Any Questions: Lady Wolves answer plenty during bounce-back 2012 campaign
There were many conditions put on the potential success of Plano West volleyball prior to the start of the season.
Lady Wolves players and head coach Brittany Bridge said the team could be successful, "If our defense can play as well as they did last season," "If we get consistency from our hitters," "If we can speed up our offense," "If some of our younger players step up."
Not all of those conditions were fully met, but enough questions were answered for West to pick up its first playoff win since 2009 and deepest postseason run since 2008.
"The seniors wanted to go out with a bang," said Abigail Curry, senior setter, "and this is the furthest we've gotten since I've been here so I think we accomplished that goal ... or at least got close."
Curry says close in reference to McKinney Boyd.
The Lady Broncos, who are in the Class 5A State Tournament this weekend, suffered only one loss in District 10-5A, a sweep at the hands of the Lady Wolves. But Boyd also ended West's season with a sweep in the regional quarterfinals.
"It's cool that we got so far," said Shane Peters, senior defensive specialist, "but then you look at Boyd being in the Final 4 and kind of wonder what could have been."
Bridge prefers not to look at things that way.
"I can totally see how you might think that, but we still accomplished so many things this year," she said. "We took Colleyville Heritage (No. 2 in Class 5A) to three in a tournament, took Lovejoy (No. 1 in 4A) to five, beat Boyd and won two playoff matches. So there are plenty of positives to focus on and a lot of that speaks to the team as a whole and the fact that every one of these girls worked hard day-in and day-out, regardless of their role on the team."
Unlike many successful teams, there wasn't a watershed moment for West in 2012.
"I think we just got progressively better," Bridge said. "Our first focus was serving better; once we did that we focused on cutting down our errors and then moved on to making attempts turn into kills."
After a solid tournament run, West surprised many by sweeping Boyd to start district.
The Lady Broncos got the win back in the second half, but West still tied with Plano Senior for second place in 10-5A before losing a seeding a match to the Lady Wildcats.
West took out its frustrations on another set of Lady Wildcats as the Lady Wolves swept Lake Highlands (25-13, 25-13, 25-18) in the bi-district round for the program's first playoff win since 2009. West took another step days later by defeating Rockwall-Heath (25-10, 21-25, 25-14, 25-23) before losing to Boyd in the regional quarters.
"The core of the team was seniors so I was really excited for them to get to the third round," Bridge said. "And it was good for the younger players too to get that feel for the big playoff matches."
The loss to Boyd ended the varsity careers of Peters, Curry and fellow seniors Paige McKiddy, Katie Stebbins, Brooke Coleman, Julie DeVinney, Brianne O'Halloran and Chanelle Cadot. Stebbins, Curry and Peters had been on varsity since they were freshmen.
"As seniors, I feel like we tried to set a good example and lead the younger players," Curry said.
Peters echoed those sentiments.
"We had amazing teammates this year," she said, "and hopefully we set a good example for the younger girls."
Bridge feels they reached that goal.
"These seniors did a great job," she said. "They were exactly what you look for from your seniors."
With eight graduations there could be cause for concern, but the Lady Wolves appear confident in what they will return in 2013 and beyond.
"You have girls like Ania (Mlynarczyk, freshman), Camryn (Vecera, sophomore) and Alyssa (Kool, junior) who all got plenty of playing time this year," Bridge said. "We had plenty of role players this season that may not have started, but they kept working because they could see that starting opportunity coming next season. Plus our JV team won district, so we have some good call-ups there, including several hitters.
"We'll be young, but I think we'll be strong once we get used to the speed of the game."
But before looking too far ahead, Bridge wanted to reflect more on 2012.
"It was such a fun year," she said. "I built so many great relationships with the girls and their parents. Of course you want to win, but I've gotten to the point where I realize being a coach is about more than just that; it's about the life lessons you can help teach. And hopefully I've played a part in these girls becoming very classy young ladies."