It’s really hard to find flaws in a volleyball team that has won 24 of its first 27 matches. But that why head coaches sit in the first chair.
Still, Carroll’s Ryan Mitchell is watching his young, versatile and very talented squad become more and more comfortable in its roles, handle both the offensive and defensive sides of the net and find a way to keep opponents searching for answers. The Lady Dragons are getting there.
Carroll (24-3) finished off a perfect 8-0 week by winning the Plano tournament. Carroll dispatched of some quality opponents. One of those was Allen, which was responsible for one of Carroll’s three losses. The Lady Dragons also knocked off Austin Westlake and then upended Highland Park for the championship. Carroll wound up beating the Lady Scots twice because the two teams were in the same pool.
Junior outside hitter Haley Hallgren earned the tournament’s most valuable player honors. Sophomore middle blocker Asjia O’Neal played her way on to the all-tournament team.
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“I thought the theme for the week was that we made some major improvement,” Carroll coach Ryan Mitchell said. “Individually, the girls have really bought in to what we’re doing. The blocking was significantly better because we could alter what the other team was doing. Our setting continues to be working really well.”
And that setting rotation is not going to change. Keep looking for Mitchell to move back and forth between a 5-1 and a 6-2. For one, it makes his team a little more difficult to scout when there are quality options between juniors Lisie Kit and Sheridan Webb.
“With Lisie jump setting, it continually puts teams on the defensive,” Mitchell said. “The 6-2 gives us a bigger block. So really, I’m looking to develop two weapons. Teams have to prepare for you differently.”
Options in the middle
Senior middle blocker Elizabeth Augustini splits time in the middle with O’Neal. But her contributions have been invaluable to this point. While she’s not as tall as O’Neal – she is 6-0 and O’Neal is 6-2 – Mitchell has been counting on Augustini’s leadership and court awareness to make a difference.
“Her blocking has really improved,” Mitchell said. “While Asjia is tall and fast, Elizabeh is really smart because she can find shots on the court. You can ask her to hit it there and she’ll hit it there.
“When you have a heady, smart player, you can do a lot of things. She’s done an excellent job of siding out when you need to stop a run. Usually, there’s a lot of chaos in the middle of the court. So when you have someone like Elizabeth who can calm some things down, it makes a difference.”
Carroll has a pretty interesting week. The Lady Dragons went on the road Tuesday to play at Lucas Lovejoy and then are on the road Friday at Rockwall.
Of course, Mitchell is two years removed from Lovejoy. He coached there for eight seasons before coming to Southlake. He won five state championships there. Aside from a scrimmage, Tuesday marked somewhat of a homecoming for him. Carroll played host to Lovejoy last year.
“Our girls will be fine because they won’t internalize that,” Mitchell said. “But for me, it was eight years of my career there. There’s a lot of good memories. But it’s more nostalgic than anything.”