The JTAC Laren Walters
Resilient and hungry, those are just two words used to describe The Tarleton State University TexAnn’s Volleyball team. The TexAnns have been at the top of their game all season long with a school record of 29 victories in a season and a winning streak of 24 games during the season. Their continued success throughout the season has earned them the number one seed and the right to host the South Central Regional Volleyball Tournament for the first time in program history. This will be the fifth consecutive tournament appearance for the TexAnns, coming off of their third Lone Star Conference (LSC) regular season championship with a record of 29-4.
A well-rounded balanced team is just one of the dynamics that coach Mary Schindler feels has led this team to such a successful season and a well-rounded one it is. Along with a LSC Coach of The Year award for Schindler, her fourth, Hannah McManus was named All-LSC First Team and the league’s Defensive Player of The Year.
“I came into the season with the mindset of last year, best year,” McManus said. “In the past, it has been one player dominating, and I knew someone would need to step up and fill that role or just be a leader for other front row players to follow. I took on that role and I feel like that is what has helped me to have such a great season.”
Adriana Darthuy joined McManus on the All-LSC First Team as she was the only player with over 300 kills for the season and tied for the team lead with 38 service aces and 370.5 points in the regular season. The TexAnns had three players named to the All LSC Second Team: Adrianna Knutson, Blanca Izquierdo and Amber Strange. Knutson, a defensive specialist, for the team broke the all-time digs record with 471 digs in the regular season. Originally from Madrid, Spain, Blanca Izquierdo earned her first career All LSC honor after leading the team with 635 assists, she was also a three-time LSC Setter of the Week. This was Strange’s second All-LSC recognition as she played a pivotal part in the TexAnn offense after moving from the middle to the outside, landing 256 kills along with 54 blocks and 55 digs. Freshman, Lauren Kersey, was named Honorable Mention All-LSC in her debut season with the TexAnns with 236 kills and leading Tarleton’s outside hitters with a .286 hitting clip. Not only were the TexAnn’s recognized for their outstanding skills on the court, but Adrianna Knutson and Hannah McManus were also named Academic All-LSC for their dedication in the classroom.
The leadership seen on the team, essentially in both Knutson and McManus, is another contributing factor to the success of the team. Schindler expressed how different the dynamic of the team has been this season compared to seasons in past.
“We are balanced and have a family atmosphere, we have a team that holds each other accountable every day and truly cares about each other,” Schindler said. “I have had two teams that have really been in that place and this is one of them.”
Being accountable and focused every day in practice is something the Schindler has continually stressed to the team throughout the season. One of the most promising and exciting things that Coach Schindler sees in this team compared to teams in the past is that the team has continued to get better and better throughout the season.
“I think last year’s team was very successful and I was very proud of them but based on dynamic and personal we were strong to begin with, but we failed to grow throughout the year,” Schindler said. “This year’s team isn’t even close to being tapped out yet. I am excited, and to still be excited at this time of the year and know that you and your team are not done yet is so great.”
The ability to execute is another dynamic that has led the TexAnns to a successful season. One of the things the players have brought to the table is the “bring your own juice” idea. McManus expressed that she felt a big difference in the team this year in compared to past is the fact that it is so well rounded.
“In past years we have had somewhat of a go to player that did everything and this year every single person is expected to do everything and that’s what binds us together because we know we have to work hard for the person next to us,” McManus said.
Accountability is another huge factor for the team. Each player has an accountability partner so that they each have one specific person holding them accountable for every skill that they do on and off the court.
Winning the Lonestar Conference was one of the goals that the team verbalized at the beginning of the season.
“Winning conference means everything especially on our home court, we know that there is a huge target on our back and we are just embracing it,” Knutson said.
The goals don’t stop there for this team.
McManus said, “we have reached goals that we set, but every day is a new day and every day we have something to reach for.”
“If we didn’t have a national championship mindset we would be doing something wrong so that is definitely our biggest goal,” Knutson said.
Being consistent and intentional in practice and in games is something that both of these senior’s feel is important not only as a member of the team, but also as leaders of the team.
In order to keep up their successful season, the TexAnns plan to continue being purposeful in their actions and taking advantage of every day that they get to compete and every opportunity they are given.
The remainder of the season is a promising one as Schindler said, “as a coach you always better, you want more and you’ve seen different dynamics and different student athletes, and this is better. They are better, better people, better chemistry, better athletes.”
The TexAnns faced No. 8 seed Arkansas-Fort Smith Thursday Nov. 15 in Wisdom Gym for the opening round of the South Central Regional Volleyball Tournament. After conquering Arkansas-Fort Smith 3-0, the TexAnns moved on to the second round to face No. 4 Colorado School of Mines. Defeating Colorado School of Mines 3-1, the TexAnns faced No. 2 Texas A&M Commerce who took the win at the Lone Star Conference Championship tournament Nov. 10. The TexAnns were hungry for this win and defeated Texas A&M Commerce 3-1. The TexAnns will be heading to Pittsburgh, PA to play in the NCAA Division II Volleyball National Championship. The TexAnns will take on No. 3 Western Washington on Nov. 29 at 1:30 p.m. central time in A.J. Palumbo Center.