We would like to congratulate our 2021 USAV Meritorious Award Winners in the Great Plains Region! Awardees are Fono Fisaga, Lois Hixson, Jack MacLean, Sue Mailhot, and Steve Morgan. Thank you all for your significant contributions to the sport of volleyball in the Great Plains Region!
Named in honor of Robert L. Lindsay, the eighth president of USA Volleyball, 1981-1984, and a former regional commissioner, who was instrumental in the success of the national-team-in-residence program in the 1980s. This program set a new standard for all National Governing Bodies in the United States.
This vehicle recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to volleyball at the local, regional, national and/or international levels through USA Volleyball or one of its Affiliate Organizations. The award is administered by USA Volleyball Regions and Affiliated Organizations.
Fisaga's volleyball career began while he was stationed at Eielson AFB near Fairbanks, Alaska. While there, he refereed high school volleyball in Fairbanks, AK. Fisaga also officiated college volleyball for the University of Alaska Anchorage and Fairbanks. While there, he became a member of the USA Volleyball Alaska Region.
In 1986, Fisaga and his family moved from Alaska to Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Here, he met Sue Mailhot and helped her to build the OMNE volleyball organization in Omaha, where he became a member of the Great Plains Region Volleyball organization.
He received his Junior National officiating certificate in 1993 at Kansas City, and his USA National in 1998 at the University of Texas. Fisaga received his PAVO National in 2009.
Since then, Fisaga has been very active with refereeing volleyball for the City of Bellevue, the Great Plains Region, the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA). For collegiate volleyball, he has been an officiating member in the following conferences: Big 12 Conference, Missouri Valley Conference, Atlantic Ten Conference, Northern Sun Conference, MIAA Conference, and the ICCAC Conference. He also officiates the collegiate Men’s League.
Lois Hixson has been active in the world of volleyball for the past 31 years. Her coaching career began at Clearwater High School for one year, Chambers High School for 12 years and currently in year 18 at Aurora High School. While at Chambers, she coached junior high and varsity teams at the same time for 11 seasons. She has enjoyed being an assistant coach for 5 years and a head coach for 26 years. As a head high school coach, Lois reached a personal coaching milestone this past season with win #500.
Coach Hixson feels fortunate to have worked with many talented and hard-working athletes. As a result of player dedication, Lois has guided teams to 4 conference championships, 12 state tournaments with two semi-final appearances and 4th place finish in 2008. Traditionally, Aurora is one of the smallest schools in Class B, and it has been rewarding to consistently be rated in the top 10 at the end of each season.
The Aurora VB program has celebrated eight athletes who have continued to play at the collegiate level and has included four Division I players.
Providing opportunities for volleyball athletes to compete has been a priority for Coach Hixson.
Fundraising for Aurora VB is highlighted by hosting a youth tournament each year in October. Each summer she organizes a fundamental camp and invites college coaches to conduct the satellite camp in Aurora so all players can attend. During the summer, area schools look forward to competing in the Aurora Team Camp. Aurora VB Coaches and players also enjoy hosting the Little Diggers youth camp which provides a mentoring connection with future Huskies.
During the club season, Lois has worked with local families to organize teams in grades 4 – 8 with the Net Force volleyball club for the past 15 years. In addition to this local club, Coach Hixson has been involved with the South Central regional volleyball club as a coach for six years and more recently as a co-director for the past 12 years. South Central is blessed with passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated central Nebraska coaches who truly desire to help each player reach their potential. This club has grown from organizing nine teams in 2009 to a record 20 teams for the 2021 season with players driving from a 100 mile radius of Aurora to participate.
Coach Hixson has been selected to coach in five all-star matches at Northeast Community College, Hastings College and as an assistant coach at the Nebraska Coaches Association match in 2010. Eight Aurora players have had the opportunity to participate in the NCA match. Lois has served on the all-star selection committee for the past ten years and served as the volleyball sport host for the 2019 NCA clinic.
In addition to volleyball, Lois enjoys teaching business education classes and being an FBLA adviser and serves on the Nebraska FBLA State Board of Directors.
Coaching volleyball is truly a family affair and Lois is grateful for the support of her husband Willie, and three daughters, Kaci, Kori and Kiley, who have called her “mom”, “teacher” and “coach”.
