In District 4-5A volleyball, with three games left in the season, there are two types of teams that are eyeing the standings.
On the one hand, there are teams that have clinched a playoff spot through their strong play all season, like Keller and Southlake Carroll, who are counting down the games until the next stage of the season begins with the UIL playoffs.
Those two teams played on Tuesday after the press deadline, all but determining whether Southlake Carroll will have to share the 4-5A championship with Keller, or if the Lady Dragons will hold the title outright.
For them, the final two games after their tilt are a chance to fine-tune their rosters and rotations and make sure the team is humming when the playoffs finally arrive.
"I'd like to finalize a rotation. In some ways in district, we're playing three sets a night, and playing 18 kids a night mostly, it's hard for the starters to get into a real good routine," Carroll head coach Arthur Stanfield said. "They may have a good game or a good set, but they're then on the bench letting somebody else play. We've already talked about shortening the bench up a little bit as we go forward and let the starters play together more."
For the Lady Dragons, who have asserted their dominance on the district all season, there is some hope that they will be challenged - either against Keller or one of the other two teams they play - to be accustomed to the pressure-packed scenarios the team will undoubtedly encounter in the playoffs.
"We're looking forward to next week, and all three matches, to see if, not that we want to lose a set or match, but we're hoping that we're extended a little bit and we get in some pressure situations so we can prepare for the playoffs more," Stanfield said.
Stanfield said that the Lady Dragons will likely play their starters two whole sets in each district match left and sparingly sub in only a handful of backups who may still stand to play during a playoff game.
The more urgent teams in these final games are those that still have work left to do in punching their ticket to the playoffs.
Entering Tuesday's action, there are two teams, Justin Northwest and Keller Central, occupying the final two playoff spots at 6-5. However, they are far from safe, as Richland is just one game behind each of them at 5-6.
The schedule is not doing Northwest any favors, as it has to play both Keller and Carroll in its final three games - the only team that has to play both district powerhouses for the second time.
Central has to play Carroll in the final game of the season, whereas Richland plays neither of the two teams. Central and Richland played on Tuesday in a game that will go a long way in determining how the final two playoff spots shake out.
"We play Richland on Tuesday, and that's do-or-die," Central head coach Terri Kelso said. "That's where we're at right now, it's do-or-die. The girls know that after the loss to Timber Creek, we are at that point."
While the playoffs don't officially start until Oct. 29, for these teams, the playoff intensity is already here. They must win to keep pace with the other two teams vying for those last playoff spots.
"The thing that is good about it is it makes people step up and say, 'OK, no one's going to go out there and play dead for us,'" Kelso said. "I think going into the playoffs if we make it, our district, the competitiveness of our district definitely will be a plus."
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/10/15/4337280/lady-dragons-look-to-simulate.html#storylink=cpy