Sports

Lady Dragons nicked by Amarillo in run-up to district opener

Nobody is perfect. Carroll’s undefeated streak ended on Aug. 30 when it dropped a semifinal match to Amarillo in the Plano Tournament.

Sometimes, losses can be reminders of where a team really is and where it needs to go in order to climb to the next level. That may have been the case against Amarillo. In that loss, the Lady Dragons (27-1) committed too many unforced errors.

But since then, this team has bounced back and is preparing to open District 7-6A play at Hurst L.D. Bell on Friday. They played a dual match against Lucas Lovejoy and Highland Park. That would be the same Lovejoy where head coach Ryan Mitchell had 295 wins and led the program to state championships from 2008-2012.

“It’s exciting to get to play my former school and the players that worked so hard while I was there,” Mitchell said. “I have great memories from Lovejoy but also am excited to work to get a win against them.”

The grind of the district season is something both coaches and players appreciate. They are going to be in the same routine for Tuesday and Friday matches. Through the first five weeks, high school volleyball programs have been going through the frenetic pace of playing nearly 30 matches.

By moving into district play that will run through the end of October, this offers more of a chance to teach and train. Mitchell welcomes that.

“It’s such a fresh start,” he said. “You get to work on specific rotations and scouting comes more into play. You don’t have to play eight teams in one weekend and not know anything about the opponents.”

For sure, District 7-6A should be better than what Carroll was in the previous two years. Coppell and Colleyville Heritage have deep postseason resumes, while Richland, Euless Trinity and L.D. Bell are solid programs.

“You’re going to go into the playoffs battle tested,” Mitchell said. “District 8-6A [Allen and the Plano and Lewisville schools] are going through the same thing. By playing in a district like the one we’re in, it’s a competitive advantage.”

District 7-6A and 8-6A would meet in the bi-district round.

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Changing the future

The first three weeks of the volleyball season can be such a blur, because those are tournament weekends. But coaches are starting to find that playing in tournaments for three straight weeks may not be a good thing.

The conventional wisdom is that coaches didn’t want to give up eight matches of development that the third tournament would offer. But Mitchell has a different take that’s being shared by others.

“You used to feel more pressure to play the third tournament,” Mitchell said. “But the kids are worn out, you have more chances of injury across the board and it’s not good volleyball. You’re kind of thinking who is going to gut this out.”

Mitchell said he is considering changing that third week of the season. His early thinking is that he would play in tournaments the first two weeks and use the third week to play to host four or five teams in a round robin format and call that tournament. That way, the program still plays several matches.

“You just don’t want to hurt your kids,” Mitchell said.

Notable

Senior outside hitters Madison Drescher (shoulder) and Paige Panter (ankle) have returned to action and are at 100 percent. In fact, Drescher collected a career-high 20 kills in last Friday’s win over Rockwall …. The 6-2 format between senior setters McKenzie Brewer and sophomore Lisie Kit remains the offensive formation.

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