For a moment during warmups, coach Vance Millican thought he was going to have to alter his starting lineup when his Harper girls basketball team hosted Center Point on Jan. 10.
Earlier that day, five of his nine varsity players showed animals in the Gillespie County Youth Livestock Show. Four of them (Whitney Spaeth, Emily Seewald, Emily Freitag and Gracie Green) made it back in time for the game, no problems. Senior Callie Koenig, however, was one of the last participants to showcase her chickens during the event; Millican figured she might miss tipoff.
Koenig’s mother ensured that didn’t happen. Koenig didn’t want to disclose how fast her mom was driving on Highway 290, but admitted she had likely exceeded the speed limit. Koenig arrived at Harper’s gym in the middle of warm-ups and promptly scored six points to help the Lady Longhorns earn a 73-14 victory over the Lady Pirates.
“She got me to the game on time and I’m alive,” said Koenig, laughing. “All is good.”
Welcome to a day in the life of a Harper athlete, who is expected to juggle multiple sports with extracurricular activities. Koenig plays volleyball, basketball, and softball and does cheerleading. Her senior comrade, Green, also competes in all three sports and is a perennial participant in the 100 meter hurdles in the state meet in Austin.
Neither complains about her workload; it’s all they’ve known.
“The coaches make it easy,” Green said. “They get you everywhere you possibly can. They want you to be involved in everything.”
Green and the Lady Longhorns aren’t just involved with everything, they also excel at everything they do, too. In the fall, Koenig and Green were team captains on Harper’s volleyball team, propelling the Lady Longhorns to the regional tournament for the first time since 2014.
This winter, they have the basketball team on track to experience a special season. The Lady Longhorns (22-5) will try to earn a signature win on Friday when they host district foe, San Saba (28-3), the No. 4 ranked team in the state.
There are myriad reasons the Lady Longhorns have thrived this season. Millican has won more than 400 games in his 22-year coaching career. By now, he knows how to inspire players to consistently give their best effort. Green and sophomore Kylie Wolsey are a formidable duo in the post; Koenig, Talli Millican and Rachel Perkins are dynamic guards. And the Lady Longhorns have built a strong bond after spending the last few years
playing multiple sports together.
But perhaps the biggest reason for their success is the expectation that is always hovering over the program. The Lady Longhorns work hard every day in every sport, because they know everyone in the community expects them to win.
“They just have an expectation to win when they step on the court, whether it’s basketball, volleyball or softball, or track,” Vance Millican said. “That culture has been created here, and they want to live up to it. … I put the way our girls work up against anybody. They work hard on the court. They work hard in the classroom. They work hard in the weight room. They are just all-around good girls.”
If you would have told Vance Millican 10 years ago he would be coaching girls basketball, he would have been skeptical. For 20 years, Harper’s athletic director was happy coaching boys. But at the beginning of last season, he decided to take over the girls basketball program, because he wanted to witness his daughter’s high school basketball career.
At the time, Talli Millican was in eighth grade. Vance Millican knew that if he continued coaching Harper boys, he would miss a lot of his daughter’s high school basketball games.
Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to spend much time trying to establish a winning culture — the expectation was already there. The Lady Longhorns wanted their coach to push them to be their best.
Green and Koenig share the same goal: They want to go on another deep playoff run before they graduate. They’ve been to the regional tournament when they were sophomores; they went to the regional tournament in volleyball a couple months ago. They want to taste similar success in basketball.
“People are asking all the time if we are ready for softball, but we are like, ‘We are in basketball now,’” Koenig said. “Our coach has been far (in the playoffs) when he coached boys. We know he can get us there. We just have to put in the work.”