The one thing Ryan Mitchell had going for him when he became Carroll’s new volleyball coach was familiarity.
It became a regular non-district game to see Mitchell’s Lucas Lovejoy teams opposing Arthur Stanfield’s Carroll teams. When the two teams met, the matches were intense. Competition brings out the best. Each won its share.
“I looked at Arthur as a mentor because he’s one of the legendary coaches in the sport,” Mitchell said. “We wanted to play the best because that was going to make our program better.”
Mitchell knew he wanted to eventually move to a situation where the conditions would be ideal for the program to be a consistent state championship contender. Stanfield’s controversial departure in February became an opportunity for Mitchell.
In April, Mitchell succeeded Stanfield. He brings his 315-55 career record (295-41 at Lovejoy) along with Class 3A and 4A state championships from 2008-2012.
But as he takes over, there has to be a measure of healing provided. Stanfield’s exit came at a time when the Carroll volleyball community was fractured. Talent in the program has never been the issue. Cohesion appears to be missing.
Mitchell was well aware of what he was facing.
“This is a process and the most important thing you have to do is make sure that the parents trust you to work well with their kids,” Mitchell said. “It’s the one-on-one meetings with the players that will help you and help them.”
It’s also about the little things. Mitchell has been around the club volleyball scene between Arlington and Plano. It’s about going to all of the matches and shaking hands and visiting with all of the parents and players and creating visibility and confidence that he is there to get the best out of the players.
Mitchell said he also spent a lot of time at the middle school working with and evaluating the future players of the program. He wants to place equal importance on his seventh grade team winning a championship as much as he does with the varsity winning a Class 6A championship.
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That’s what made the Carroll job so attractive. With it being a single-school district and opportunity, he always will know who is coming through his program instead of having to share with other schools.
Carroll is not starting over after playing in the Class 5A state semifinals in 2013. The 2014 squad should be in the 6A state championship conversation. Carroll returns the core of its team in senior middle blocker Madison Drescher, senior outside hitter Paige Panter, senior setter McKenzie Brewer and senior libero Mykah Wilson, along with junior outside hitter Meghan Porter.
But the new District 7-6A will present a greater challenge between former two-time state champion Coppell and state championship contender Colleyville Heritage. Carroll has never won a state championship at the highest classification level. However, Mitchell believes this is the time when that reputation will change and Carroll loses that label.
“We want to turn this from a winning culture to a championship culture,” Mitchell said. “At the end of the day, Southlake Carroll is going to win.”