Jack MacLean has been playing volleyball for 18 years & coaching for 8. He's only 26. In the last two years Jack has coached High Flyers boys volleyball teams to two consecutive USA Bids. This includes a 1st place finish this year at the Dennis Lafata National Qualifier in St. Louis; along with a #12 National Power Ranking. As a High Flyer, Jack was a part of the first boys team from Nebraska to earn an Open bid to Nationals. Jack has either played on or coached every boys team from Nebraska, the Great Plains Region, to earn a bid to Nationals, all High Flyers. You could say that Jack MacLean is the face of boys volleyball in Nebraska!
Starting at the age of 8, then 8 years of club volleyball, through a collegiate career at McKendree University, and now as a coach, Jack has seen it all. At McKendree, he was part of the inaugural DI/II program that is now ranked in the top 10 nationally. In his club years, with only 6 players on the team, and no other teams in the region, the High Flyers had to travel the nation to find other boys' competition. Volleyball for Jack has been a passion and a lifelong struggle to pursue, but worth every minute. He has been an outspoken advocate for the sport and played (literally) a pivotal role in the rise of boys volleyball in Nebraska and the Midwest.
For 17 years, the pursuit of competitive boys volleyball in the Great Plains Region has been a labor of love for the MacLean's and High Flyers Volleyball Club, and Jack has been there every step of the way. As a current & former player and as a coach, Jack has epitomized the grass-roots level of talent and commitment necessary to grow the sport.
Sue Mailhot got her start in volleyball as an athlete in high school. While attending college, she started playing coed volleyball, where she found she could officiate and make some money on the side. Thus, began her officiating journey. Mailhot started officiating high school volleyball in 1976. (Volleyball became a recognized high school sport in Nebraska in 1973.)
She had a close friend who started officiating with her. After each match, they would dissect every play to see if there was anything they could have done better. They were never formally trained, but worked hard with the limited resources they had and worked to do the best job they could. They made it a point to attend any training session they could find and sought out the advice and input of more experienced referees.
After a few years, they realized that new high school officials were not offered any training. Therefore, Mailhot and her friend started offering training sessions to anyone who wanted to listen and attend. After a few years, Mailhot became the Officials Chair for club volleyball, which includes training for both referees and scorekeepers. Along the way, Mailhot also obtained as many certifications as possible in all three rule sets (USA Volleyball, collegiate, and high school).
A few of Mailhot's many accomplishments include:
1976 – Present volleyball referee at various certification levels.
1997 – 2019 Great Plains Regional Commissioner (For 22 years).
2003 – 2008 RVA representative to USA Volleyball Board of Directors.
2011 – 2018 Officials representative to USA Volleyball Board of Directors.
Steve Morgan started his career teaching elementary P.E. in Ogallala’s public schools from 1968 until 1971, when the U.S. Army drafted him into service. Morgan was assigned to a military police unit at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri — where a member of his unit had recently been cut from the U.S. national men’s volleyball team. That’s where Steve fell in love with the sport and brought it back to Ogallala after being discharged in 1973. He took over the newly developed Ogallala volleyball program in 1974, where he and his players touted a 15-3 record and won their first district title. He then went on to achieve a career record of 984-217, 35 conference championships, 30 state tournament appearances, three state titles (1975, 1983, 2000), four state runner-up finishes (1988, 1992, 1994, 1995) and was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Steve Morgan never had a losing season in 45 years of coaching. He runs a successful volleyball camp program that he started in 1977 and continues today. While having many “club teams” over the last 30 years of his career he formed the Nebraska West club program officially in 1992 with former Husker National Champion and assistant Creighton Blue Jays coach, Angie Oxley Behrens as one of its first players. He passed the director title and operations of the club to his former player and assistant coach, Rachel Ervin, in 2020, but remains involved in the activities of all the clubs’ athletes.
Countless girls from the Ogallala Program under the teachings of Steve went on to play and coach at a higher level in everything from JUCO to Division 1 at UNL, Kansas, Alabama, Texas and Georgia to name a few. The word legend is spoken often when referring to volleyball greats but is no more deserving than by this man, Steve Morgan.