Maroon Life – Spring Sports 2024

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Howdy readers, and thank you for picking up the Spring Sports Maroon

With features on men’s and women’s nis, we want to first and foremost say thank you to the players who spoke with the writers of The Battalion for letting us share their stories. It was a pleasure to be able to tell the tales of your journeys. The stories told are about the athletes’ final year at Texas A&M all the way to

We’ve had a long journey to get this magazine finished, and it hasn’t been zine has been a long time coming, and it gle everything into place. So, we would like to thank and acknowledge everyone who helped us out along the way.

All of our deputies, our talented writers, put a lot of time tracking down their sources. None of this would have been possible without their contributions, and they’re what made this magazine what it is. Through the interviewing and transcribing all the way to the writing and fact checking stages, we are so proud of how our writers succeeded in their stories.

It takes a lot of confidence to be able to tell someone else’s story and still show your own style, so thank you to the journalists who contributed for your impressive work. We are so grateful and thrilled with your work.

Our blacksmiths, the visual department, forged the backbone of this magazine. Their art brought it to life and took the magazine to new heights. Our graphic artists spent lots of time practicing their craft. Add our western vision and their skill to create our final product. Our photographers have also worked tirelessly to bring the illustrations to life.

The sheriffs, all of our editorial staff, kept things in line. There was a lot of content to keep together, and they stopped it from falling through the cracks. They took our diamond in the rough and refined it into the gem it is. From reading and rereading copies of stories to coming up with catchy headlines, our fellow editors at The Battalion deserve their flowers.

All of our store keepers, our advertisement team, kept the business running and made sure we got to put a product on paper. You kept us afloat and kept our doors open, and we wouldn’t have had a saloon to settle in without y’all. We greatly appreciate all you do.

Then there’s our mayor, Spencer O’Daniel, and we were a lawless town without you. Now, we have some order, and we can work with ease knowing some of the dirty work is being handled. You have offered great advice to us as you have so much experience and knowledge.

And most importantly, thank you to our readers, our faithful patrons. There would be no reason to make this magazine without y’all. You’re the reason we do what we do, and we hope you enjoy all the hard work we put into our Spring Sports Maroon Life magazine.

From being an editor for over a year to about six months, the sports desk editorial staff has been working throughout the semesters to produce the best content on A&M athletics. Thank you again for grabbing the Spring Sports Maroon Life magazine, and we sincerely hope you enjoyed the read!

Connections, relationships helped forge A&M’s veteran guard


The final score between Texas A&M and Penn State meant an early exit from March Madness for the Aggies. Through all the noise and chatter on social media about the upset, guard Tyrece “Boots” Radford tuned it all out. Though the season was cut short, he had a chance to run it back one last time and did what he’s always done: keep to himself and get back to work.

Radford stayed off his phone and weighed his options. After some time with his family and coach Buzz Williams, he decided to come back for one last season.

“To make a long story short, the process [of coming back] was really a little bit of nothing,” Radford said. “Not answering the phone for a lot of people, only talking with my family and staying in contact with Coach [Williams.]”

The player-coach relationship goes back to 2018 when Radford was an incoming redshirt freshman. Though not heavily recruited, Williams took a chance on the guard.

“[Williams] didn’t know me from anything,” Radford said. “He gave me an opportunity and I didn’t mess it up. I graduated and did everything. That’s my guy, I owe Buzz

the world.”

Williams, a big reason why Radford ultimately decided to come back, is something of a “life mentor” for Radford. In fact, off the court, they make sure the basketball talk is at a minimum.

“The relationship with me and Buzz, he’s like my mentor through life,” Radford said. “If I have a question, he answers it. We have those little meetings, little talks about non-basketball stuff. He makes everything more welcoming and more at-home for me. We don’t discuss anything basketball-wise because that’s not our relationship. Our relationship, on both his side and mine, is loyalty.”

Radford takes loyalty to heart. Being with Williams since the Virginia Tech days, he has since paid off the coach’s chance on him with tough and fiery play on the court, earning him the nickname “Boots” by Williams, after tough boot leather. However, off the court, he’s also loyal to another person out of Tech: athletic-academic advisor Alise Svihla.

Though Radford’s game is ferocious, he is the complete opposite off the hardwood. He has a quiet and reserved demeanor that dates back to his freshman year at Tech and caught the attention of Svihla, who was there to help him academically.

Back in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the guard mostly kept his head down and Svihla said that it was hard to get to know Radford because of his cautious nature.

“Tyrece stood out in a way because he was so quiet,” Svihla said. “I was nervous because I was not sure I was going to get through to him. I was having a hard time and I talked to Devin [Johnson] about it, who’s

on the coaching staff at A&M. And I said, ‘Devin, I don’t think Tyrece likes me; he’s not opening up and he’s not talking to me.’”

However, Radford slowly but surely opened up. Being an academic redshirt meant that although he was getting acclimated with the basketball team, he needed some help in school and turned to Svihla, who made sure to be there every step of the way.

“Then after a while, he came around,” Svihla said. “It was about building trust and building that relationship and showing him that I was there for him. I wanted to see him succeed and I was not going to let him down. I was there for him everyday, all day while he was at study and while he wasn’t. I wanted to show him that I believed in him and I think that was really important to him to see that and not just [for me] to say it but also prove it.”

