By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
In the early days of fall practice, a source of inspiration rolled around the MacArthur Center in a wheelchair, displaying a radiant smile and doling out practical expertise.
Annett Davis, The Master’s University’s indoor women’s volleyball assistant coach, ruptured her patellar tendon shortly before the start of the 2019 season. After surgery, she returned to practice within a week, even if she couldn’t stand on her own two feet.
The perseverance she displayed — and inspiration she offered — went a long way in her selection as an American Volleyball Coaches Association Regional Assistant Coach of the Year in December.
She was also the Golden State Athletic Conference Assistant Coach of the Year.
“It was so inspiring,” senior middle blocker Jane Cisar said of Davis coming to practice so soon after surgery. “It was a huge testament to her character and drive. She was dedicated to us and that was very encouraging.”
Said senior Regan Tate, “I don’t know that we were surprised, but it definitely got us all excited for the year. It made us want to do well on her behalf, to honor the sacrifice she was making.”
Davis — the head coach of TMU’s inaugural women’s beach volleyball team this spring — joined the school’s indoor squad as an assistant in 2018 because it was the kind of opportunity she had long been looking for.
After a hall-of-fame career with UCLA’s indoor women’s team and an extensive professional career on the beach — highlighted by a fifth-place finish at the 2000 Sydney Olympics — Davis had wanted to enter the realm of coaching. So, when the chance to work at a Christian school near her home in Valencia opened up, she jumped at it.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” she said, “… being able to encourage people in their faith is something I love. I love discipleship. I’m still a mom (of two) of course, and being close to home was important, too.”
In Davis’ first season assisting indoor head coach Allan Vince, the Mustangs won the first Golden State Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles in program history and advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the first time in five years.
Preparing for year two, Davis was playing beach volleyball this summer (so she’d be in shape to train against TMU’s indoor team) when she ruptured the patellar tendon in her right leg.
“Basically it ripped off the bone,” she said.
Vince’s first thought: “How am I going to do this on my own?”
As it turned out, he didn’t have to. After having surgery on Aug. 1, Davis rejoined her team one week later.
“I didn’t want to miss any of it,” she said. “The injury happened around the time of our team retreat, and I was trying to think how I could make it to the retreat. Of course, I couldn’t. It wasn’t like they needed me. I just enjoy it so much that I wanted to be there for the girls and help in whatever way I could. Even if it was just talking to them from the sidelines, even if I couldn’t jump and hit.”
From her wheelchair, Davis was still able to provide Mustang players with one of the things they value most from her. “She was really good with critical feedback,” Cisar said.
Progressively, Davis was able to leave the wheelchair behind, primarily relying on crutches and eventually standing comfortably in a knee brace.
Davis never fully competed against her players the way she had the year before, but by the end of the year she was able to serve and climb on a box so she could spike volleyballs at them during defensive drills.
“She stayed consistent and committed despite her own personal pain and physical ailment,” Vince said. “She never complained and constantly gave her best at practice. Her attitude was awesome.”
After the Mustangs finished 18-12 in the fall, Davis turned her full attention to a new challenge: coaching the school’s first beach volleyball team. The Mustangs have 13 players, six of whom played indoor in the fall, and will take part in their first official match on Feb. 13 at Hermosa Beach against Marymount California University.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” Davis said. “Beach volleyball is relaxed, but it’s not at the same time. It’s different obviously because now I’m in the head coach role. … When I was indoors, I would talk some, now every day the girls laugh at how funny I am. They are getting to know my personality. I am cut and dried and straight to the point. It’s been neat for the indoor girls to see that side of me and for me to be the one in charge is different, but it’s fun.”
Men’s basketball earns crucial win
The No. 2-ranked Mustang men’s basketball team beat No. 15 Hope International, 89-61, on Saturday at TMU.
Tim Soares and Darryl McDowell-White each scored 19 points to lead the Mustangs (14-1), who built an early 15-3 lead and remained in control throughout the night.
Santa Clarita Christian grad Jordan Starr added 14 points and six assists for Master’s, which will play its next three games on the road before returning home Jan. 23 to play Vanguard University at 7:30 p.m.
Women’s basketball stays unbeaten
The No. 3-ranked Mustang women’s basketball team moved to 16-0 Saturday with a commanding 97-51 win over Hope International at Master’s.
TMU is now one win shy of matching its best start to a season since at least 2002-2003.
Valencia grad Sabrina Thompson scored a game-high 17 points, and 6-foot-6 sophomore Stephanie Soares added 15 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.
After three road games, the Mustangs will play at home again on Jan. 23 against No. 5 Vanguard at 5:30 p.m.
For more information on Master’s Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.