Northeast Tarrant

Lady Panthers, Mustangs vie for top of district

It usually plays out that a sequel can’t match up to the original. There’s just something about the magic that made the first one so special.

But that usually ties into the movies, television shows or books. In volleyball, sequels can be better.

Colleyville Heritage (30-8, 11-0 District 8-5A) travels to Grapevine (29-13, 10-1) on Friday for a 5:30 p.m. start where the district championship is the prize. If Colleyville Heritage wins, the Lady Panthers collect the trophy. If Grapevine wins, the Lady Mustangs create a tie atop the standing. In all likelihood, the teams would finish as co-champions.

Of course, these teams, which have already clinched playoff berths, had to win on Tuesday to get there and were expected to do that. Grapevine played Fort Worth Polytechnic. Colleyville Heritage met Fort Worth Dunbar.

But Grapevine has to cast aside the frustration of the first meeting on Sept. 27 at Colleyville. Grapevine won the first two games but couldn’t close. The Lady Panthers stormed back and won the next three.

Eerily, it was the same scenario as it was in the 2015 5A Region I final against Canyon Randall. Grapevine won the first two and watched Randall rally to move on to the state tournament.

“One of our seniors told the players after that Heritage match that this is exactly what it felt like after the Randall match,” Grapevine coach Whitney Woody said. “You could see how painful it was for them, because it seemed like they were reliving it.”

When the Lady Mustangs came to work on Saturday, there seemed to be a different look and focus, Woody said. What she wanted this team to do was get away from playing in a comfort zone where it was acting at the same speed and that they needed to look at playing for both power and placement.

“We were one-dimensional the first time we played,” Woody said. “But when we talked, we also discussed about some of the personalities stepping forward and taking charge. It was eye opening.”

Colleyville Heritage’s chances likely will be determined by how well Lauren Evans plays. If she is connecting, she augments what other benchmark players are delivering, including Tatum Ticknor.

Head coach Bri Barker-Groth noted that in the first Grapevine match Evans wasn’t as effective in the first two games, but then raised her game to a different level.

“When she’s on, we’re on, and when she’s off, we’re off,” she said. “She’s been one of the keys to our team.”

Carroll update (35-6, 10-1 District 5-6A): This is separation week for the Lady Dragons. They played host to Flower Mound on Tuesday and play host to Northwest Byron Nelson on Friday, the two teams chasing them in the district standings.

Of course, Carroll had to deal with disappointment and recover from the five-game loss to Lewisville Hebron on Oct. 11. The teams began the week tied for the district lead.

“We had our 24 hours, but then they got back to work to get better,” head coach Ryan Mitchell said. “They were disappointed. They weren’t devastated.”

The one concern is this team’s defensive block. It’s not been consistent throughout the year and has to be at a higher level, Mitchell said.