The once-shy guard was now a regular to Svihla’s office to talk not only about school, but about life in general, becoming someone that he could trust, just like Williams.

“It took some time to build that relationship,” Svihla said. “He was hard to get through, but once we got there, we haven’t looked back since.”

Then, tragedy struck.

In fall of 2022, Svihla was diagnosed with colon cancer. Suddenly, the advisor’s life changed as she underwent chemotherapy. Since Radford and Svihla kept in touch even as Radford went to A&M, she immediately wanted to let him know what was going on.

“[The news] was tough,” Svihla said. “It’s been about a year now that I got diagnosed and it’s been the craziest year of my life and when I

got the news, I wanted to share the diagnosis with Tyrece, making sure he knew [what was going on] as well as the coaches .”

Ever since, Radford has been supporting Svihla in her battle against cancer. Early in 2023, he decided to further show his support as he shaved his head in honor of her. The video of Radford cutting his hair is something that Svihla goes back to frequently as she said that it helps cheer her up during rough times.

“I go back and watch that video all the time, especially whenever I’m having a bad day,” Svihla said. “Some days are really tough, so I look back on that video a lot, I talk to him a lot just as a reminder on why I’m fighting this fight.”

The pair’s relationship had gone full circle: Svihla was the one who first welcomed Radford with open arms and earned his trust after helping him during his time at Tech and now he got to reciprocate the love and support back to her.

“I really do appreciate what he’s done,” Svihla said. “It showed me something that I never really thought about because I was originally there to support him and now having that returned to me was just really amazing.”

There’s one more person that makes Radford work as hard as he does: his mom. He said he wanted to see his mom happy after the hard work she did.

“My mom’s been my biggest inspiration,” Radford said. “Just the long nights with my mom, raising me as a single mother. I’ve talked to my dad too but it’s my mom who raised me. She’s my inspiration and I just want to see her smile at the end of the day.”

In third season with Aggies, Coleman looks to grow leadership on, off court

“When [Henry] was 5, he walked into our family room and told us he was going to be famous and on TV,” Henry’s father, Hank Coleman said.

For senior forward Henry Coleman III, his journey from a bold claim as a 5-year-old to a collegiate basketball career has been extraordinary. From a driveway basketball hoop to years of dedication to the game, Henry’s poised to take on the next chapter of his life. With vision beyond the hardwood, the aspiring commissioner has big goals off and on the court.

Growing up in the Coleman household, football was the main sport, not basketball, Henry said.

“My dad played football for Virginia Tech and my uncles played football,” Henry said. “Basketball wasn’t really the first thing on their minds.”

However, Henry grew up playing and watching every sport, but gravitated towards basketball because he was always tall, Henry’s mother, Cynthia Coleman said.

“He was always growing 2 to 3 inches each year and having these growth spurts,” Cynthia said. “It became more evident as we went along that he would play basketball.”

The Colemans put a basketball hoop in their driveway, and Henry would shoot hoops for hours a day, Hank said.

“It could be raining, cold or nighttime and he would be out there,” Hank said. “When he was in sixth or seventh grade he started dunking and I came home one day and he told me he broke the hoop.”

Early in his high school years was when he started to take basketball

more seriously, Henry said. He enjoyed basketball and was a student of the game, he added.

“I was just trying to get better each and every year,” Henry said. “I focused on getting better at the little things. Once I got to college I realized everyone can shoot, everybody can score and everyone was the best player on their high school team, so I had to refocus on the little things.”

Throughout his life, Henry said his big dream was he always wanted to be a commissioner of a league or conference.

“I think it’s the coolest role in sports,” Henry said. “It’s right on the front lines, but you also get to do a lot behind the scenes working with laws and bylaws in a congressional environment.”

The whole process of being a com missioner is something he fell in love with, Henry said. He added that he’s learned a lot about the transfer por tal, NIL and health of college athletes.

“I’m just trying to be a gateway person who can communicate with my teammates about NIL or the transfer portal,” Henry said. “Mainly since I’m talking to the people who are making those laws and bylaws.”

Henry is the type of person who would be a good commissioner, Cynthia said. He is insightful and is thoughtful of the whole process and business of sports, she added.

“The opportunities coach Buzz [Williams] has allowed for him to participate in the SEC meetings and to be named to the SEC men’s basket ball leadership council has allowed him to grow his love and knowledge of the game,” Cynthia said. “We’re grateful to coach and Ross [Bjork] for seeing that in Henry and giving him those opportunities.”

One of those opportunities is meeting with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who Henry said he idolizes. It’s very special for the SEC to have Sankey in control of the con ference Henry said, with how he’s still a family man and a great person to be around.

“I’ve learned a ton and am still learning,” Henry said. “One of the biggest things when talking with commissioner Sankey is he always

talks about not being reactive, but being proactive; be a sponge of knowledge of all types of things.”

As Henry has gone through high-level athletics, he’s learned and enjoyed the process, Hank said, adding that Henry would make a big impact as a commissioner or general manager.

“Henry enjoys what sports mean to the student athletes and the community it serves,” Hank said. “With sports it brings all different social, economical and cultural groups together. Henry also can talk about any sport and we can talk about the players and the decisions the [general managers] are making and the pros and cons.”

