Volleyball Insider: North Crowley feeding off last season’s success

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 03, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Friday’s key games

at 5:30 p.m.

Birdville at Joshua

at 6:30 p.m.

Hurst L.D. Bell at Martin

Trophy Club Nelson at Lamar

Aledo at Colleyville Heritage

Mans. Lake Ridge at Summit

Weatherford at Fossil Ridge

Tuesday’s key games

at 6:30 p.m.

Euless Trinity at Arl. Lamar

Birdville at Keller Central

Boswell at L.D. Bell

Arl. Heights at Irving Nimita

North Crowley at Saginaw

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About the only person not surprised by North Crowley’s upset of Justin Northwest in the first round of the playoffs last season was Panthers coach Stephanie Cunningham.

North Crowley, which rallied in the second half of district play to claim the third-place playoff spot, has picked up right where it left off in 2013.

The Panthers are out to a 14-11 start and Cunningham said the recent success of her program is giving this year’s team some loftier goals.

“And this is a pretty competitive group,” she said. “This summer, I could count on 30 players to be up here every day for workouts and off-season training. I knew when we lost in the area round [playoffs] that this team was already thinking about being better.”

For Cunningham, that meant focusing on the preseason tournaments against better competition.

Last month at New Braunfels, the Panthers held their own against five teams that made it to the area round of the 2013 playoffs. North Crowley beat New Braunfels, Langham Creek and Canyon during pool play and lost competitive matches to San Antonio O’Connor and eventual tournament champ Austin Westlake.

North Crowley returns four starters from last year’s team, but has relied on junior Taylor Williams and senior Rachel Henderson to fill the middle blocker’s role. They’ve gained confidence with setter Bailey Kim running the offense.

Outside hitters Courtney Bolf and Izzy Hinton have supplied the main production on offense.

“I think the experience of having been there is what can take us to a new level,” Cunningham said.

Stampeding Colts

Arlington’s Lauren Beard is averaging 18.5 digs per game as the Colts are out to a 19-9 start to the season. Beard’s consistency has given coach Kim Spencer some additional confidence as the district slate approaches.

“We lost some close matches, but we’ve played well and won a tournament this year,” Spencer said. “I’m not much of a scoreboard coach, but I want opponents to know that our team works hard and fights all the way to the end.”

Shades of 2012

It will be another year of seniors and sophomores at Aledo. Coach Kathy Goings was quick to point out that the last time the team had that kind of mix — two years ago — the Bearcats reached the state tournament.

“There are a lot of similarities, no doubt,” she said. “It’s been better than I anticipated. In all of the games we’ve lost, we’ve been very competitive in those games.”

The Bearcats won the 48-team Volleypaloosa tournament in Leander last month, knocking off San Antonio Reagan in the title game. Aledo also finished third at the Byron Nelson tournament and 17th at the 89-team Pearland tournament.

With five starters returning, sophomore Camryn McLelland has developed into the No. 2 hitter’s role.

“She’s in the top three or four of our offense and despite having such a young group, they’re all finding a way to play pretty well,” Goings said. “We needed someone to fill that role who could not only grow into it, but was quick. She came up last season midway through the year and is basically replacing her sister, Raygan.”

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