Just one year ago, Brock celebrated its first state title in volleyball.
At 1 p.m. Thursday, the Eagles return to the state tournament with a semifinal matchup against Schulenburg and a chance to defend their championship at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
But it was far from a sure thing that Brock (36-8) would return this year and a long way from being the same kind of team.
“I think we were underestimated by a lot of people all year long,” coach Keith Guyon said. “But when you lose four seniors and the heart of your offense that’s going to happen.”
One graduate of last year’s title team, Amy Henard, was named to the Conference USA all-freshman team this season at North Texas.
Replacing Brock’s dynamic offense fell to four players from last season’s team that are juniors this year.
“We’re still a young team, but we talked about being one of only two teams that have a chance to defend their title from last year and we’re very proud to be one of them,” Guyon said.
Hitters Kanyon Klein and Bailey Snow have filled in just fine for Brock. Klein has 559 kills and a .327 hitting percentage, and Snow has 533 kills.
Where Guyon said Brock might quietly be stronger is in the middle of the net. Middle blocker Sabra Washington has 232 kills and 52 blocks this season.
“Defensively, when we we lose what we did with that caliber of players, we’re just not going to be as good as we were last year, that’s just the way it is,” Guyon said. “But this team has tremendous character and heart, and that’s where the comparisons from last year’s team are the same.”
Guyon said despite being perceived as the fourth seed in the state tournament, his players are only focused on the semifinal ahead.
“We don’t have to play perfect games to win, we just need to play consistently,” he said. “Consistency has been a nemesis for us this year. We’ve played incredible matches against the best in the state and then play a game where we have a bunch of unforced errors. When we make a team work for points, we’ve got a shot at winning.”
Southlake Carroll rolls into its first state semifinal since 1998 at 5 p.m. Friday. After a straight-set win over Colleyville Heritage in the Class 5A Region I final, it appears the Dragons (46-1) are peaking at the right time.
And with no better barometer than Carroll’s hitting percentage of .274, which is second only to The Woodlands’ mark of .294.
Carroll’s ability to make the most of its offensive chances is one reason the Dragons will face San Antonio Churchill.
“You can’t go in cocky and you really have to approach it understanding that if you do your job and everyone else does theirs, we can get through anything,” outside hitter Timarie Nymeyer said. “Our best attribute is that we mix it up a lot, we don’t run the same thing over and over or rely on one person.”
Getting through Churchill means a likely matchup with The Woodlands in the state title game. The Highlanders (43-0) defeated Southlake Carroll this season in the championship match of the Pearland tournament.
The Decatur Eagles (39-7) will play Big Spring at 1 p.m. Friday in a 3A semifinal, their first trip to the state tournament.
Overcoming Argyle had been the team’s obstacle.. Decatur lost twice in the regular season to Argyle before winning the regional quarterfinal.
“They just outplayed us in the regular season,” Decatur coach Claire Benedict said. “We didn’t play all of our starters in either match, but we got the win when we needed it most.”
Makayla Mayfield leads Decatur into the state tournament with 492 kills this season, and setter Stormi Leonard has 1,296 assists.
“One of our strengths is being able to move the ball around, and we don’t rely on just one player,” Benedict said. “We were much more of an underdog last season, but we really packed our nondistrict schedule with tough teams to get prepared.”