First-year volleyball coach Tara Dunn isn't interested in re-living Ingram Tom Moore High School's past volleyball efforts; she's all about the present.
The Warriors are 7-17 — an uncharacteristic record after two seasons of dominance — but wins and losses can be deceiving. On Friday night, Ingram lost to visiting Canyon Lake in a five-set battle that consumed more than two hours of playing time.
Ingram's non-district schedule featured matches against four 6A, three 5A and four 4A programs, including Canyon Lake. Ingram plays in the 3A and opens district play on Sept. 24 against Llano.
Junior outside hitter Emmah Schmidt had 18 kills to lead Ingram Tom Moore on Friday night against visiting Canyon Lake.
Sophomore outside hitter/setter Rylan Wilt had 13 kills for Ingram.
From left, Brenlee Portenier (11), Riley Griffin (13), Rylan Wilt (9), Emmah Schmidt (1) and Madison McClintock (10) rarely came out of the match on Friday night.
After graduating three dominant seniors and the departure of Tony Vela as head coach, it looked like the Warriors would be rebuilding, but Dunn didn't see it that way.
"The first thing that I saw was untapped potential," said Dunn, who previously coached at 5A Floresville and was a collegiate standout at Oklahoma. "We have a ton of young girls on our team and we have a lot of girls who are very green playing-wise. So, the ceiling was infinite for them to grow."
Ingram wasn't without talent; the Warriors returned junior outside hitter Emmah Schmidt, sophomore outside hitter and setter Rylan Wilt and senior libero Harley Ince. All three were key contributors to the 2020 team. Ince, however, is currently injured and won't be available until late in the season.
The Warriors also feature presence at the net in 5-foot-11 sophomore middle blocker Madison McLintock, 5-9 sophomore opposite Brentlee Portenier and 5-10 senior opposite Riley Griffin.
Most of the players have some level of club experience, including being a part of Vela's Fredericksburg-based teams.
"Our record probably doesn't show the improvements that we made, but to me, a record doesn't matter until we get to district and playoffs," Dunn said.
Last year, the Warriors were ranked No. 1 in the state for most of the season before falling in the 3A regional semifinals against Goliad, which advanced to the state finals. In Vela's two seasons, the Warriors compiled a 54-8 record.
However, Dunn wants to build her own culture, and she's likely to stay put in Ingram. Dunn is candid about why she applied to work in the Hill Country.
"I grew up in a very small town like Ingram," Dunn said. "I went to Poth; I was Piratette, and I loved the small-town community support behind our program."
First-year Ingram Tom Moore coach Tara Dunn brings big-time coaching and collegiate experience to the Hill Country. Dunn said she chose Ingram because of its small-town community support.
When Dunn graduated from Poth in 2010, she had already led the Piratette's to a state 2A title in 2009, a runner-up finish in 2010. She was the state 2A player of the year in 2009 and was the MaxPreps player of the year in 2010. Heavily recruited by programs across the country, the 6-2 Dunn chose Oklahoma.
With the Sooners, Dunn earned all-Big 12 freshman team. She played for three seasons in Norman.
Now, she's ready to build her own culture, and she stresses patience. She experimented with a new lineup on Friday night, where six players played most of the rotations. She later substituted to sophomore defensive specialist Brooke Waldrip to shore up the back row.
After losing the first set 29-27, the Warriors roared back for decisive wins in the second and third sets. Canyon Lake rallied to win the fourth set, forcing a deciding fifth set.
It was in that fifth set when Ingram's inexperience showed. With match point, Ingram couldn't hold off Canyon Lake's rally in a 16-14 victory — where the visitors held off five match points to claim the win.
But there were plenty of positives. Schmidt had 18 kills, and Wilt added 13. Sophomore setter Kiley Goodman had 39 setting assists. Riley Griffin had a monster night at the net with six blocks.
"I'm very proud of the way that we played," Dunn said. "I think this is kind of a stepping stone to us for really getting there."
Emmah Scmidt had 21 digs for the Warriors on Friday night.
Sophomore setter Kiley Goodman had 39 assists setting for the Warriors.