Northeast Tarrant

Lady Dragons return to state tournament, first time in 5A

Carroll's return to the UIL state tournament came perhaps two years behind schedule, as far as head coach Arthur Stanfield was concerned.

The Lady Dragons (48-1) meet San Antonio Churchill (46-2) in the Class 5A semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday at the Culwell Center in Garland. Should Carroll win, the Lady Dragons will face the winner of The Woodlands (43-0) and League City Clear Falls (40-6). Those teams play at 7 p.m.

Stanfield thought he had the team in 2011 to make the run but it was upset in the area round by Grapevine. In 2012, the Lady Dragons lost in the Region I semifinals to Colleyville Heritage.

But the lessons learned in postseasons past may have been the most valuable. Carroll drew from the frustrations and won in three sets in the Region I quarterfinal match with Arlington, Region I semifinal with Lewisville Hebron and Region I championship with Colleyville Heritage. Carroll took home the Region I title 25-19, 25-19, 25-23.

Carroll last made the state tournament in 1998 as a Class 4A school, when it lost to Dumas in the state championship match.

“The thing we had to do is change the culture with volleyball,” Stanfield. “It was a laid back, don't rock the boat kind of situation for the program. They just didn't work as hard. With all of the girls playing club, you could have any coach come in here and win 30 matches because the girls all knew what they were doing. But I just decided that I was going to do what it took to get us through the playoff struggles.”

State tournament reunion

Maybe it's fate, coincidence or a product of these programs playing their best throughout the year.

Carroll has faced The Woodlands, Churchill and Clear Falls. But those matches seem like a lifetime ago, because they were in August. Before they opened the season at the Pearland Tournament, Carroll defeated Clear Falls 25-22, 21-25, 21-25, 25-17, 18-16. In Pearland, Carroll defeated Churchill 25-17, 25-23 but lost to The Woodlands 17-25, 28-26, 25-20.

In the Churchill match, one of Churchill's outside hitters was unavailable. Against The Woodlands, senior outside hitter Katie Martin didn't play because of a sprained ankle.

Stanfield said the way the semifinals were set was that The Woodlands was seeded No. 1 because it was undefeated and Carroll No. 2 because it had one loss. As for Clear Falls and Churchill, Stanfield said UIL officials flipped a coin to determine who played who. Ironically, the Carroll-Churchill matchup is like No. 2 playing No. 3 and No. 1 The Woodlands playing No. 4 Clear Falls.

On a roll

Carroll is streaking into the state tournament because of strong play from senior libero Cat McCoy, Martin and senior middle blocker Timarie Nymeyer. Nymeyer had 10 kills in the win over Colleyville Heritage.

Stanfield said he's trying to get updated tape on the other three but said the key to Carroll's success will be this squad staying faithful to its system. However, in Carroll's loss to The Woodlands, the Lady Dragons gave up seven serving aces.

“For us to win a state championship, we have to pass serves really well and play defense,” Stanfield said.