Volleyball: Struggling Ryan opens district play today

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When Ryan head coach Cindy Williams was asked about what’s been going right this season, she paused before saying “the better things” in a reflective tone.

Williams said her team has found happiness whenever it plays well. She’s proud the squad is a hard-working group of girls that’s maintained a mostly positive attitude throughout the season.

Considering how this season’s been for Ryan, maintaining a positive attitude is no small feat. Ryan starts District 5-5A play tonight at 6:30 at Flower Mound Marcus with a record of 6-19.

Williams said that despite all of its losses, her team’s generally been happy.

“It’s been a struggle, but going into every match that we play, I try to encourage them to play better and do the best they can,” Williams said.

Ryan has not won back-to-back matches this season, and its match against Liberty Christian on Sept. 4 was the only time Ryan’s been able to extend a match to five games.

According to Williams, who won her 600th career match this season against Lake Dallas, things have gotten better since the start of the season. Williams said her team has grown tremendously, and she refuses to blame the team’s lack of success on its youth and inexperience. Ryan has two seniors, five juniors and five sophomores on its roster.

That youth will be tested in district play. Last season, Coppell and Marcus, two of Ryan’s 5-5A opponents, reached the Class 5A Region I final, with Coppell winning the match and eventually the state title. Marcus has made the regional finals for three straight years.

Hebron, another 5-5A member and the 2010 Class 5A champion, lost to Coppell in the regional semifinals. All three teams were in District 8-5A last season, while Ryan was in Class 4A.

Senior libero Domino Birze said Ryan’s district opponents are fundamentally sound teams that are dedicated and focused, with athletes who only play volleyball, while Ryan has girls on its team that also participate in things like track, choir and basketball.

Williams has worked all season on improving the team’s ability to execute fundamentals such as serving, setting and passing. If those things can’t be executed, the offense can’t run efficiently, Williams said.

Junior outside hitter Kodi Pettigrew said one of the things ailing Ryan is a lack of communication on the court.

“I think it’s just because we’re afraid to hurt each other on the court and bring each other down, because we know we’re not mentally tough,” Pettigrew said.

Birze, the provisional valedictorian in Ryan’s class of 2013, agreed with Pettigrew. Birze said the team is close off the court but not necessarily so on the court.

“We’ll get down on ourselves and we won’t be able to pick ourselves up, and that puts us in slumps and we won’t be able to get past it,” Birze said.

Now Ryan has to find a way to get past its struggles in nondistrict play and contend for a playoff spot, or at least make the most of the rest of the season and build for next year.

“Our goal this year has been to exceed everybody’s expectations,” Birze said. “We just have to achieve that.”

BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is bbaby@dentonrc.com .


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