WAXAHACHIE —Near the middle of Tuesday's match against South Grand Prairie High School at George W. Solis Gymnasium, an ankle-boot clad Sandy Faussett stood on the sideline watching the court intently.
Sometimes she paced a valley into the 5-foot distance in front of the Lady Indians bench. Mostly she stood — clipboard hugging her cheek as she roared out adjustments — watching the second-set lead shrink from 14-11 to 18-17 and then disappear completely.
"Get me off that roller coaster," chuckled Faussett, the head volleyball coach at Waxahachie High School, after the game as she poured over pages of hand-written statistics. "During the second match, I felt like we were kind of laying down. That kind of bothered me because we're a team and a program that fights tooth and nail to the last point. I wanted us to have more fight. I wanted us more aggressive."
Though she credited South Grand Prairie with "outstanding hands-up blocking" and athleticism, she said her girls weren't playing Waxahachie volleyball. During the waning moments of the third set and into the fourth, Fausset said, their fundamentals returned.
"I was encouraged to see that come back in the fourth," she continued. "This match was about inconsistencies. We had great moments and then we had moments we were too passive and hit a lot of balls out because we weren't trying to hit it hard, we were trying to be careful."
Those "balls hit out" were Waxahachie errors that helped the Lady Warriors extend rallies and win sets, as well as circumstances uncharacteristic of Faussett-led teams.
The perseverance shown in the first, third and fourth sets, however, is a Lady Indian staple.
The game of patience and turning opponents' mistakes into easy points — one her usually team plays so efficiently — had seemingly turned against them.
The meticulous nature of Lady Indian volleyball gave Waxahachie an advantage in the first after South Grand Prairie committed eight of its 30 unforced errors. Two came in the final four points.
A string of seven errors helped Waxahachie close a third-set deficit to 17-12. Back-to-back Lady Warriors' mistakes gave the Lady Indians a 6-2 lead in the fourth. Another helped them deadlock the score at 21 near the end and nearly force a fifth and final set.
The language of capitalizing on opponents mistakes is one Faussett and her teams are fluent in, regardless of variables like team composition, UIL classification, or height.
Faussett's rotating, revolving and "all in" system has survived more than a decade and almost two. Using precision and patience to combat lack of height has been a focal point that has helped her undersized Lady Indian squads reach the regional semifinal round eight straight times.
"That's the game of volleyball. That's what we play," Faussett said. "We've never been a huge team. We don't always have the biggest hitters or blockers so we have to be patient and let the other team make mistakes. We have to serve aggressively and play great defense. Those are trademarks of a Waxahachie team."
When taking the Lady Indians' height during the consecutive regional semifinal berths in consideration, the overall team average is 61 inches (5-foot-1).
That calculation, gathered from recorded MaxPreps heights of players between 2009 and 2016, included the program's tallest players in inches during the eight-season span.
Current junior Audrey Nalls (72) and former Lady Indians Sorrel Barnes (72), Ellen Platt (72), Laren Atkins (71), Taylor Hinds (71), Shelby Martin (71), Madelyn Ward (71), Mary Kate Clark (70), Hannah Loveless (70), Cara Partington (70), and Audrey Willett (70) were the tallest varsity volleyball players throughout the near decade of success.
Program alumnus and former team captain Carly Hess, at 73 inches, became the tallest after sprouting an inch between the 2011 and 2012 season.
With those teams, Faussett has compiled a district record of 112-11. Her "shortest" team, at an average 67 inches, went 12-2 in District 16-4A and faced J.J. Pearce High School in the 2009 regional semifinal round.
They've won a dozen games this year. All have come without 6-foot tall Nalls, the reigning District 10-5A MVP and school kill record holder, who has missed time because of an undisclosed injury.
Mistakes, or rather points off them, have aided rallies against teams with bigger front lines, such as Midland and Mansfield Legacy this year and Coppell, Midlothian, and Prosper in past seasons.
Everything the Lady Indians are in terms of volleyball, Faussett said, is predicated on an understanding that each girl knows the system intimately, knows their role and trusts the girl to their left and right.
"You learn really quick that you better be patient and allow the other team to make mistakes," Faussett said. "You're going to win as many points that way as you will with kills and aces."
Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.