Heading into this year’s basketball season, Henry said the team has goals of winning the SEC Champi

parents are blessed to make the trip to College Station to watch him play in a great environment at Reed Arena.

“They’ve done more than enough,” Henry said. “They took holidays off and birthdays to come see me play in this great environment.”

Entering his third year at A&M and his fourth overall in college, Henry said his parents’ support on his basketball journey through the years means the world.

“My dad is my biggest critic and my biggest fan,” Henry said. “They’ve been super supportive and if I wanted to stop playing basketball today, I know they’d support me in whatever I want to do.”


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Rogers adjusts to life in SEC after West Coast chapter

From the busy streets of Dallas to the bright lights of Southern California and the calm vibes of Eugene, Oregon, Texas A&M graduate guard Endyia Rogers has had a unique basketball journey. After experiencing city life, the spotlight and a quieter town, she now finds herself in College Station for a new chapter in her basketball story.

Rogers has always been disregarded, underestimated and undervalued, according to assistant coach Rodney Hill. This includes her time growing up in youth basketball, her high school career and her time playing college basketball.

During her time with the Trojans and the Ducks, Rogers was named to the All Pac-12 first team for three years straight. Now in her last season with the Aggies, Rogers has the goal of getting drafted into the WNBA, but not before she gets her masters in entrepreneurial leadership with the aspirations of one day pursuing a career in real estate.

Her journey to College Station was simple.

“He’s known me for years upon years because we’re from the same area of Dallas,” Rogers said. “We built a bond and he always believed in me when other people didn’t and that really meant a lot to me and we can always talk and chop it up.”

Hill began to know Rogers while she was at St. Philip’s School and Community Center, as his sister attended the school as well.

come together and get on the same page, so I didn’t feel like it was a bad fit for myself.”

Endiya Endiya

“I just wanted to be back closer to home,” Rogers said. “My family has always had to travel 1,000 miles-plus to come see me play, so I just wanted to be closer to home where my family has easier access to me, because after this it’s time for me to go to the real world and who knows where life may take me.”

Rogers has been away from home for four years, but since she has become closer to home, she said the transition from Oregon to A&M has been exciting. It also helps that the Aggies tabbed Hill, who coached her in high school, as an assistant coach this offseason.

“Our relationship is family,” Hill said. “The coaching comes second. She trusts me as somebody that cares about her, she looks at me as family and basketball comes after the relationship.”

When Rogers entered the portal this offseason, she had hesitations about coming to A&M. However, multiple factors, including the presence of Hill in the Aggies’ locker room, helped make that decision easier for her.

“When he called me, I’m just like, ‘why not?’” Rogers said. “It’s closer to home, [Hill’s] a coach on the staff, [coach] Joni [Taylor] has proven that she can win, she just needs the pieces and we have to all

A humble Rogers describes her game as a three-level scorer and she gets things done that need to get done. On the court, Hill describes her as fearless and a leader, but she’s not selfish.

“She does what it takes for her team to win, she motivates her teammates, she pushes her teammates, she challenges them,” Hill said. “She is the total package as a point guard.”

Midway through the 2023-2024 basketball season, Rogers has already made her impact felt in Aggieland. Rogers already has a season high of 27 points against LSU on Jan. 11.

Time will only tell if the transition Rogers made in the offseason will benefit her and the Aggies. However, being closer to her family and allowing her parents to come to most of her games in her last season will be important enough to her.


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Sydney Bowles’ double life as a D1 athlete and a soaring academic

Growing up, Sydney Bowles never thought she would go to school in the South. Despite witnessing coach Joni Taylor’s success at Georgia firsthand, Bowles was determined to head west.

“I don’t know where it came from,” Bowles said. “I think it was just that I had always lived [in the South] and wanted to get away.”

As a four-star recruit out of Georgia, Bowles certainly had the chance to realize her destiny. In her senior year, she averaged 21 points, seven rebounds, 4.6 assists and three steals while also leading her team to a 29-3 record and its second-consecutive Class 5A State Championship.

Despite her initial lack of interest in the Georgia Bulldogs, the connection between Bowles and Taylor and her staff stood out.

“They have always been around and coach Taylor’s staff is a real family environment,” Bowles said. “My relationship with them is amazing.

“On the court, I love the way [Taylor] coaches, obviously that’s super important,” Bowles said. “We are basketball players, but we are more than that. Everyone knows basketball is a business but it was just really important for me to have a coaching staff and a head coach where the players are a family.”

University of Georgia to be the next head coach of Texas A&M women’s basketball, Bowles’ decision to don the Maroon and White became obvious.

“Of course, Joni coming here played a factor,” Bowles said. “Going 12 hours from home is definitely something. When I came here, though, it was pretty much a no-brainer, I felt the love when I got here.”

Bowles has enjoyed her time here in Aggieland so far, as College Station became a second home away from home for her. Bowles said its

year engineering program. And most students don’t have to play SEC opponents after they finish their engineering homework.

“I beat those weed-out classes freshman year so I should be fine, it’s still challenging for sure but I still feel so much calmer,” Bowles said.

