By: Jennifer Van Tuyl
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The expression “Everything is bigger in Texas” holds true, especially when it comes to high school sports.
The rivalry between the Amarillo High School Sandies and the Tascosa High School Rebels exemplifies that statement. The two schools are separated by a mere 3.4 miles. That distance generated more energy than usual for high school sports rivalries.
Oklahoma volleyball freshmen Brianne Barker and Caitlin Higgins played for these schools, respectively, and competed before crowds of 2,500 or more.
As youngsters, they were impatient to become high school athletes and represent their rival schools.
“I played for Tascosa High,” Higgins said. “Everyone from Amarillo came to our games and everyone at school was excited the whole week leading up to the game. It was really fun and everyone looks forward to playing it.”
“I played at Amarillo High,” Barker said. “The rivalry was so much fun and Caitlin was their best player, but we always came out on top.”
Rivals throughout middle school and high school, they were teammates for the Amarillo Elite each summer. It was here that the duo saw success as teammates, playing for a squad that had 21 top 10 finishes at the national qualifiers in seven years with the Elite.
Barker and Higgins have been playing volleyball together and winning awards since they were 12.
Barker was named the 2006 and 2007 Gatorade Texas Volleyball Player of the Year and the 2007 Andi Collins Award winner for Best Setter in the Nation.
Higgins earned MVP of the West team at the 2008 Texas Girls Coaches Association All-Star game, and earned all-tournament team honors at the USA Volleyball National Tournament in 2008.
Playing as teammates for the Amarillo Elite and for their rival high schools was not a difficult situation. It helped them grow as players.
“We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses from playing together,” Barker said. “Now we have really good chemistry. It is easy to set her. She knows where I am going to put it so it easy for both of us to be successful.”
The decision by both to play at Oklahoma was made by Barker first, but Higgins soon followed.
“Brianne picked first and she told me about it,” Higgins said. “I took a visit and I wanted to play in the Big 12 so it was a perfect fit. Plus it is only four hours away.”
Their rivalry and friendship in Amarillo was an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, wearing the same uniform colors and playing for the Sooners is just as memorable.
“We don’t have to worry about being on different teams anymore,” Higgins said. “We are on the same team for good now. And of course Brianne is really good and I want her on my team.”
“I love playing here,” Barker said. “It is very family oriented and just so much fun.”
No matter where the girls play, they have the utmost respect for one another on and off the court. Not even the rivalry could shake their friendship.
“She is amazing,” Barker said. “She can hit the ball harder than anyone I've ever seen and she has been since sixth grade. She was everything at Tascosa.”
“Brianne was everything at Amarillo High,” Higgins said. “She is a really good setter and I am lucky I had her on my team all my club years and now.”