By CFISD Communications
CYPRESS — In front of friends, family, coworkers and both current and former players, Cy-Fair High School’s Donna Benotti, the school’s longtime volleyball coach, captured her 700th career win as a head coach.
The journey spans her time as both a college and high school head coach, and culminated Friday (Aug. 10, 2018) at home against Katy Taylor in the Katy-CyFair Volleyball Classic.
Her current team did its part to set up the moment, sweeping three opponents Aug. 9 on the tournament’s opening day. That brought the total to 699 career wins, and got many supporters working their phones and social media networks to make sure those that could attend the historic morning match would be in attendance.
“We keep in touch so I knew this was coming,” said Kenisha Milo, who played for Benotti from 1997-1999 at Texas A&M-Kingsville. “I wasn’t going to miss this. When she told me, I said ‘Oh, I have to take off work.’”
Said Benotti: “Those kids capture my heart. When you get into coaching, you enjoy the competition, but the kids are what make the job worthwhile. I’ve made great relationships with my kids over the years and been very fortunate to be able to keep in touch. Social media has helped me stay in touch with the kids over the years, be a part of their lives and different events and milestones.”
Katy Taylor pushed the Bobcats, but Cy-Fair took care of business for a 25-17, 25-18 win. Cy-Fair administration and staff stood and applauded. Parents and former players snapped photos and filmed videos.
Flowers made their way toward Benotti just as a banner commemorating the moment was unveiled. Then came the announcement, proudly proclaiming this early morning tournament win was the 700th victory in Benotti’s head coaching career.
“This really does mean something,” Benotti said. “With most of my (milestone wins), we’ve never really celebrated. In fact – with No. 500 – we didn’t realize we flew past it until the end of the season. Last year, we hit 500 (career wins) at Cy-Fair and we didn’t even know it either.
“They are nerve-wracking and you don’t want it to be about that, but we thought there might be an opportunity and I did want to celebrate one in my career.”
Benotti began her coaching career following her playing days at Whitehouse High School and Henderson State University.
Described as an “energetic fireball” by her high school coach, neither Benotti nor her mentor knew coaching was the eventual path. But Benotti’s success as a player quickly carried over into coaching.
“I’m just thrilled that I was able to come, be here and support her,” said Susan Wade, Benotti’s coach at Whitehouse. “She was a fantastic player and I’m just thrilled to be able to see her success.”
Said Benotti: “I had an amazing college coach too – Rhonda Thigpen – and pretty much knew all through college that that’s what I wanted to be. I knew that pretty early.”
As a graduate assistant at Henderson State, she helped the team reached the 1993 NAIA Final Four. She went to Cedar Valley College the next year, winning consecutive conference titles in 1995-1996 and making a NCJAA Final Four appearance in 1996.
Benotti moved on to Texas A&M-Kingsville where she twice posted seasons of 20-plus wins. Milo became the second player during Benotti’s tenure to be inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame.
A job transfer for Steve Benotti (Donna’s supportive husband) brought the family to the Houston area. Donna thought it was a pitstop in her career, but 19 years later, she is still leading the Bobcats.
“I fell in love immediately and just knew that this was my home,” she said.
Benotti’s run at Cy-Fair includes nine regional tournament appearances, including six straight from 2005-2010. The Bobcats reached the state tournament in 2007.
“She was hard on us but that made us who we are,” Milo said. “Not just as players but the people we are today. If you can endure going through seasons like that and four-a-day (practices), then the world is easy when you get into it.”
Said Benotti: “I never envisioned this. I just feel like I have the best job in the world. I love what I do, I love the competition and I love being in kids’ lives. I never really thought about the wins, but then we looked up, started adding them up and realized we were getting up there.”
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