Bowles understands the challenge of having such a difficult major while also pushing herself to be the best basketball player possible. Last year as a freshman she managed to handle all of the challenges thrown at her by the professors and coach Taylor.

She acknowledges how challeng-

“We are basketball players, but we are more than that.”
Sydney Bowles
Texas A&M women’s basketball guard

A&M’s Spirit that she grew to love.

However, it was not just the Spirit of Aggieland that caught Bowles’s attention. She boasted a 4.23 weighted GPA at Woodward Academy High School in College Park, Georgia. With a clear passion for academics, Bowles planned on majoring in engineering wherever she would spend the next four years of her athletic and academic career.

“Once I saw Zachry and all the engineering buildings, that was it,” Bowles said. “Before that I didn’t even know A&M was such a highly respected or ranked engineering program, from there I was set.”

ing it is though, as the rigorous schedule is not for everyone.

“Finding time for yourself on a busy day. Having class from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. then, just a short time before you have to practice, watch film or lift weights,” Bowles said. “So make time for yourself. As a student-athlete, you pour out so much of yourself into your studies, the court and the gym. You have to find little ways to pour into yourself. That’s the most difficult and important thing.”

it is hard to do all of the school work and then bring it all on the court every day. I might be tired from classes but I gotta change my attitude.”

Bowles feels at home in Aggieland and is excited for Year 2 under coach Taylor. She averaged the most minutes on the team last year, proving to be an Ironman for the Aggies, starting every single game.

With coach Taylor bringing in four highly-ranked transfer recruits this offseason though, Bowles’ playing time, and starting position specifically, could be in question.

“That’s not my focus and I think this year we have a versatile team, I am looking forward to contributing wherever the minutes come,” Bowles said.

Whether she starts or not, Bowles knows this team is ready to bring it. She understands that A&M has a lot of really gifted players who can all rotate and get their fair share of buckets.

“We have so many talented players, I feel like anyone could start or come off of the bench, and still give productive performances in the game,” Bowles said. “We wanna give as many different looks as possible, and get as many mismatches as we can.”

Bowles understands how talented the team is and wants the fans to get ready for the jump coach Taylor’s team can make this season.

When Taylor left the

Being a student-athlete is one thing, but being an engineering major and a Division I basketball player requires a special kind of mindset., especially with A&M’s rigorous first-

Now entering her sophomore campaign, Bowles knows she as an individual has lots of room for improvement, both as a student and an athlete.

“I just want to be more consistent overall, like making shots, and having energy throughout the whole game,” Bowles said. “With my major,

“I think you’re gonna see jumps from everybody. We had a killer offseason in regards to the new mindset and workout we did,” Bowles said. “Overall you’re gonna see a much more consistent and faster team, we can go hard for longer with a lot of depth. We as a group have made a jump, I think you’ll see a jump from the Texas A&M women’s basketball team as a whole.”

LaViolette brings big bat, big goals into 2024

Jace LaViolette faced a difficult decision: Boy Scouts or baseball?

Growing up, Texas A&M’s sophomore outfielder was given a choice by his mother on what he could devote his time to. Ultimately, he went with the latter.

Safe to say that decision is paying off.

“It’s probably the best decision of my life to play baseball,” LaViolette said. “I’ve met some people throughout this game that it’s just hard to put into words how much these people mean to me. It’s been a hell of a ride.”

Fast forward to 2024, and LaViolette finds himself as a cornerstone of the A&M baseball team with high aspirations under coach Jim Schlossnagle. A return to the College World Series would more than likely have LaViolette’s fingerprints on it after his college career began with a Freshman All-American season and is projected to wrap up with an early selection in the 2025 MLB Draft.

Dreams of taking the Aggies back to Omaha are nothing new, with his baseball aspirations dating back to his childhood in Katy. Looking back, he’s already achieved several of them and is on pace to accomplish much more.

“I’ve wanted to be a Major Leaguer for, honestly, as long as I can remember, since probably t-ball,” LaViolette said. “I remember I’d go home and just sit and watch videos on YouTube of big leaguers or college baseball … for countless hours. That really kind of drove the love of the game for me even more.”

It didn’t take long for him to make his goal of playing college baseball

a reality, although it wasn’t initially apparent that it would take place in Aggieland. Rather, LaViolette opted for an SEC rival before deciding to stay home.

“I was committed to LSU under [associate head] coach [Nolan] Cain for probably three or four years, since I was 14, 15 years old,” LaViolette said. “He left LSU to come [to A&M], and I decided that it was the best decision for me to leave, decommit from LSU and come [to A&M] … I think you can’t really get a better coaching staff than what we have here, and if you want to be elite, this is where you come.”

In the meantime, LaViolette launched an impressive prep career at Tompkins High School. He capped it with a senior season in which he hit .591 with 11 home runs, 53 runs batted in, 32 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases.

Those numbers made LaViolette the highlight of the Aggies’ 2022 recruiting class and, along with a fall season that turned heads, placed the spotlight on him entering the 2023 campaign. In a scrimmage versus Lamar on Oct. 15, 2022, he hammered three home runs, including one that traveled an eye-popping 506 feet to Wellborn Road.

Such performances led to big expectations for LaViolette’s rookie year. On-field results, though, left much to be desired, as the heralded freshman found himself struggling to maintain a spot in the starting lineup while hitting at a sub-.220 clip in nonconference play.

