UPDATE: Carroll will face off against Allen at 7 p.m. Friday at Flower Mound Marcus in the Class 6A Region 1 area playoffs.
Rankings do carry their impact. But it’s what happens in three weeks at the Class 6A state volleyball tournament in Garland that justifies them.
Carroll (41-3, 12-0) recently moved into the No. 1 spot of the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 6A poll. The Lady Dragons won the outright District 7-6A championship by sweeping Coppell and then defeated Dripping Springs, the No. 1 Class 5A team, in four games this past Saturday at Waco Midway.
They were prohibitive favorites against DeSoto on Tuesday at Arlington High School. Had they won, they would move on to the area round to face the winner of Allen-Keller.
“We’ve just been playing a really clean and fast game,” Carroll coach Ryan Mitchell said. “The tempo was really good. What I like is that we were able to execute and have a combined effort as we’re going into the playoffs.”
Mitchell has seen some strong performances from senior libero Brayden Gruenewald. Her mechanics securing the ball and enabling the offense to get into a rhythm have been evident. Junior setter Lisie Kit is averaging 8.0 assists per game and had 43 against Coppell.
Carroll’s offensive has been very consistent with kills evenly distributed between its outside hitters. Junior Haley Hallgren leads with 298. Senior Megan Porter is second with 281. Senior Remy Fairchild is third with 278. Sophomore blocker Asjia O’Neal is fourth with 260 to go along with 93 blocks.
Mitchell has put his team in playoff mode in that rotations have narrowed as well as working on different plays. The program wants to advance to the state tournament Nov. 18-21 at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. Amarillo eliminated Carroll in the 2014 Region I semifinals.
“This team has taken the mindset that it wants to get better,” Mitchell said. “The match against Dripping Springs was a good opportunity to test our blocking and work against a team that had some great weapons. We were able to work through some adversity and come out on top. It was great preparation for the playoffs.”
No surprise, Region I stout
While Carroll has advanced to the state playoffs, it will be a major feat just to get to the state tournament. Region I is arguably the deepest in the state. Amarillo, which went on to the 2014 state tournament, is in the field.
There are other powers in McKinney Boyd, Lewisville Hebron, Plano, Abilene and Allen. Of course, Coppell, a recent two-time state champion, should not be overlooked. In the TGCA Top 30 Class 6A state rankings, Allen is No. 10, Amarillo is No. 13, Coppell is No. 15, Abilene is No. 17, McKinney Boyd is No. 24 and Plano is No. 27.
Playing in the preseason Allen and Plano tournaments were by design. Coaches like Mitchell, who anticipate taking their teams to the postseason, want to see potential postseason competition.
“All of these teams are good enough to go to state,” Mitchell said. “But you have to be playing your best volleyball. I feel like we’re hitting our stride as the right time. We’re doing the little things well.”
Carroll reached the 40-win plateau for at least the fourth consecutive season. Given the heavy number of matches played in August with tournaments, that win total is the new benchmark for state championship contending programs. “It means that you’re doing something right,” Mitchell said. “You don’t take this things for granted. It’s hard to win.”