With new home gym, Humble aiming to break through to playoffs – Houston Chronicle

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Michelle Funderburk had some nerves when her players first stepped on Larry Johnson Court at Humble High School for their home opener a couple weeks ago.
But the Wildcats calmed Funderburk’s nerves by sweeping Brazosport in a nondistrict match to christen the school’s new gym with a victory.
“It’s always excited to have something new,” Funderburk said after the match. “It’s nice to see how our players appreciate the new gym, and they deserve it, too, after all the hard work that they have put in over the years. It’s something that we can be proud to have.”
The new gym replaces Larry Johnson Gymnasium, or as people would like to call it in Humble, “The Pit.” It was an old gym that was unique and had a lot of tradition. Now, with construction continuing at the school, it will be transformed into a library.
Picking up a win on the first night in the new gym was a nice accomplishment, but Funderburk and the Wildcats are aiming for a return to the playoffs in her 14th season at the helm of the program. Humble hasn’t advanced to the postseason since 2004.
The Wildcats enter Tuesday’s road match against Brookshire-Royal with an 11-8 record. But the team has seen a lot of recent success, going 9-3 over their past 12 matches. Humble has defeated its opponents 21-1 in sets during those nine victories.
The team will begin District 21-6A action and its quest for the playoffs next Friday at C.E. King.
“We have to take baby steps,” Funderburk said. “I know we can beat anybody because we have the players to do it. They just have to believe in themselves, even with being on varsity for the first time. We have to get those kinks out and those butterflies out, and we will be fine. We have to take every opponent serious and come out and play to win three sets to win the match.”
Funderburk expected growing pains with several underclassmen on the roster, but she has seen the improvement and development in her team early on this season.
The lone senior on the Wildcats’ squad is Micaiah Smith, who will protect the net this season. Funderburk has a great relationship with Smith and will count on her communication.
“Whenever I need something, she’s always there and gets it done,” Funderburk said. “She’s a silent leader and can get everyone together, on and off the court. She’s really great with the team, and everyone respects her.”
Outside hitters Trabrece Marbley and Amaris Marks, and setter Kylee Roberts are three sophomores who are playing key roles this season. Junior outside hitter Tevai Haiola is also a big contributor.
Funderburk has had low numbers in the program over the years. But the opening of the new gym has sparked some interest that wasn’t there before. The Wildcats will have a chance to improve to 2-0 on their home court when they host Northbrook for a nondistrict match Friday evening.
“I have actually had a lot of kids come up and they wanted to play volleyball,” Funderburk said. “I told them it was a little late, but that I can get them in later. Just hearing the chatter in the hallways saying how the kids like the gym, it brings out the school pride. I’m hopeful that more girls will want to play in this gym because it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
Marcus Gutierrez is a sports/news writer for the Observer Newspapers and The News Advocate, which he has worked since Sept. 2018. Before joining the Houston Chronicle Marcus worked at the Texarkana Gazette in East Texas and at the Victoria Advocate as a sports writer.
He graduated from the University of Houston and received his B.A. in Journalism. Marcus was a part of the Victoria Advocate’s coverage of Hurricane Harvey that received numerous awards. He was born and raised in Southwest Houston and is glad to be working in his hometown paper.


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