“It sucked, honestly,” LaViolette said. “Everybody’s a normal human being, and whenever you’re going through that, you’re [doubting] yourself. You’re asking yourself, ... ‘Do I even belong in this conference? I can’t hit out-of-conference play, what am I going to do once it starts up?’”

As seeds of self-doubt began to plant themselves, conversations with Schlossnagle and the A&M coaching staff sought to keep LaViolette grounded and restore belief in himself.

“They just kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to stick with it, you’ve just gotta

keep going,’” LaViolette said. “We always talk about [how] you’re always going to come out of the bad times. You can’t just continuously, honestly, suck. You’re always going to come out of it. The biggest thing for me was I couldn’t ride the highs and lows of being good, being bad, sucking, being great … It was the greatest opportunity.”

That confidence from the coaching staff proved to pay off as it spurred a turnaround of LaViolette’s historic season. He finished the year with an A&M freshman record 21 long balls, .287 average and 63 RBI. His home run and RBI count led the team, as did his 18 stolen bases.

Or, it could have been as simple as a sweaty practice shirt.

“Halfway through the year, I started wearing my [batting practice] top after I was sweating in it … all day,” LaViolette said. “I would wear that during the game. I will say, it was a little weird. That was strange, people got on to me about it, but I was like, ‘I need it. I need to wear this.’”

Regardless of how it happened, LaViolette proved himself one of the team’s most impactful players on a roster littered with veterans. He didn’t prove his value more than in a matchup with Mississippi State last season, when he belted three home runs, including a go-ahead 3-run blast as A&M was down to its last out.

“It was no surprise to any of us,” assistant coach Michael Earley said. “I think it just is a tribute to his talent level and his work ethic and how he grew up and how he matured throughout the year.”

LaViolette’s development put the country on notice as well, earning him Freshman All-American honors from a variety of college baseball outlets. It also gave him a spot on the USA Baseball Collegiate Team, allowing him to represent A&M on a national stage.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to represent your country,” LaViolette said. “It’s hard to put into words just how much it means to me and to all the other people watching. We had a game, it was on the Fourth of July … it liter-

ally looked [like] a scene from ‘The Sandlot.’ The fireworks were going in the background … all the people in the stands started chanting ‘USA’ and I legit started almost tearing up.”

The experiences of the past year have led LaViolette into this spring, where he aims to serve as a mentor to the Aggies’ newcomers, armed with the knowledge he gained during a freshman season that was far from easy.

“I think he’s a great resource for those guys,” Earley said. “I think his experience of experiencing everything is great, and he can really pass that down to the other guys. We have other recruits like Jace with those high expectations. I think just having him around would be good for them. He’s really taken on a leadership role, and he just continues to grow up as a player and a person.”

The Maroon and White hope that leadership and experience will pay off in the form of a run through the NCAA Tournament. If you ask LaViolette, though, he’ll keep things a bit more simple.

“I’m more focused [on] just one game at a time,” LaViolette said. “What’s our first game, and after that, whenever we get there, we get there. Everybody knows what we want … It takes a lot to get there, and it takes a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of going through the lows that not everybody gets.”

LaViolette maintains that oneday-at-a-time philosophy, regardless of what his future may have in store for him. You won’t find him paying close attention to draft boards or prospect rankings. For now, he’s just enjoying being an Aggie.

“As coach [Schlossnagle] has said before, if you live in the future, it brings anxiety, if you live in the past, it brings depression, so just live in the present,” LaViolette said. “I don’t really think about playing pro ball much. I just live with what I’m doing here in Aggieland. Whenever my time comes, then I might think about it a little bit more, but until then I kind of keep a level head and just ride out what I’m doing here.”


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Youngest of three sisters, Wooley lives up to high family standards

The love of the game was instilled in last season’s leading player in batting average, triples, hits and stolen bases from her older sisters. From endless games of backyard baseball and broken windows to broken teeth, Koko Wooley has the respect of her siblings.

Her tenacity and vibrancy soon proved that she was going to move on to do great things. When Koko struggled with a health condition that caused her to have seizures when she was a toddler, her family was concerned for her and her future. But Koko was a courageous fighter, her sister Sisi Wooley said.

Koko’s sisters, Sisi and Desiree Dawson, said they could tell the

shortstop would make it to the collegiate level early on. With Koko’s college commitment happening her eighth-grade year, Sisi admitted she thought her younger sister would make it at a high level during Koko’s seventh-grade year. Dawson — on the other hand — knew much earlier.

“I knew that Koko was going to be able to play at this level at like 7 years old,” Dawson said.

Impressing Dawson and Sisi was not as easy as some may perceive. Both of Koko’s older sisters were collegiate softball players. Dawson played first and third base at Southern University. Starting at Prairie View A&M as a freshman to ending at Eastern New Mexico as a graduate student, Sisi played for four different programs as a shortstop.

Koko has started in 114 of the 115 games A&M has played since her time began as an Aggie. She has racked up accolades such as a NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Award nominee and an SEC Co-Player of the Week on April 11, 2023. Behind all of the honors, Koko was still an underclassman away from home.

“My freshman year of just learn-

ing how to fail [was the hardest] because this is a game of failure,” Koko said. “It took me a minute to learn how to fail, so that was tough.”

