MANSFIELD — Attrition rates from high school graduation can break teams faster almost as fast as a season-ending injury.
Combined that with a head coaching change, you may have the makings of a major rebuild.
The Midlothian (21-11) Lady Panthers, however, continued to buck the trend and move to 5-1 in District 10-5A after Tuesday's three-set victory against Mansfield Summit High School at MSHS Gymnasium.
"We knew if we worked at it, we'd have a chance to be in this position," said Mary Malone, the head volleyball coach at Midlothian High School. "We definitely haven't reached our ceiling. We haven't even finished the first round. We still have things to improve and incorporate into our system. We're not putting our cart before the horse. Our focus is to stay humble, stay focused, and continue to improve."
The Lady Panthers, which beat Mansfield Summit 25-12, 25-15 and 25-17, entered Tuesday on a five-match win streak and haven't lost back-to-back matches since late August. Midlothian had won six of their last seven contests to move into a second place in the district.
She attributed their rise to her team's deft combination of a youthful promise and talent that helped hold the (12-15) Lady Jaguars — a playoff contender last year — to less than 17 points in each set. Aside from producing more than 50 digs from six different players, Midlothian was little less than an offensive juggernaut during the match.
Junior setter Kamryn Owen (31) and senior outside hitter Sydney Little (14) also their sixth consecutive double-digit assist and kill performances in district play. Owen has 221 assists in 10-5A play and Little has 103 kills.
The Lady Panthers also received steady defensive play from senior Emalee Lowe (17 digs), Little (15 digs) and junior Aubrey Walton (14 digs) during the win and senior Georgia Cappell and sophomore Samantha Rodgers added 10 kills and one dig and eight kills and two digs, respectively.
"Honestly, we are a little banged up at this point with illness and minor injuries," Malone said. "However, we were fundamentally sound tonight with a semi-different staff on the floor. I would say it's a good definition of our team. We have a goal that we intend to complete. Our youth is proving to be an asset rather than a liability and is the future of our program.
"They are being forced to grow quickly which will prepare them to lead when it's their time. I am pleased with how each player has performed thus far and look forward to the growth towards the postseason."
The Lady Panthers are scheduled to play the fifth place Red Oak High School (24-9 overall, 3-3 in 10-5A) at 5:30 p.m. at Red Oak High School Competition Gymnasium.