As the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets try to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, there is one aspect of their game they need to refine over the final 10 matches: consistency.
After getting off to a strong start that gave them a winning record, the past month has not been as kind. It included a six-match losing streak and just two victories in the past nine matches.
“We started off really strong, started really well,” Denison head coach Jana Kelly said. “We’ve kinda hit a wall. We’re still trying to find that rotation. I can play one rotation one set and it’s fantastic and then play that rotation the next set and it doesn’t work.
“Consistency is our key right now. That’s our biggest hurdle.”
If Denison (13-18) can regain its earlier form, starting with a visit to McKinney North to open District 10-5A action on Friday, then the Lady Jackets believe they can be in the hunt.
“The girls have proven they can play to that level earlier in the season,” Kelly said. “We just have to figure out our consistency issue and play ball like I know we can.”
At the same point last year, Denison was sitting with a 7-22 record and would not win again as the Lady Jackets went 0-10 in district play. So it is already a success to have nearly double the win total while flirting with a record that could get above .500.
But while Denison has overcome some injuries and worked in some new faces, there is still work to be done.
“We’re in a better place now than we were last year. I think we’ll be able to hold our own,” Kelly said. “I didn’t schedule easy teams during pre-district because I know what our district is like.”
Tayrn Gaines remains the offense’s top option but the consistency of the other Lady Jackets at the net is something that could be the difference in the final three weeks.
Elizabeth Linwood, Ashlinn Hamilton and Lainey Muirhead have all taken turns as the second option while Madison Chambless, who has missed the past few weeks with an ankle injury, has also chipped in to the offense as well.
“She was a six rotation player for me and when you lose someone who never comes off the floor, that leads to some changes,” Kelly said. “I look forward to getting her back sooner rather than later. I think she’ll suit up before district play ends.”
Kenzie Clark and Maddie Marr have continued to run the offense while Rylie Buttrill leads defensively on the back row.
Last season it was a crowded race for second place behind district champion — and eventual state runner-up — Lovejoy, which is the top-ranked team in the Class 5A poll.
McKinney North and Wylie East tied for second at 6-4, which was four games out of first place, and Sherman was one game back. Princeton was fifth.
“I think the same thing is going to happen. It will come down to the last part of the season,” Kelly said. “With the exception of Lovejoy, the other three playoff spots are up for grabs. I think everybody is evenly matched. We have as good a shot as any to get one of those spots.”