baylor was actually a good thing,” Elise said. “I love the school. I’ll already know someone there and she can give me the lowdown of what it’s like before I get there. We love being together and I know that will be an amazing experience for us.”

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