However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Her teammates helped her through tough times, like senior infielder Rylen Wiggins, who took on the role of big sister to Koko upon the shortstop’s arrival. Koko soon learned what it entailed after getting settled in Aggieland.

“You learn that it’s really not for you,” Koko said. “It’s for what’s on the front of your jersey. You’re doing it for your teammates, you’re doing it for the program, you’re doing it to win.”

With the passion for the game and quality that she puts out, it is no shock that Koko has a strong work ethic. After playing a majority of the 2023 season with a broken finger and still leading the team in many statistics, there is not a doubt that Koko will do anything for her team.

“She just takes everything to the chin, and she does what she has to do,” Sisi said. Her seriousness on the diamond does not always translate to the bench. While she appeared earnest at bat and earned three home runs

in her sophomore season, Koko lets loose when it’s not game time. Her pregame routine tends to consist of listening to SkeeYee and making TikToks with her teammates. From Mic’d Up videos to meet and greets with fans, Koko is unapologetically herself all the time.

“She was very active, very just all over the place,” Dawson said. “A lot of the silliness that you see in the dugout, that’s how she’s been since she was little.”

Dawson noted that Koko should never be taken as lackadaisical, rather stoic yet kind. Her dedication does not stop at softball but extends to people and the connections she has with them as well.

“She always wants people to feel welcome,” Dawson said. “She always wants people to feel at home, so I think her greatest trait off the field is that she cares about people. She’s very family oriented. She wants everyone to feel included, so I think that goes a long way with the relationships she has built all her life and even the ones that she has built at Texas A&M.”

For Cottrill, she’s no stranger to college sports. It’s a family thing

Anyone who caught a glimpse of Texas A&M softball in 2023 was well aware of the impact two-way threat senior catcher Julia Cottrill has made since her transfer from Oklahoma State after the 2022 season.

She’s now focused on one goal: making the most of her final year in Aggieland by bringing home big wins.

Upon her arrival to College Station, Cottrill exploded offensively, garnering her several individual top10 finishes in multiple categories in the SEC. She earned the No. 3 spot in RBIs, No. 4 in doubles, No. 5 in total bases and No. 7 in home runs throughout the regular season.

Julia also led the Aggies in multiple hitting categories, with 10 home runs, 12 doubles, 43 RBIs and had the highest slugging percentage at 0.636.

Not only is she known for her bat, the star catcher’s defense has come a long way since the start of her collegiate career at Florida.

“My defense definitely improved at Florida, [coach Tim] Walton is one of the best defensive coaches I have played for,” Cottrill said. “Practice was hard, we [practiced] a lot of situations that you would

not think of, but it prepared us for what [could] happen.”

Sports and softball have been a part of the Wichita, Kansas native’s life for as long as she can remember, crediting the beginning of her career to her father and grandfather.

College athletics runs in the catcher’s veins. Cotrill’s grandfather was the head coach of the Wichita State golf team for 24 years, and her father is an assistant softball coach at the University of Missouri.

“From the time I could walk, we were swinging bats or hitting golf balls,” Cottrill said. “We were all very

first and a softball player next. That was one of the biggest struggles that I faced, dealing with not always being [the most] successful and not letting that carry over into my regular life.”

After so many years in the sport, the long-term effects of practice and competing year after year pile on, Cottrill said.

“What we do is a grind, it’s hard,” Cottrill said. “Just learning to embrace the grind and fall in love with the hardships … [taught me] a good life lesson.”

Cottrill’s teammates have been her major support system throughout

“From the time I could walk, we were swinging bats or hitting golf balls.”

big [on] athletics in our family.

Julia Cottrill

“The amount of bullpens and hitting sessions they took me to or were a part of, I could never repay them for all the time they put into me,” Cottrill said. “I can definitely say that I am the player I am today because of [them].”

When discussing the biggest challenges Cottrill has faced so far in her softball career, she highlighted her experience going into college specifically.

“Separating my self-worth from my performance was a huge thing for me,” Cottrill said. “I am a person

her time in College Station.

“For a long time, I really struggled with the failure aspect,” Cottrill said. “I think allowing the pitchers to pull me out of that [mindset] and knowing that they need me just as much as I need them, has helped me not only be better defensively, but also calm myself down offensively as well. I would not have the success, or even be here withowut my teammates.”

When asked if Cottrill ever thought about the possibility or notion of one day donning the Maroon and White during her time playing in Florida, she showed strong convictions.

“No, never,” Cottrill said. “I honestly had no plans to leave, life just happened but I believe everything happens for a reason, and I am so happy that I got the opportunity to come here.”

Coach Trisha Ford played a major role in flipping the catcher’s commitment three seasons after a run-in with A&M in the postseason of Cottrill’s freshman year.

Cottrill credits assistant coach Jeff Harger for her improvements and recent development in the batter’s box.

“A lot of my problems [on offense] are mental rather than physical,” Cottrill said. “Harger’s approach has made me very physically sound when it comes to hitting.

“Where I have really felt the difference is my mentality in the box,” Cotrill said. “[He’s taught us] we are dogs, we are going out and getting the job done. I think his mindset in keeping me as level [as possible mentally] has helped me.”

