The aftershocks are still being felt within Southlake Carroll volleyball. A program that had arguably one of the top 50 players in the country in middle blocker Asjia O’Neal is now looking to craft a different look following O’Neal’s decision not to play her senior year.
O’Neal, who has committed to and is expected to sign with Texas in November, opted to take some time to get ready for her college career by reducing the load of her volleyball schedule.
“It stinks to lose her because she is an amazing talent,” head coach Ryan Mitchell said. “But you have to respect her decision. Asjia did a lot of great things for our program. We just wish her nothing but the best.”
With her, the Lady Dragons would have been considered a Class 6A state championship contender. Without her, the forecasts are not as ambitious.
I think it’s going to take us a little time to develop a rotation, and that’s fine.
Coach Ryan Mitchell
This is a transition year for the Lady Dragons. It’s not a rebuilding year. At Carroll, there really is no such thing as a rebuilding season because of the wealth of talent that plays volleyball in Southlake. However, Carroll lost nine seniors, including setter Lisie Kitt (Clemson), outside hitter Haley Hallgren (USC Beach) and outside hitter Nailah Gordon (North Carolina State)
Still, Mitchell does have to figure out a way to put the disappointment of O’Neal behind the 2017 team and look forward to the rest of the season. Carroll is definitely not as experienced. Only one senior is on this roster in defensive specialist Sabrina Monaco. Underclassmen are going to have to make the difference.
“When you graduate nine players including seven who went on to play Division I volleyball and then have this gap, you’re going to have a younger group,” Mitchell said. “But they’re excited and have an opportunity. It’s going to be different.”
Carroll started the right way on Monday when it won the season opener at Richardson Pearce, 23-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-17. As the youth catches up, Mitchell has some height to work with. There’s another Hallgren in Haley’s younger sister Harper, a junior outside hitter. Harper is also a USC Beach volleyball commit. Freshman outside hitter Natalie Glenn is pushing 6-0 and junior middle blockers Raven Rolle and Delaney Bell are each 6-1.
“I think it’s going to take us a little time to develop a rotation, and that’s fine,” Mitchell said. “Raven had a great club season. Really, she was hidden for us last year because of our depth. These players are growing a lot.”
Carroll is considered the No. 2 team in District 5-6A behind defending 6A state champion Lewisville Hebron. Remember those two played five epic matches – Hebron won three of the five – including the Region I championship that the Lady Hawks won.
Carroll Lady Dragons
Head coach: Ryan Mitchell (4th season)
2016 record/postseason: 44-6, 13-1 District 5-6A; lost to Lewisville Hebron in Region I finals
Key returning starters: MB Annabelle Smith Jr.; S McKenzie Nichols, Jr.; Libero Kendall Gilpin, Jr.
Notable: Mitchell is still deciding whether he will go with a 6-2 or 5-1 alignment. The other setter in play is junior Callie Craus … Nichols has committed to TCU … Carroll’s preseason tournament schedule is Pearland, Justin Northwest and Plano … District 5-6A should feature some noise from Trophy Club Byron Nelson.