The Lady Warriors, under the direction of hall of fame coach Robin Dotson, have won three straight VHSL Class 2 state titles, five out of the last six championships and have made appearances in six of the last seven state title games.
An impressive resume for a program that Dotson builds not only as a team, but also as a family.
THREE SISTERS, EIGHT RINGS
That family environment was both figurative and literal for three sisters from the family of Doug and Jill Mullins.
Eliza, Sophie and Olivia Mullins have all played on multiple state championship teams for Central.
Eliza, the eldest of the three, helped pave the way for the storied program’s success in recent years.
A senior at Virginia Tech, she won state rings for the Lady Warriors in 2014 and 2015.
Sophie earned state championships for Central in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Olivia played on this season’s state championship team, as well as the state title teams in 2018 and 2017.
END OF A DYNASTY
When Olivia won the championship this season, with her parents and older sisters in the stands at the VCU Siegel Center in Richmond, it ended a championship run for the sisters.
“I think it’s more stressful watching than playing,” Eliza said of watching her younger sisters compete for state titles. “You just want to be out there with them.”
The sisters did get some chances to play on the same state championship squads. Eliza was a junior and Sophie was a freshman on the 2014 team, and they played together again the following year.
Sophie was a senior on the 2017 championship team, while Olivia was earning her first state title as a sophomore.
“It has been a true blessing,” Doug Mullins, the sisters’ father said.
Both Doug and Jill Mullins were athletes in high school. So it comes as no surprise that their three daughters were interested in sports from an early age.
That sports environment has led to a happy and very competitive home for the Mullins family.
“I joke some that we don’t play board games at home very often because it gets a little competitive. We just try to relax at home,” Doug said.
On a more serious note, Doug and Jill believe playing sports has taught their daughters valuable life lessons.
“We just believe in athletics being a wonderful mechanism to help teach things about life. How you react when things get tough and you get knocked down,” he said. “Sports is a microcosm of life and just teaches you so much.”
If Doug Mullins could hand pick a coach to teach his daughters the game of basketball and life lessons, he said it would be Robin Dotson.
“He requires a lot of discipline and effort, and his expectations are high,” Doug Mullins said of the coach who has six state championship rings of his own. “I just think it’s been great for all the young ladies in that program to play for him and learn so much. To learn what it’s like to expect more from yourself and to give the best that you have. When it comes to coaching my daughters, we wouldn’t trade him for anyone,” he said.
His daughters feel the same way about their coach.
Eliza and Olivia both say with a smile that the tough-as-nails Dotson has softened up some as the years have gone by. They also agree that he has taught them life lessons that go beyond the basketball court.
“He always told me to be big and be confident,” said Eliza. “He told me I had abilities that would carry me through anything. Be big and be confident.”
For Olivia, discipline in athletics and life was one of the biggest things she learned from Dotson.
“I never had a coach expect such perfection,” she said. “If we were doing a drill at practice and you were supposed to be on a particular spot, he expected you to be on that spot. Not next to it or beside of it but on that spot.
“It’s the little things and his focus on the details and demanding perfection that has helped him have the success that he has had. And it’s helped me in many things I’ve dealt with and will deal with in my life.”
Olivia summed up her high school career, and perhaps that of three sisters, after the Lady Warriors won the 2019 state championship.
“This is the fairy tale ending for high school basketball,” she said.