For exactly one year, Southlake Carroll's volleyball team has been looking to the second round of the 2012 state playoffs.
It was in that position a year ago that an upstart Grapevine team handed the Dragons their only defeat of 2011. It was a devastating loss for a team that entered the match at 44-1 and had state title hopes.
"It's no secret, there's no question that team underachieved," Carroll coach Arthur Stanfield said. "It's been on the mind of these girls since that day. It's still possible we could lose, but I know we're in a better frame of mind and ready to play."
After dispatching North Crowley in straight sets in the bi-district match Tuesday, Carroll (45-3) faces Amarillo Tascosa (26-15) in the second round at 6 p.m. Friday at Vernon High School.
Stanfield pointed out in September that early success wasn't necessarily indicative of how well a team would perform.
"The measure of success is the playoffs and you can blame last year on me, the players, whomever," he said. "But when you get through each round, you're going to find players bigger and faster, the level of competition greater."
Stanfield said he feels this year's team has overcome last year's underlying ills, when, he noted, only one outside hitter took the great majority of offensive swings at the net.
This year, Carroll's offense is more dynamic and balanced.
"Statistically, we're fairly even with everybody throughout the offense, and when you rely on just one player to take the majority of your offense, you're subject to that night where she has a bad night," Stanfield said. "Well, the one night she was off, was the night we could least afford."
Junior libero Cat McCoy has continued her dominance this season on the back row, and Stanfield said he's not concerned at all about Carroll's ability to play defense.
Colleyville Covenant (27-2) plays in the Class 3A TAPPS semifinals Friday in San Antonio. It's a goal coach Amy Hickman's team has targeted since last season.
Covenant, however, made things interesting.
Winless through three matches and playing a blistering nondistrict schedule, Hickman said the early losses were a great exposure of things Covenant needed to shore up.
"We played a bunch of 4A teams in a few tournaments early," she said. "But we got through that and learned a lot about the kind of team we are. I'm thrilled with how hard they've worked and what we're doing."
Covenant meets Flower Mound Coram Deo at Antonian College Prep at 2 p.m. Friday. It's the first time Covenant has been to the final four since 1998.
Covenant is riding an 18-match winning streak, sweeping through the district schedule undefeated.
Hickman said the main reason for such success is the emergence of a multifaceted offense, anchored by freshman setter Molly Cotten.
She has two weapons in outside hitter Brittany Curran and middle blocker Macey McCormick, who have dominated defenses.
"It's just a situation where she has options, and defenses have to choose something to focus on," Hickman said. "We're not one-dimensional anymore and we're peaking at the right time."
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