With a straight-set win over Northwest last Friday, Carroll's volleyball team lacked only a win over Keller Central on Tuesday to finish an unbeaten district schedule. The outcome of the game was determined after the press deadline.
With the district title sewn up, the Lady Dragons (35-3, 13-0) had already been able to start looking forward to the playoff season and will likely match up against either North Crowley or Arlington Lamar, said head coach Arthur Stanfield.
About the only aspect of the district schedule that didn't go exactly as Carroll would have preferred was the one game it lost to Keller en route to a 3-1 match win last week.
"We touched the ball last 21 times and lost every point," Stanfield said of the game dropped to Keller before a raucous Lady Indians home crowd. "It was good to see that when we lost a set, we didn't lose our head. When we play our brand of ball, we do pretty well."
It was the first game Carroll had lost a set in district play and the first since a match back in September, Stanfield said.
Some of the Lady Dragons' success may be chalked up to getting off to strong starts each game. That underlines the importance of the first server on the team, a player who may not rotate off the court until 12-14 points into the game.
For Carroll, that points to the role played by senior setter Maddie McCollough.
"Maddie is a good defensive player that likely scores more points than other setters," Stanfield said. "She's our best server and an intelligent setter."
To McCollough, the term "intelligent setter" refers to the ability to use her experience to determine how, and to whom, the set should be made.
"On the court, I can play good defense and help lead it well," McCollough said. "I'm not the loudest, but my teammates listen," she said of her authority during a match.
McCollough started playing volleyball in eighth grade and hasn't stopped since, including logging seasons on summer club teams.
That experience may help ease her nerves when McCollough is the first to serve it up for the Lady Dragons.
"Being the first server is nerve-racking, but I'm not as nervous as I used to be," she said.
But she said her senior season will be her last hurrah, so going deep into the playoffs is a key goal.
"During the playoffs, I'm sure I'll be thinking this could be my last game," McCollough said. "We are committed to make this season the best it can be."
Carroll lost last season in the second round of the playoffs to Grapevine.
McCollough thought the game lost to Keller may pay dividends down the road, though.
"When we lost the set, we had to think about the next game," she said. "We proved that we can come back and win."
This year's conditioning program is possibly proving its benefits for the team, McCollough said.
McCollough said lifting weights and some longer practices have the team feeling stronger and in better condition heading into the playoffs.
"I think we're a little better prepared for the long run," she said.
The Lady Dragons are already in playoff mode, fine-tuning the rotation and getting into a playoff-type mindset.
In addition, Carroll will prepare for the first round of the playoffs, either Oct. 29 or 30, by scheduling competition in the off-time.
The Lady Dragons will take on Rockwall Heath on Friday to keep things sharp in a 6:30 match at Carroll Senior High.