When Jamie de Turck took over as head volleyball coach at Colleyville Heritage, she was baffled that the Panthers had never won a postseason match.
Now five years after taking over, the Panthers find themselves at No. 5 in the Texas High School Girls Coaches Association preseason state rankings.
Five teams to watch
Souhtlake Carroll: The Dragons are loaded again and a year older. Need to stay away from the bad postseason match to make a run at state.
Colleyville Heritage: The Panthers might have the most depth and the most answers at the net.
Arlington: One dominating hitter is gone, but another lurks for the Colts.
Joshua: Made big strides last year in reaching the playoffs for first time in more than two decades.
Arlington Martin: Warriors are off a rebuilding year and return a strong core of players.
Players to watch
Anna Walsh, MB, Colleyville Heritage: She’s improved over the summer which could make teams try to play away from her.
Cat McCoy, L, Southlake Carroll: McCoy committed to Texas as the season began last year. With her college choice completed, she’ll be able to show how dominant her game is.
Lauren Mills, OH, Keller Timber Creek: The SMU commit was a Star-Telegram Super Team second-team selection last season and a dominant hitter.
Lauren Nicks, OH, Arlington: Expected to improve on a .250 hitting percentage with second year in new offense.
Allison Cartwright, S, Saginaw: Had 8.86 assists per game last season, heady ball-handler.
Ainise Havili, S, Birdville: First-team all-district the last three seasons; no doubt a fourth is at hand
Landri Greathouse, S, Crowley: Moves from middle blocker to right outside hitter and can bring the heat
Its the highest ranking in school history, and with such a dramatic change in a relatively short time, it makes sense that de Turck had one more change to make.
The former Austin Peay and Euless Trinity standout, is now Jamie Siegel after tying the knot with Brian Siegel this summer.
As far as volleyball, were definitely right on track with where I wanted things to be, Jamie Siegel said. Weve crossed barriers every year, and the credit goes to the players that have worked so hard for it.
The 2013 season will be Siegels first class to have worked in her system since the seventh grade, meaning this group only knows how to improve, senior Anna Walsh said.
Its kind of strange that even though were ranked that high, we still feel like were underdogs and that motivates us, Walsh said. We still feel like we have to prove how good we can be.
How good, remains the question.
The preseason rankings are determined primarily off last seasons playoff success.
Consider the Panthers win over Southlake Carroll in the regional semifinal last year as one foundation block.
Consider the return of four starters as another.
But foundations are one thing; actually breaking through to the state tournament is something Siegel says is time for the program to accomplish.
That will start, though, with the prospect of trying to fill in for an outside hitting game that was as good as any in the state last season.
The Panthers graduated two primary hitters and that could complicate production at the net.
Included among the graduates was Star-Telegram Super Team hitter Kimmy Gardiner, who recorded 522 kills and 57 aces.
The Panthers had a .411 hitting percentage last season and were successful on 52.6 percent of their kill attempts.
Thats really an identity thing now, Siegel said. Are we going to be a scrappy, defensive-minded team or will some of these underclassmen step up and create a power-hitting game for us?
Walsh returns as the main piece in the middle that could free up the younger outside hitters.
She had 315 kills, second only to Gardiner in 2012 and 46 blocks.
Feeding the ball is setter Alex Janak, who had 676 assists and served 47 aces.
Chandler Templin is expected to fill the lions share of the outside hitting void after collecting 145 kills last season, while Maddie Jones returns as the back-row defensive anchor who had 417 digs.
For Walsh, she thinks the team has a chance to be the most well-rounded.
Weve spent the summer getting in a groove with the big difference from last season being height, Walsh said. That means we have to outthink opponents, and we have enough rotations to keep them guessing right now.
Carroll is top seed
The Dragons begin the year as the No. 1 seed in the 80-team Nike Texas Volleyball Championship tournament in Pearland.
Last seasons Class 5A champion Coppell and Class 4A champion Lucas Lovejoy are in the field.
For the first time, the championship and third-place matches will be televised live by Comcast, on Saturday.
Were always excited to play in this event against the top-level teams, Carroll coach Arthur Stanfield said. It gives us a great opportunity to get ready for the upcoming season.
Back to Garland
The Curtis Culwell Center in Garland will host the state tournament in all classifications in November.
Last season was the first year in which the Culwell Center hosted the tournament as a result of an Austin Formula One race that is now contested that weekend.
Special to the Star-Telegram
Colleyville Heritage's Anna Walsh (12) says even with a No. 5 state ranking “we still feel like we’re underdogs and that motivates us.”
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