By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
Three Midlothian Heritage seniors were recently recognized for reaching the 1,000-club in three separate statistical categories amid the Jaguars push to a second-consecutive district volleyball championship.
And the feats marked the fourth such celebration during an already quite eventful season for the playoff-bound program.
Hannah Larson and Kelsey Carpenter nearly crossed the milestone mark on the same set point during a Friday, Oct. 4 match against Ferris. Carpenter first assisted Larson on her 1,000th career kill, only to record her 1,000th assist a few points later. The tandem then celebrated alongside teammate Kaylee Rutenbar as she recorded her 1,000th career dig in a three-set sweep against Life Waxahachie on Tuesday, Oct. 15 on the Jaguars home court.
All three were honored by teammates, coaches and fans following the playoff-clinching victory against the Lady Mustangs.
“It was very special for me because I have been working for this for the past three years on varsity. It was really exciting to finally hit a goal of mine,” said Rutenbar to Ellis County Sports Sports as a teammate walked by to tell her “good game.” “[…] It was really special because they have been two of my best friends since we were two years old. It was pretty awesome.”
Carpenter and Larson echoed Rutenbar’s sentiments.
“This is very special because not many people reach these milestones in their high school career, so I am just thankful that I had a team like this to spend it with,” said Carpenter, a University of Texas at San Antonio-commit who previously recorded her 1,000th kill on Sept. 13.
She added, “Not many people get to reach two 1,000 milestones in their high school career, so it is an incredible feeling to have. They are both equally important and special in my high school career and I just thank my team for helping me get there.”
Larson, on the other hand, noted her 1,000th kill was extra special, as it is not all that common for a middle blocker to lead a team in that department. She said the encouragement from teammates and coaches helped to motivate her to reach the plateau.
Larson also thanked “everybody. Absolutely everybody.”
“From our passers to our setters, it’s just been a whole family thing,” Larson said. “They have pushed me to get there, and especially coach [Erika] Weber. She has helped me and taught me to swing faster and get the ball down. It has basically taken everybody.”
“[…] It was really amazing and it was really fun to accomplish it with them because I have grown up with these girls and this volleyball team,” she added. “It was just really cool to accomplish the goal at the same time. We have all talked about it and wanted it for each other, so it was really cool.”
As for the first-year head coach, Weber said she has appreciated the enthusiasm and intensity that the Jaguars have played during district play en route to an 8-0 record in 17-4A and 22-17-1 overall mark. She also pointed to the group limiting its unforced errors as a key statistic to their recent eight-match winning streak — during which the Jaguars have not dropped a single set.
Weber was also quick to note that the three had already accumulated the majority of their stats before she arrived this fall. She does, however, feel “very blessed have their talent and have the hardworking athletes that we do.”
“It’s hard to reach these milestones. It’s not something that is easy and, for these girls, I am very, very proud of them,” she added, “[…] This may sound silly, but it is so rewarding to see their accomplishments being met and those goals that they set at the beginning of the year and to see them reach those goals, whether it is individual or as a team.
“But none of this would happen if they weren’t working together. None of it would happen if you didn’t have a good pass because then you wouldn’t be able to have a good set or kill. It’s just so exciting and selfless and so deserving.”
Midlothian Heritage will look to close out District 17-4A and an unblemished 10-0 record with a home match Friday against Hillsboro followed by a road tilt Tuesday, Oct. 29 against Venus.
If the Jaguars win Friday against the Lady Eagles, they will capture their second consecutive district championship.
If they win both of the final two matches in straight sets, they will run their district straight-set winning streak to 20 matches. The Jaguars have won 23 of their last 24 district matches in straight sets, with the lone loss coming in five-set fashion against Glen Rose on Oct. 24, 2017. The streak started with a clean sweep of Stephenville on Oct. 3, 2017.
To take it just one step further, the Jaguars are currently a combined 28-2 in district play over the past three seasons. All 28 victories have come in straight-set fashion.
These girls are good.
All photos by Fred Phipps/Ellis County Sports Sports
Fred Phipps/Ellis County Sports Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith