Carroll’s volleyball program has been searching for the edge coach Ryan Mitchell believes it needs to go deep into the postseason.
Mitchell would like to think this team found it last week. The Lady Dragons (41-3, 10-2 in District 7-6A) won a grueling five-game match against Coppell. They then parlayed the momentum and swept Waco Midway in a warm-up match on Friday.
Carroll began the playoffs on Monday against Mansfield at Richland High School. Had the Lady Dragons won, they would play the winner of Keller Central-McKinney Boyd. That match was played on Tuesday. The games were played after the press deadline; see www.dfwvarsity.com for results.
“The match against Coppell was good for us,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t played a five-gamer all year. So that was good to have something similar to what you could face in the playoffs. Those are mentally tough because you have to play for two hours and have great intensity. You really can’t train for that.”
Mitchell may not have learned anything new about his team but he saw a better sense of competitiveness after a disappointing effort at Colleyville Heritage on Oct. 24. Carroll lost in four games.
A performance like that one could have allowed doubt to creep surface. But fighting through a match against the archrival in its building summoned some character moving forward. The Midway performance was just a continuation.
“We looked so much sharper against Midway,” Mitchell said. “There were so many positives that I wanted us to get back on the court.”
State title formula
Mitchell coached five state championship teams at Lucas Lovejoy, so he understands how to clear the path through seven postseason rounds. Every state championship coach likely had his or her formula for winning titles. But Mitchell has his.
• The group has a roster filled with players who hate to lose and have an inner grit and desire to win.
“You can’t quantify it,” Mitchell said. “But you can see it and feel it.”
• Every team has one or two players who want the ball in crunch time. In Carroll’s place, that’s really four, in senior outside hitter Madison Drescher, sophomore outside hitter Haley Hallgren, senior outside hitter Paige Panter and junior outside hitter Megan Porter. If Carroll has two, three or even all four playing at a high level with that mentality, it could be the perfect storm.
“We’ve had one good on one night and then next night, somebody else,” Mitchell said. “That’s a good thing. But if we get those four going, we’re going to be a tough out.”
Sizing up Region I
Carroll’s three losses were to Region I teams in Amarillo and Colleyville Heritage twice. Region I appears to be the deepest among the four Class 6A regions.
There are some of the best teams in the state competing, including Carroll, Amarillo, Colleyville Heritage, Coppell and El Paso Coronado. All five of those teams are ranked in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 6A top 15 spots. Amarillo is No. 1.
“The region is going to have some of the best matchups in the state,” Mitchell said. “Anyone can beat anyone. That’s how much parity there is. As a coach, it’s a matter of how much you want to make sure you prepare for your opponent or just stick to what you do. You don’t want to prepare without stressing them out.”