There has been nothing subtle about Natalie Glenn’s transition into varsity volleyball. When Southlake Carroll coach Ryan Mitchell moved the former Carroll Middle School standout to his varsity roster, everybody was all in.
“Most of the time when you bring somebody up like this, you’re going to play her for three rotations and then move her off the back row,” Mitchell said. “That was my plan. But she hasn’t stepped off the court.”
A suddenly younger and shorter Lady Dragons team needs the 5-9 freshman outside hitter to contribute. Through the first three weeks, Glenn has answered. Carroll started 14-3 before it moves into this weekend’s tournament in Plano.
She has ice in her veins. Natalie is very competitive.
Carroll head coach Ryan Mitchell
It’s rare that a freshman plays the role that Glenn occupies. The left-hander crosses up defenses with her unorthodox style of going down the line when a team expected her to cross. When she is coming from the back row, she is set up for high balls in the middle of the court. Finding the finish spot on the other side is her choice. Glenn is in the top three in digging (10.6 per match), kills (133) and blocks (15).
“When I found out I was going to be on the varsity roster in the summer, I just had to mentally prepare for it,” Glenn said. “I thought with all of the seniors on this team, I was going to be on the JV. I know most of the time when I’m going toe to toe with the other teams, I have to keep pushing. I’m probably the youngest player on the court, and I’m going to make mistakes.”’
Carroll’s season of high expectations incurred a severe blow when middle blocker Asjia O’Neal chose not to return for her senior year. The Lady Dragons lost their force in the middle and now must rely on underclassmen. This is their opportunity to take advantage.
With this smaller lineup, Mitchell changed his offense and asked his team to be savvy when it comes to blocking and other defensive assignments.
Glenn has handled the drastic move. Because she played on six rotations for her summer club team, staying on the court has become second nature. However, that’s club and going against players in her age group.
She stays on the court because of her defense. Glenn leads the team in serve receive (10.6 per match), a critical stat that can start and sustain rallies and keep teammates involved.
“I wanted her to provide depth on offense and maybe a spark,” Mitchell said. “I had not predicted she was going to be one of the main cogs. She’s proven she can play. Her ability to pass, serve, receive and attack from the back is based on her reading servers and just having a good sense of the game. She has ice in her veins. Natalie is very competitive.”
While the season is still early, there could be the concern of slump. Every player goes through it. So far, when mistakes happen, Mitchell said Glenn has pushed it aside and moved forward to the next play.
“Playing defense is harder, especially around the block,” Glenn said. “I have to stay low and try to touch every ball. I know there’s a learning curve. But as long as we’re keeping in communication, that will help us.”