Written by SportsDayDFW.com
After sluggish start, 2011 state volleyball finalist McKinney Boyd peaking at right time
MCKINNEY — Seniors Kaley Seaber and Megan Mollett weren’t sure what to expect from the McKinney Boyd volleyball team this season.
Both are fourth-year players, and both played integral roles in Boyd’s run to the state final last season.
But Boyd struggled against some of the state’s top teams, falling to Colleyville Heritage, Flower Mound, Lovejoy, Coppell, Plano and Plano West. Boyd also did not compete in the prestigious Pearland Classic, which kept the Lady Broncos out of the spotlight.
“We fell off the charts,” Seaber said. “A couple teams were shocking the state, and we weren’t one of them.”
That slowly began to change as the season continued. Boyd (37-7) is riding a 14-match winning streak and seems to be saving its best for last.
It will face New Braunfels (45-4) in a 5A state semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday at Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center.
“I remember this practice last year,” Boyd coach Kelly Quinn said after the team’s practice Tuesday. “There was so much tension. This year is a little easier. We know what we’re in for.”
Boyd has been soaring ever since a sweep of district foe Plano West in the Region II quarterfinals. Boyd won with authority, 25-11, 26-24, 25-12 — a match that brought out the best in the team.
The victory was more than Boyd’s ticket to the regional tournament. It provided the confidence that may have previously been lacking.
“It was a turning point,” Mollett said. “We started playing together and believing in each other.”
Added Seaber: “We’re peaking at the right time, and that’s the essence of a good team.”
Boyd toughed out a four-set win in the regional semifinals against The Woodlands, the favorite to emerge from Region II. Then Boyd overcame a first-set loss in the regional final to beat Plano in four.
McKinney Boyd continues to fly under the radar, though, even as it prepares for a second straight state tournament.
Another Dallas-area team — defending state champion Coppell — is the favorite to repeat. But Coppell coach Julie Green certainly wouldn’t overlook Boyd if the two faced off in a rematch of last season’s final.
“They’re an incredible team,” