The season is only a week old, and school hasn’t officially started for McKinney ISD’s high schools, but it’s becoming apparent that the North volleyball team is laying the foundation for a magical season.
Home Tuesday night against Sulphur Springs, North took another big step in the right direction by defeating the Lady Wildcats in four sets (23-25, 25-9, 25-12, 25-14). With the win, the Lady Bulldogs improved their record to 7-1 in the early
going and are officially off to the best start in program history under first-year head coach Libby Rodriguez.
Besides another slow start in the first set, which has been a characteristic of the team so far this season, North dominated all three other sets from beginning to end, showcasing why the Lady Bulldogs are quickly morphing into one of biggest surprises in the area this season.
“I think, because we are young, our team has a problem of getting their nerves under control early on. But, deep down, they know they can do it, that they’re good volleyball players and that they are a good team,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got to do a better job in that first set because, when you play a really good team, they aren’t going to let you back in. At the end of the day, we want to go to state, and that involves outworking ourselves daily and demanding perfection from everyone in the program.”
After making multiple unforced errors and not playing to up to the high level they have established for themselves throughout the majority of the first set, sophomore Sydney Huck began turning things around with her service game. Huck served for five straight points, a run that included two aces, to cut a 24-18 lead for Sulphur Springs to a 24-23 advantage before hitting the final set point into the net.
Despite losing the set, Huck, who collected a game-high six aces, helped North’s young roster get things on track after the sluggish start.
“I try to stay consistent and focus on over and in, and that little run at the end of the first set, I think, helped us gained momentum for the rest of the match,” Huck said. “We are going to focus more on our warmup so that we can start coming out strong. It’s exciting being a part of this program right now, because we all know we are a good team (that) is going to keep working hard.”
From the second set on, North followed the lead of freshman setter Lily Nicholson, who is already trending toward being a superstar. Though quiet in demeanor, Nicholson made a huge impact on the match by racking up a ton of assists, kills and digs while setting the proper tone for the Lady Bulldogs.
Nicholson walked away with the volleyball version of a triple-double, finishing the match with 10 kills, 18 assists and 12 digs. Nicholson’s ability to get everyone involved and playing at high level not only allowed North to dominate the final three sets of the match, but gave an accurate glimpse of how good North can be this year when clicking as a unit.
“We are all about winning and connecting with the team, coaches and everyone involved and playing hard together and, when we do that as a unit, we are really good,” Nicholson said. “It’s really fun to play with a new team and be off to the best start in school history, and I think we are going to do really well this season.”