It is early in the season and Southlake Carroll coach Arthur Stanfield is appreciative of the recognition state coaches are giving his Lady Dragons volleyball team.
The state's top-ranked Class 5A team in the most recent TGCA poll, Carroll is worthy, said Stanfield, but may not prove it until later in the season.
Playing in its 13th contest in nine days, Carroll suffered its first loss of the season Tuesday in a five-set match to an inspired Plano squad. The Dragons are now 12-1.
"We haven't practiced since last Thursday," Stanfield said. "That's how many games we've played so quickly. In volleyball, you don't start getting good weeks of practice now until after the first three weekends of the season."
Early on, most teams play two or three tournaments prior to the beginning of classes. Southlake is no different.
Before the Plano loss, the Dragons had dropped just one set in 12 matches and had swept defending state champ Coppell in the finals at the Duncanville Tournament of Champions.
That's a lot of volleyball very quickly. Stanfield says there are benefits to it, but that it also can be misleading as teams are identified with an early season strength only to become stronger in a different phase of the game as the season progresses.
"We're good right now serving the ball, playing defense and ball control," he said. "We're not so good hitting or blocking the ball."
Still, Stanfield said his team no doubt will improve as things start to slow down.
"Once we start practicing more than we're playing," he said, "things will round out. Right now, our hitters aren't able to get the number of practice swings in a game that will help them hit better."
Senior Katie Dunlap agreed. She's a key piece in Carroll's early success because of her versatility.
"It's really the repetition and improving our technique that will make hitting and blocking better," Dunlap said. "We're not bad at it now, but we're not crisp. By midseason it will be an entirely different thing."
Junior libero Cat McCoy was named defensive MVP at Duncanville. She has 203 digs this season and Maddie McCollough has 160 assists. More big numbers.
Carroll plays in the Allen Tournament this weekend and expectations are high.
"This is where we'll find out really who the top-tiered teams are," Stanfield said. "You've got so many of the best programs in the state at this tournament so we need to figure it out quick."
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