The Lambert volleyball team has recently gained a certain uniformity that almost every other team lacks.
For around three weeks, Longhorns head coach Missey Hall estimated, Lambert has been playing without a libero, typically a team’s defensive specialist. Miranda Hardin had been the one typically wearing the white shirt to distinguish the position, but on Thursday, she was in an anthracite top like the rest of her teammates.
"We're just working on our defensive skills with all our players right now, and making sure that everybody is earning that position," Hall said.
The Longhorns are still in the discovery stage in some aspects heading into the state tournament, but the results have rarely flagged. On Thursday, they finished the region tournament by sweeping West Forsyth in three sets, 25-17, 25-23, 25-21, and locked up the No. 3 state playoff seed. The loss put the Wolverines in the No. 4 spot.
Lambert didn’t dominate any particular set on Thursday, and the Wolverines held plenty of leads throughout. The Longhorns were less mistake-prone, though, and put together runs in important spots, winning six straight points to erase a 23-19 deficit in the second set and winning seven straight to take the decisive lead in the third set.
"Our offense was spread out a lot more than it normally has been in the past," Hall said. "Everybody's getting a chance to contribute, so I really liked that. I thought the energy closing it out was good stuff.
The No. 3 seed isn’t an ideal position for the Longhorns, as they would need an upset from a bracket-mate to play at home, but Hall is confident about the team’s chances. Lambert (31-9) has played well on the road this year, and the No. 3 seed has been kind to area teams in recent years: South Forsyth had that position in 2017, and the War Eagles made the state quarterfinals.
"I feel good, going into it," Hall said. "We usually play pretty well on the road, so I'm not worried about not having home-court advantage.
West (21-21) head coach Jake Dickey is similarly confident about his team’s chances, given the quality of competition is faced during the area schedule and the matchup with Area 8-7A. His main preoccupation is how his team can find the consistency it has lacked throughout the season.
"Our record's a pretty good indicator of our season," Dickey said. "We beat Harrison, we beat some really good teams, we've lost to some average teams. It's kind of the way we've been so. Finding consistency has been difficult for us."