By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
Friday was a celebration for the Midlothian Heritage volleyball team.
It was first an opportunity to shower senior outside hitter Kelsey Carpenter with praise for reaching the 1,000-kill club, a feat reserved for only the most consistent and talented hitters on any given team that often takes a full four years on the varsity level to reach.
The Jaguars and their faithful then took a few moments to appreciate the monumental efforts it took to arrive at a sub .500 record through 30 matches. This one is more remarkable than the sentence reads.
Each feat is exceptional in its own right.
Carpenter, a four-year member of the Heritage varsity team and University of Texas at San Antonio commit, recorded a match-high 23 kills on 65 swings (.200-hitting percentage) in the Jaguars four-set home loss to Weatherford, 18-25, 25-23, 15-25, 16-25. The performance moved her career-kill total to 1,269.
Carpenter actually surpassed the 1,000-kill milestone Aug. 15 in a two-set win against Fossil Ridge. She currently boasts 372 kills in 63 sets played (5.9 kills per set) after posting 472 kills her junior season, 314 following her sophomore campaign and 111 in 98 sets played her freshman year.
“Personally, I didn’t ever really think about reaching 1,000,” Carpenter told KBEC Sports on Friday. “Of course, I want to get kills and get points in our matches, but that wasn’t ever ultimately a goal for me.
“But, to realize that I reached that milestone in my high school career is humbling and I am really thankful for our setters and great passers because I couldn’t do that stuff without them. I am really thankful for them and my team and to be able to represent such a great team.”
As for the team as a whole, the Jaguars 14-15-1 record is more proof of how talented they truly are than how far they have to go, as all but four of those matches came against 5A competition or higher. The four matches against 4A foes all resulted in wins, which included a pair of victories over Argyle.
For historical reference, the Jaguars had a season record of 17-14 at this same juncture last season. They then went on to cruise through District 17-4A without dropping a single set, ultimately winning 16 consecutive matches — with just one dropped set — before falling to Needville in the 4A state semifinals.
Because of that experience, Carpenter said she thinks this year’s team is not only equally as talented but maintains the same lofty goal to return to the state tournament.
“We have younger players that we pulled up and we have welcomed them to our team and we have pushed them because we know that they can compete at the varsity level. We have played really well so far and have grown a lot this season,” the senior said. “The tournament season was a battle and we fought against some really high-level 6A teams but that has really built us mentally and I think that we are going to dominate in the district and throughout the postseason.”
Heritage closes out the non-district schedule with a home match at 5 p.m. Friday against 5A Decatur and then travels to 6A Allen for a 6:30 p.m. first serve on Tuesday.
The schedule will then turn to its second season — District 17-4A action.
The Jaguars open the district slate on the road against Life Waxahachie at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27.
For first-year head coach Erika Weber, the goal now remains the same as before the season starter — get back to the state tournament.
“I think we are improving every single game and I think our defense has improved tremendously from the preseason and through the tournament season,” Weber said. “We are finding our mental game and I am really excited about where we are at and even more excited about where we are going. We have played a lot of really tough matches against bigger schools, so being able to disregard our record and, hopefully, get to where we want to be in November — that is our focus.”
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports
Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith