When Ryan coach Cindy Williams started plotting the course for her team in 2013, she knew what was in store for the Lady Raiders when District 5-5A play rolled around.
Instead of racking up wins against poor competition, Williams stacked her early schedule with strong teams to mimic the stout district competition Ryan will face this fall.
Starting today, that approach will be put to the test.
Ryan opens 5-5A play at home versus Flower Mound Marcus (14-17). The junior varsity match begins at 5:30, and the varsity contest will begin approximately 20 minutes after the conclusion of the JV match.
“We were hoping, playing a tough preseason, it would prepare us for this,” Williams said. “I think the girls realize that we just have to get it done, be mentally tough, play well. We’re not talking about anything else before this. We’re talking about now.”
In their first year in Class 5A, the Lady Raiders went winless in district play and only won one set in those 10 matches.
Three of the 5-5A’s four playoff teams last season reached the regional quarterfinals. Coppell knocked out district rival Hebron in that round of the playoffs, and the Cowgirls went on to win the 5A championship.
Coppell has won the last two 5A state championships. Before that, Hebron won the title in 2010.
Ryan features a relatively young squad and four seniors, including middle blocker Susanna Strange and outside hitter Kodi Pettigrew.
Strange said consistency and cohesiveness will be vital for avoiding another winless district campaign.
“It was a new experience for us, for sure, and we weren’t really prepared for it,” Strange said. “This year, we know what we’re getting into and we know who we’re playing against and how good the teams are.”
Williams said the Lady Raiders (7-23) will need strong defense on the front and back rows and aggressive hitting to pick up a win in district play and potentially spark the rest of their season. With the struggles the team has experienced over the past two seasons, Williams said self-confidence will play a huge role in the team’s success or disappointment this year.
“I think that is part of it — being confident that you can do it,” Williams said. “I think sometimes they play not to lose instead of playing to win. Just play. I think that’s something we’ve been trying to talk to them about since last year.”
Ryan sophomore Sydney Lundgren said a couple of wins could spark some life into the team.
“I think it’s going to take some wins under our belt for us to build up our confidence and build that up a little bit and be a good team and beat the good teams,” Lundgren said.
Earlier this season in the Arlington tournament, Ryan pushed Marcus but lost in a best-of-three match.
But tonight the slate is wiped clean, and the Lady Raiders will look to break out and finally pick up their first win in District 5-5A.
“It’s a new season,” Williams said. “Everybody’s tied right now. We’re all 0-0, the district teams. It’s who shows up to play, who gets the job done. Basically, we’re putting on a new front here. We’re strong, ready to go.”
Coach: Julie Green (third year at Coppell)
2013 record: 30-3
Last year’s record: 49-2 (finished first in district)
Top players: OH Mary-Kate Marshall, S Kylie Pickrell, L Alex Silver
Flower Mound Lady Jaguars
Coach: Marci Brinkman (eighth year at Flower Mound)
2013 record: 18-13
Last year’s record: 33-9 (finished second in district)
Top Players: S Molly Werts, OH Mikayla Grill, L Kristyn Schott
Flower Mound Marcus Lady Marauders
Coach: Jennifer Cron (second year at Marcus)
2013 record: 14-17
Last year’s record: 18-23 (finished fourth in district)
Top players: S Sam Sales, OH Mackenzie Pearson, L Darby Humpries
Hebron Lady Hawks
Coach: Karin Keeney (15th year at Hebron)
2013 record: 25-9
Last year’s record: 26-15 (finished third in district)
Top players: OH Brookah Palmer, MB Lauren Kirch, L Banner Rodgers, OH Kendall Patterson
Lewisville Lady Farmers
Coach: Libby Rodriguez (second year at Lewisville)
2013 record: 17-5
Last year’s record: 17-21 (finished fifth in district)
Top players: S Kristyn Nicholson, MB Portia Okafor, OH Caitlin Gulyas
Ryan Lady Raiders
Coach: Cindy Williams (ninth year at Ryan)
2013 record: 7-23
Last year’s record: 6-27 (finished sixth in district)
Top players: OH Kodi Pettigrew, MB Susanna Strange, L Arissa Chappell