After graduating college, Julia said she wants to enter into coaching and start off on a lesser stage after spending most of her softball career in the limelight.

“Personal preference, I would want to start off smaller,” Cottrill said. “Whether that is JUCO, high school or maybe even a graduate assistant at a larger program.”

When asked plainly about what individual goals are on Julia’s mind, she only had one bold response.

“I want to win,” Cottrill said. “Honestly, my only individual goal is to make it to the College World Series.”

Childhood obstacles fail to stop Stoiana’s search for title

It’s a cold, snowy night in Southbury, Connecticut, and Mary Stoiana is miserable.

The tennis court has a bubble that keeps the playing surface clear. That’s something to be grateful for. But it doesn’t keep out the winter chill — Mary just pushes herself through it.

9-11 p.m. Five days a week. For years on end.

“You have to get your practice in,” Mary said. “‘Just be grateful you even get a court.’ I remember thinking things like that.”

Mary hails from a tennis family. Val Stoiana, Mary’s father, played Division I tennis at St. John’s and later began a career as a tennis instructor. Naturally, older brother Nick and later Mary became his pupils.

“I had a built-in practice partner and a built-in coach at the start with my dad,” Mary said. “We had these tennis courts that were five minutes from our house right down the road, so we just went and played all the time. It was sort of a family thing. It was super easy to go out there and play.”

As anyone who grew up with a sibling can understand, Mary’s first goal as a kid was to beat her big brother.

“He was always there as the older brother and somebody I wanted to be as good as,” Mary said. “I wanted to copy everything he did like how siblings do. Him being there and watching

with him and always be right there with him.”

Along the way, Mary began competing in local Connecticut tournaments. Soon, she was winning them — which became a problem itself.

“Growing up and playing in Southbury, Connecticut, there’s not a lot of people learning tennis in that area,” Nick said. “As Mary and I started playing tournaments and started ascending the ranks, we began to outgrow our local competition. So when it became time for us to really have to travel across America, that’s not very cheap or even very accessible to a lot of people.”

Youth tennis is not an affordable sport. Especially at the elite level that Mary began to reach. While the Stoianas benefited from familial instruction, they didn’t have the funding for the advantages national-level players enjoyed or the tournaments they played.

“They didn’t grow up going through academies and training centers,” Val said. “They grew up with me and the opportunities I could give them.”

So the Stoianas did what they could. They were able to build successful youth careers by leveraging connections, cashing in favors, teaching tennis to earn equipment money and by learning from every opportunity they had — something Mary especially took to heart.

After one tournament in Massachusetts, Val said, Nick was eliminated and tuned out, trying to come to terms with what went wrong. Not so with Mary.

“When Mary loses, she just kind of comes back and starts watching the players who are still playing,” Val said. “She would just sit there in the bleachers and watch every single match that went on. I’m really proud of her for that, for coming back and being so focused and willing to stay the course.”

Back in the Southbury snow, Mary combines the lessons she learned with an unyielding discipline to better her skills — in conditions much less cozy than the national academies and training centers she didn’t have access to.

to do that, at a young age, that definitely helped,” Mary said.

It’s a combination that eventually brought her to the attention of the nation’s top college programs and led her to Texas A&M.

The Aggies are the first true team Mary has ever been a part of, and she’s enjoying the opportunity to be a part of a program in a sport that’s primarily an individual competition.

“Even after my time at A&M, it goes right back to individual tournaments where I’m just playing for me and it doesn’t really affect anybody,” Mary said. “It feels really cool to play for something bigger than you, and there’s so many people who care who you didn’t even think paid attention, and it’s all because we’re all wearing the A&M on our shirt.”

For the first time in her career, Mary is not struggling for resources — which means all of those long winter nights have been paying off with 2023 SEC Player of the Year, Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American honors in both singles and doubles and the 2023 ITA All-American singles championship, with the ITA No. 1 ranking to go along with it.

But one of her favorite achievements is something a bit closer to home: earning a spot in the qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open.

“That was an absolute dream come true,” Mary said. “I grew up an hour and a half from where the U.S. Open takes place in New York City, and I grew up watching it and I’d always watch the pros.”

That’s not to say Mary is satisfied. She’s got a laundry list of championships she has yet to win and accolades she has yet to earn.

And she’ll keep working towards them with the same tenacity and burning desire to win that kept her warm through years of long nights in that Southbury snow.

“She hasn’t let the success she’s had change her or change her as a player,” Nick said. “She’s always had a lot of integrity and a plan.”

Roddick overcomes hardships to rally on clay

JC Roddick’s tennis journey has had its fair share of challenges and triumphs. A junior with Texas A&M men’s tennis, JC has emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the college tennis scene, showcasing not only his athletic ability but also his determination to overcome setbacks both on and off the court.

Born and raised in San Antonio, JC’s connection to tennis runs deep within his family. However, it was his uncle, John Roddick, whose soaring career during JC’s developmental years ignited the flame of ambition within him.

JC’s “Uncle John” played a monumental role in his early tennis days. JC’s love for the game kickstarted at one of the University of Oklahoma’s summer camps when John was the head coach of the men’s tennis team. Despite residing in different states, John ensured JC received tailored training, recognizing the late start he had in the sport.

