lady bulldogs

McKenna Zett (4) gets a kill against Center as Carthage teammates Cami Hicks (17) and Kristen Stewart look on. The Lady Dawgs swept the match.

It seems like the No. 5 Carthage Lady Bulldogs have had their spot wrapped up in the playoffs for quite some time.

That’s probably because their current 17-match winning streak started well before their defense of the District 20-4A title.

For the second straight season they have the Palestine Lady Wildcats waiting for them in the bi-district round of the playoffs

The Lady Dawgs bring a 35-4 record into Monday night’s 6:30 p.m. first serve at Tyler Junior College, while the Lady Wildcats are 13-24.

“We’re playing pretty well right now,” said Carthage coach Dawn Stewart, who’s team had a playoff warmup match at Kilgore on Saturday afternoon. “We haven’t played our full roster for quite some time. But we’re starting to get people back and the people who were playing gave us a great effort.

“We’re focused now and we have the mindset that everyone we’re playing from now on is good or they wouldn’t have made it this far. At the same time, we know if we play our game and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be OK.”

Part of the reason for Stewart’s confidence is the chemistry in her team.

“We’re serving really well right now,” she said. “We’re playing hard and we have several people who can put the ball down hard and aggressively for us.

“We’re running a fast-set with unselfish players. And we have Cami Hicks.”

Having the 6-foot senior leads the Lady Dawgs in kills with 323 and also has 114 blocks.

But she is far from a one-woman team as McKenna Zett has 193 kills and 255 digs and Faith Kruebbe has 188 kills and 174 digs.

Kristen Stewart has 669 assists and 226 digs. Chesney Baker has 406 digs and Addison Surraatt has 255 digs.

Playing a team for a second straight year can have some advantages, but the Carthage coach downplays it.

“It helps some,” she said. “But teams are different from year to year. The girls are so focused now that it really doesn’t matter.

“They do have a girl in the middle. She’s their go-to player. We have to make sure we have a big blocker going against her all the time. Their whole offense revolves around getting the ball to her. So we have to keep that from happening.”