Every playoff round provides a new challenge. But Carroll’s volleyball program has that certain feel to it that no one wants to discuss.
The Lady Dragons (43-3) have all of the intangibles to play the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Class 6A state tournament at the Culwell Center in Garland. They got what could be considered a sneak preview as Tuesday’s Region I quarterfinal against McKinney Boyd was played at the Culwell Center. It was the first match of a doubleheader. The second game featured Carroll coach Ryan Mitchell’s former school, Lucas Lovejoy, facing Frisco.
“If you’re going to prepare for greatness, you need to put your kids in situations where they know they can handle it,” Mitchell said. “Boyd plays a really good defensive style and is solid with ball control. It’s a different style than what we’re used to seeing.
“It’s going to challenge your patience. When you’re not seeing the success you want, you tend to go away from it and you lose your aggressiveness. That’s where you have to really stick with your game plan.”
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But the way Carroll marched through the last week offered a sense that this team can reach Garland. Carroll handled DeSoto in the bi-district round and then won a tough four-set match with Allen in the area round this past Friday. Carroll was able to handle Allen’s tremendous size with its own.
Mitchell made a calculated yet comfortable move in the match against Allen. He started off in the 6-2 alignment through the first two games and then switched to the 5-1. Mitchell has rotated between these alignments so much that his team is used to making the adjustment. It’s just that when it comes to the finality of the playoffs, it could be called a daring move.
“It was more about flow than strategy,” Mitchell said. “With the 6-2, you’re subbing a lot. We were flat in Game 2 [Carroll lost], and I thought it would be better to switch to the 5-1. Really, it was a feeling. The good thing is that we’re pretty comfortable with both.”
Mitchell rotates the setter between Lisie Kit and Sheridan Webb. Each has been very productive throughout the season. But there could be other times when Mitchell will do this again. It could have been as early as Tuesday.
“You look at the opponent and their strengths and weaknesses and you see what could work best for you,” Mitchell said. “That goes into it. We’re a versatile team so we can do a lot of different things. We’ve worked on this in practice.”
Region I tournament
If Carroll is successful moving on to the Region I tournament Friday and Saturday at Tiger Arena in Glen Rose, it would face the winner of Arlington-Arlington Lamar in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. The championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. Other teams favored to play in the other semifinal are Amarillo and Plano.
She’s just a sophomore, but 6-2 middle blocker Asjia O’Neal is becoming an offensive presence by the match. Against Allen, she had a team-high 17 kills.
“She’s really coming into her own,” Mitchell said. “Allen has great size and she was going over them. She’s gone from being a part of the offense to being a focal point it as she continues to grow with that attack mentality. Her development really sets it up for our pin hitters.”