Three short weeks ago, Shannon Alvarado met with her new volleyball team in the McKinney North High School library. Before that first team meeting, the Lady Bulldogs didn’t even know who their new coach would be or what direction the program would be going in 2011. Now, after the first week of preseason action, Alvarado said she has been pleased with her girls’ progress during what has been a challenging adjustment.
“Like anything change is always difficult,” she said. “They didn’t know who their coach was until about two weeks before the season. But they’re doing a great job. We’ve got a great group of girls from varsity down to freshmen.”
While the Lady Dawgs have had good on-court performances thus far, Alvarado has been far more impressed with how her team has handled itself in practice and in the locker room.
“They want to get better and want to work and want to make those improvements,” she said. “We just have to keep trying and staying with the process and we’ll get better. I’m happy that they’ve been as responsive to what we’re doing since I’ve been here. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to come into and the staff has been tremendous.”
Monday night, McKinney North was swept by Frisco Liberty and Tuesday night the Lady Bulldogs bounced back with a sweep of their own against Wichita Falls Rider, 27-25, 25-22, 27-25.
“A win is a win and we’re always happy with those wins,” Alvarado said. “Last night’s match we were swept and today what we learned is that we need to stay aggressive.”
McKinney North learned several lessons from its loss to Frisco Liberty, including how to close out its opponent late in the match. All three matches were a fight to the finish, particularly the first and third set but when the chips were down the Lady Bulldogs just wanted it more than Rider did.
“Our competitive edge is getting better,” Alvarado said. “A win is a win and we’re happy with it but if it had gone four or five [games] it would have been a little more taxing on us. We did a good job of getting it done in three and I’m glad we got it.”
There’s no doubt that Tuesday night’s win was a result of a total team effort but one player who definitely stood out was senior outside hitter Sarah Carlisle. It seemed like any time the lead was slipping and it looked like North was in trouble, Carlisle came up big in the clutch for a kill to shift momentum in the Lady Dawgs’ favor.
“She stepped up big for us tonight.”
After the loss to Liberty, the North coaches talked to Carlisle about the importance of being an aggressor.
“We feel confident that the aggressor wins,” Alvarado said. “An aggressor has confidence and believes in herself and I believe Sarah displayed that tonight against Rider. I thought she did some really great things in tight situations. She seemed to find the floor wherever they were not.”
Alvarado also complimented her middle blockers for a job well done against a ferocious outside hitting game from WF Rider.
“I thought they did a really good job closing that block,” she said.
Not every player on the floor had a noteworthy individual performance Tuesday night but Alvarado was more pleased with the fact that every girl that went in the game did exactly what they were supposed to do and contributed to the win.
“Sometimes, you put different players on the court and it messes with the dynamic but for us we feel confident that whoever we put out there is going to do the best they can and that’s reassuring.”
McKinney North begins District 10-4A competition on Sept. 9 in a home game against Rockwall. The Lady Bulldogs still have plenty of preseason games left to play and after Tuesday night Alvarado reminded her squad that they need to take “baby steps” in preparation for the start of district volleyball.
“We need to take preseason and focus on the improvements that we need to have,” she said. “There’s errors every time we play and we need to make sure those errors aren’t the same and increasing. It’s just baby steps that we have to focus on.”
It its second game of the night, McKinney North lost to Richardson High in five sets with the following scores, 8-25, 25-16, 25-23, 16-25, 8-15.
Varsity Volleyball Roundup
In other volleyball action, McKinney High hit the road Tuesday night for a game at Richardson Berkner. The Lionettes fought hard but ended up on the losing end of a five set match (25-16, 19-25, 20-25, 25-17, 13-15). Anna Robertson led MHS with 11 kills. Sophomore Marie O’Dell added eleven blocks, while junior Madi Bennett contributed eight blocks. Senior Maddy Mead was the Lionettes’ defensive leader with 22 digs.
McKinney will be in action Thursday-Saturday at the Lewisville Tournament.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com