Could Hillcrest Lead DISD to Net Gains in Volleyball?

A deep senior class helped the Lady Panthers claim a second consecutive district championship. (Rob Graham)

Hillcrest’s volleyball resurgence included back-to-back District 11-5A titles and consecutive bi-district playoff victories. Those are impressive accomplishments by any standard.

Hillcrest edged a scrappy Sunset squad in four sets on Oct. 31 in its first playoff match before being swept by Mansfield Lake Ridge two days later in the area round for the second consecutive year.

That’s a familiar scenario for Dallas ISD volleyball programs when it comes to the playoffs. They rack up wins against lesser competition in their own district — Hillcrest won 23 of 24 league matches over the past two years — then can’t compete against suburban powerhouses with deeper resources and a more robust talent pool.

But Hillcrest head coach Diana Davis said it might not be that way for long. She thinks the Lady Panthers and other top squads from DISD might soon be ready to take the next step — scoring a postseason win against a team from outside of the district.

Repeat District 11-5A champs optimistic after playoff exit. (Photo: Rob Graham)

“Our goal this year was to win district again,” Davis said. “We have a lot of competition. Dallas has come a long way with their talent in volleyball. Give us another couple of years, and we can compete against these [suburban] teams. We have the talent, and now we’re developing it.”

Davis said a deep senior class for the Lady Panthers (20-9) has taken tremendous strides since arriving on campus four years ago. Davis said the leadership of that group has been vital in establishing a foundation for the future.

“We’ve got more experience,” said Hillcrest libero Kelsey Kennedy. “We’ve come together and figured out how to work together.”

Davis points to the Sunset match as an example of the burgeoning competitiveness within DISD. The Lady Bison lacked size and experience compared to Hillcrest, yet took a lead in each set. However, the Lady Panthers prevailed in critical points thanks to the serving of Bawi Par and the net play of Suzy Njoku.