TROPHY CLUB – A funny thing happens when an unranked team beats five schools in the top-15. They start to get attention.
In its last seven matches, Waxahachie beat Highland Park (now No. 2), Lucas Lovejoy (now no. 4), Byron Nelson (now No. 9), Prosper (now No. 11) and Dumas (now No. 15). All of those wins came with the Lady Indians unranked and playing without two starters due to injury and illness.
So what do the pollsters do with the Lady Indians? They put them at No. 1.
Waxahachie coach Sandy Faussett, like most coaches, has said many times before that these polls don’t matter right now and it only matters where you finish. But the season won’t be finished until late October, and if the team keeps winning against tough opponents they won’t budge from this spot.
Waxahachie had to get through Highland Park in the semifinals of the Northwest ISD tournament. The Lady Scots were ranked No. 2 at the time and still hold that spot. Waxahachie didn’t back down and knocked them off 25-22, 23-25, 25-20.
A big reason for the success in that contest, and the entire last week for that matter, is the development of junior outside hitter Lyndsey Griffith. She showed some potential earlier in her career, but with the recent injury issues, she’s had to step up in a major way.
“I think I’m just coming out of my shell a little bit,” Griffith said. “Last year I was really nervous, but I think over the last year my confidence has come way up and now I can just come out and play.”
Confidence has a way of showing up after you work hard enough and begin to have some success.
“During club season, my coach pushed me to be a leader and that forced my confidence to come out,” Griffith said. “Coach Faussett didn’t talk with me about it, but I knew that with our injuries, somebody had to step up on the offensive front and I wanted that to be me.”
While Griffith was hitting the ball well all day, she actually missed one in the third set. She still hit the ball, it just didn’t have the authority that most of her shots had. But when things are going good, they are going good as Highland Park miss played it and it still dropped in for a point.
“Last year if that had happened, I probably would have been discouraged if it didn’t drop in for a point,” Griffith said. “But I’m not more confident and I’m really glad that shot fell.”
Griffith and fellow junior Ellen Platt shouldered the load during the victory against Highland Park. Griffith is now third on the team in kills (85) and Platt is fifth (71).
“I think me and Ellen want to help send our seniors out with a great season,” Griffith said. “So we are just trying to do our best to help them.”
While the victory versus Highland Park was the highlight of the day, the Lady Indians weren’t disappointed with their loss to Southlake Carroll (now No. 3 in the 5A state poll) in the finals of the tournament.
“We did some great things today. We told them to cover better and we had some great blocks against a team like that,” Faussett said. “We’re still in the first two weeks of our season and we’re already so much better than we were just five days ago and they’ve overcome some obstacles along the way.”
Carroll may have won in two sets, 25-25, 29-27, but Waxahachie made them earn every point. The Lady Dragons busted out to a 12-6 lead in the second set. But the Lady Indians kept digging and blocking and battled all the way back to take a 22-19 lead.
A well-timed timeout by Carroll started a four-point streak for the Lady Dragons to retake the lead. But the teams alternated points until Southlake got two in a row to end it.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with what we did today,” Faussett said. “They are a 5A powerhouse and we knew that coming in. We knew it would be a battle and we just wanted to see what we could do and see how much better we can be after the weekend.”
One of those players that progressed by leaps and bounds during the tournament was sophomore Audrey Willett. She had 11 blocks in the championship match against the Lady Dragons, who have just three players shorter than 5-foot-11-inches on the roster.
“It was just so exciting playing at the speed of varsity,” Willett said. “I play against really tall girls in club play and we practice with big blocks in practice and we just had to find a way around them.”
Her and senior setter Mary Kate Clark played as a great defensive duo as they got pieces of just about every Carroll shot.
“We just play really well together on blocking,” Willett said. “She communicates really well with me about what we’re doing on each shot.”
Willett is the only sophomore on the team, but she doesn’t feel any extra pressure despite playing with 10 seniors.
“I love them all. They are so nice and I love playing them,” Willett said. “It’s just a blessing that coach has the confidence in me to let me play, especially in the middle.”
Willett and the Lady Indians (12-3) will put their new No. 1 ranking to the test tonight in their first home match of the season at 5 p.m. versus Waco Midway. Waxahachie beat Midway 25-21, 25-13 in the first match of the Northwest ISD Tournament last Thursday.