“When he got to college, he had a lot of growing to do, not so much on the court, but he had other issues where he needed to get better in school,” John said. Despite a promising start, JC faced a significant hurdle during his freshman season at the University of Central Florida. Academic setbacks led to a suspension from

the team, forcing him to reassess his priorities and make a pivotal decision about his future in tennis.

“I was kind of destroying myself because I got [into Central Florida] thinking I could do whatever I want, whenever I want, and then my uncle showed me some tough love and really told me what I needed to hear,.” JC said.

John used his unique position as a family member to be more than just a coach; he became a mentor and guided JC through the obstacles of both tennis and life.

With the help from his Uncle John and determination for a change, JC made the leap to A&M for the 2022-23 season. The change in scenery proved to be transformative, as he logged an impressive 13-5 singles record and closed out the year on a remarkable five-match win streak. His debut season in College Station was a period of growth and self-discipline.

Balancing the demands of both tennis and his studies proved to be a daunting task, but JC found support from his coaches, who created a “stress-free environment” and helped him navigate the academic challenges. Specifically, coach Steve Denton played a crucial role in JC’s journey.

“Steve Denton has been a third father figure to me, and he has helped me through a lot of challenges, behind the scenes, off the court,” JC said.

As JC aspires to play professional tennis, he chooses to focus on the present, embracing the lessons learned from his past experiences. He emphasized the importance of enjoying the journey and not worrying too much about the uncertainties of the future.

“I live in the now,” JC said.

Cansdale faces one more journey before hopping off the horse

In the 2022-23 season for Texas A&M’s Equestrian team, then-senior Cori Cansdale saw herself achieve new heights, earning NCEA Second-Team All-American honors and a spot on the All-SEC Horsemanship team.

Cansdale said she put a lot of pressure on herself to chase down the accolades and accomplishments she earned last season.

“Last year I was really all about my stats,” Cansdale said. “I was like, ‘I have to get this.’”

A change in mindset occurred for Cansdale in the 2023-24 season when the pressure of the previous season fell from her shoulders. Cansdale said she is trying to take it all in one last time before leaving since taking part in Aggie traditions and getting photos of her experiences are two priorities she set for herself this year.

“I’ve been trying to just enjoy all the moments,” Cansdale said. “I went to Midnight Yell and I’ve been to every [football] game.”

The individual accomplishments and awards are still important for Cansdale, however, team success will always come first to her.

“I’d like to be a First-Team All-American this year and make the All-SEC again,” Cansdale said. “But really, my goals this year are more team-focused. I’d love to win the SEC championship or national championship with the team.”

Going into 2024, the Aggies are No. 2 in the nation, an improvement from the fourth-place rank they held last year.

ing consistent and being ready for the spring semester and going into the postseason will really help us in the SEC and the national championship.”

Cansdale first found her passion for horseback riding through her mother who would teach her how to ride about an hour away from their home.

“My mom rode before I was born, and then being from [Laguna Beach] in California, there wasn’t a whole lot of riding there,” Cansdale said.

At the age of 16, Cansdale won the 2017 National Snaffle Bit Association (NSBA) Youth World Championships in Horsemanship and was starting to receive early interest from colleges.

“My junior year, I got contacted by different schools and started getting recruited,” Cansdale said. “I always watched everybody growing up in the collegiate world and I thought riding at this level was really cool.”

When it became time to choose where she wanted to go to school, A&M became an easy choice. Cansdale said that it wasn’t just the impressive equestrian team that set her sights towards College Station, but the traditions and culture of the school as a whole.

“I really love the traditions here,” Cansdale said. “I tried to pick a school for the school and not just for their team. If something goes wrong and you get hurt, you want to love where you’re at. I love the culture of the whole school. ”

Cansdale believes her decision paid off during her time in College Station. Her time at A&M includes not only a very successful collegiate career, but also friendships that she believes will last a lifetime.

“The people that I’ve met here I think will be in my life forever,” Cansdale said. “My coaches and just everybody I’ve met here is so amazing.”

One of Cansdale’s favorite parts of her time at A&M was learning from A&M’s equestrian head coach, Tana McKay, she said.

One last ride

her away from the pressure she put on herself last year.

“She told me that I did everything an individual could accomplish, and I should be proud of that,” Cansdale said. “That I just needed to go out there and enjoy it.”

rounded herself with in College Station.

“I’m going to miss being so close to all my friends and the community here,” Cansdale said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be at a point in my life where I can walk down the street and go hang out at a friend’s house again.”

“Everybody is riding really strong,” Cansdale said. “We haven’t had very many mistakes or anything of that nature. I think just stay-

“Working under her has been amazing,” Cansdale said. “She has so much knowledge of the sport and about the sport at a collegiate level.”

Following in McKay’s footsteps is what Cansdale has in mind for her professional career.

After college, Cansdale doesn’t plan to jump in right away.

Cansdale said that McKay helped her a lot when it came to navigating

“I want to become a collegiate coach,” Cansdale said. “That’s the plan I have in mind for now.”

Above all else, Cansdale said she will miss the people that she has sur-

“I’m going to take some time to relax,” Cansdale said. “I’ve always wanted to travel. I want to have fun before I settle down and become a college coach.”

Class is in session.

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