Handley’s Carter utilizing power and experience to lead Judges
WINCHESTER — When Handley volleyball coach Lindsay Hazelette first saw Dierdre Carter on the court during her freshman year, she knew Carter had a lot of potential.
Hazelette saw a physically-gifted athlete who was relatively new to volleyball, but she realized right away how Carter’s athleticism could help her become a big-time player in time.
“She had limited playing time in the sport — only starting to play in the seventh grade,” Hazelette said. “At the end of her freshman Handley season, she became committed to volleyball year-round, playing travel and for Handley. The leaps and bounds physically and mentally have progressed each year of play at the high school level.
“It was apparent from the start from her athletic build that she could be a great all-around player on the volleyball court and a great asset to the Handley volleyball program.”
Over the past four years Handley’s volleyball program has improved its record each year, and the Judges’ senior class — led by the two-time all-district selection Carter — has played a prominent role in that turnaround.
The Judges went 7-14 in both 2007 and 2008, but since then Handley posted an eight-win season in 2009, a nine-win season in 2010, and then notched the program’s first winning season in seven years with a 13-7 record last year.
Handley’s steady rise under Hazelette continues with a veteran team that includes five seniors this year, and the Judges appear poised to make a run at the Northwestern District title and the team’s first regional berth since 2003.
Senior middle Alex Barnett and senior setter Alison Snow fill key roles and provide leadership along with classmates Lisa Meneau and Anna Robinson, but there’s no denying just how valuable Carter has been to the team’s success.
Hazelette said the younger players on the team look up to Carter.
“Over the four years that she’s been here her physical ability has definitely led the program,” said Hazelette, who is in her fifth year as head coach. “I think in middle school she kind of just had the raw athletic ability and in the ninth or 10th grade it kind of clicked. Being able to put her vertical jump and also her physical arm strength and just putting that together with killing and spiking the ball [was key].
“And just by getting younger girls interested [in the program] and having the older role model to look up to is part of her leadership on the court. Vocally, she always has a positive attitude for the team. She’s kind of looked to to bring that positive in every situation. Most of the time she leads by example, but when positive words need to be spoken — if someone’s in a rut or momentum’s lost — she’s always that uplifting character that can bring the team back into focus.”
And it’s impossible to overlook just how much of a force Carter has been for the Judges’ front line.
Through 10 matches, Carter leads the Judges with 168 kills. She’s on pace to eclipse her team-high of 210 kills from last season, and she ranks second on the team with 12 blocks and tied for first with Allie Hoffman with 30 aces.
The Judges are off to a 9-2 start, and Carter said that team chemistry and year-round dedication to the sport has helped Handley go from eight wins during her freshman season to 13 last year.
“We’re more like sisters now, and we’ve come together even closer to bring the volleyball program forward,” said Carter, a first team all-district selection last year. “If you work together you play better together. We have strong players and a lot of us have played travel so that’s been a bigger part in the way we play.”
Carter said her main focus during the offseason was improving her all-around game. While she’s always been one of the Judges’ leading hittters, she ranks third on the team with 104 digs (2.5 per set).
“In talking to some coaches, they said that I should work on my defense,” Carter said. “Once I get on top of that more, then I’ve got everything.”
Carter averages a team-best four kills per set with a .267 hitting percentage that ranks second best. Carter’s hitting ability makes her the go-to option on the Judges’ front line, and she has more kills than the team’s next three kill leaders combined.
“In the area or in the district she’s one of the most powerful hitters,” Hazelette said. “She’s gained a lot of knowledge over the last offseason in travel ball and just playing year round. I think that brings a good asset to our program. If she has the perfect set — no other team can return it.”
Snow said Carter gives the team a dynamic front-line hitter.
“She’s one of the most powerful hitters I’ve ever seen in high school,” said Snow, who leads the Judges with 197 assists. “If you can get that set up quickly she can put it right at the 10-foot line. She’s really versatile with her hitting. I know there was one time [against Kettle Run in the Judges’ 3-1 win last Tuesday] where she had one kill with her left hand. She can usually make something out of any set.”
Hazelette said there’s no question the team’s senior class has played a huge role in the team’s turnaround.
“I think they were kind of a little disappointed with how we ended up in the district last year, and I think they just kind of wanted to take it upon themselves to lead this team,” Hazelette said. “They’ve set a new precedent and new expectation for Handley volleyball. Everyone [in the grades] behind them has kind of looked up to that . They’ve set the goal of turning the program around since they were freshmen.”
Handley’s “Big 3” of Carter, Snow and Barnett (who leads the Judges with 46 blocks) — along with Brazilian exchange student Ana Ribeiro (47 kills) and junior Semefa Tettegah (53 kills) — are a big reason why the Judges are one of the deepest teams in the Northwestern District. And that depth and talent has the Judges setting their sights on the district title this year. Handley owns a 3-0 district record heading into tonight’s showdown at 7 p.m. with James Wood (11-2, 3-0) at Maddex-Omps Gymnasium.
“Our goal is to win districts this year,” Carter said. “We just need to stay focused and keep our eyes on the prize because we can do it this year. We all know it so we’ve just go to pull through.
“[Against James Wood] we have to come out strong from the very beginning and have fun. We have fun, we play better.”
— Contact Robert Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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