Crosstown rivals share strong friendship

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Marcus volleyball head coach Danielle Barker (right) considers Flower Mound volleyball head coach Marci Laracuente a mentor and friend. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

It has been said that there’s little difference between winning and losing.

That, but for a few aces here and few more digs there, the outcome of an individual game might have a different result; with the losing team becoming the winning team and the winners coming up short.

While that is certainly true from time to time throughout a season, winning on a continual basis takes a lot more than just having the ball bounce your way more times than not.

Enter two teams: the Flower Mound volleyball program— a team that has reached the playoffs in three of the last four seasons– and the Marcus Lady Marauders– a team trying to reach the postseason level for the first time since 2013.

The Lady Jaguars have played in six playoff games since 2014 and coach Marci Laracuente said all of her teams that have advanced beyond district have had a few things in common.

“The most successful teams at Flower Mound have been player led, which means the captains and athletes hold themselves accountable to be disciplined on and off the court and consistently have a great work ethic,” Laracuente said. “They are never satisfied and constantly want to know what they can do to improve their skills. This is just as important in the weight room during off-season workouts. When the student athletes take responsibility for their season and demand they give their best at all times, it pays off.”

Laracuente said that the coaching staff is there to guide and help players realize their potential, but truly great teams are the ones where the athletes take every aspect of the game seriously.

“If the coaching staff is consistently having to remind their athletes about taking care of the little things they should already be doing, it takes the focus and energy away from developing the team to play at a higher level,” Laracuente said. “Also, the chemistry of a team depends on the willingness of the athletes to put the team’s best interest above their own.

“At Flower Mound, we define the roles the girls have on the team. Each and every role is important, whether they are a starter, or never see the court. All our wins come from each and every girl pushing each other in practice by being competitive and holding each other accountable to do their best.”

Laracuente has coached at Flower Mound for 12 years and said she has learned a lot in that time, adding that even though she has always known what it takes to win and be successful, she has learned new strategies and techniques to help her players achieve their goals and be competitive.

“After every season, I think it’s important to go through a time of reflection and be honest with yourself about the things you can improve on,” Laracuente said. “There are many amazing coaches in my life that have been great mentors; here at Flower Mound and at other schools. It’s a humbling experience when I get to pick their brains and get advice; and, I hope to accomplish as much as they have one day.”

One person who already views Laracuente as an amazing coach and mentor is Danielle Barker, the first-year Marcus head coach and former assistant under Laracuente at Flower Mound High School.

Barker said that Laracuente has taught her a lot about coaching. She added that she does not believe she would be where she is if it were not for the Flower Mound volleyball coach.

“I have incorporated a ton of what I learned from being at Flower Mound and working under Marci,” Barker said. “She knew when she hired me that my goal was to become a head coach, so the two years I was there, she was teaching me the ins-and-outs of running a program. We balanced each other out very well with her playing middle in college and me being a setter.

“Everything I learned from her about front row positions I incorporate here at Marcus. As far as my own coaching philosophy goes, it is modeled after my mom’s program.”

The Marcus coach has a great pedigree, as mother Jan Barker is the head coach at Amarillo High School and sister, Brianne Barker-Groth, is the varsity volleyball coach at Colleyville Heritage.

Barker added that she felt a kinship from the get-go with Laracuente, so when the two teams squared off on Sept. 15, it was no surprise that it took five games for Flower Mound to pull out a 3-2 victory.

“It is a lot of fun to coach against Marci,” Barker said. “I see her as a big sister and we are competitive with each other, just like I am with my sister, Brianne. We know each other so well and we prepare for games the same, so it is always fun to compete against her.”

Marcus and Flower Mound will square off again at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 at Flower Mound High School.

Barker said she believes a lot of the same things Laracuente does about winning teams and what it takes to compete for a playoff spot year in and year out.

“Successful teams that I have been a part of as a player have all had the mindset of ‘we are not losing, period.’ And, [they] were all on the same page, had the same goals and would not let anyone keep us from achieving those goals,” Barker said. “We competed in everything we did and hated losing even one drill in practice. As a coach of successful teams here in Flower Mound, everyone was committed to the team and program and took care of their responsibilities outside of school, so they could come to practice 100-percent committed and focused. Everyone bought-in and that made a huge difference.

“These are things that we, as a coaching staff at Marcus, strive to teach our athletes every day in practice from the varsity level to freshman.”

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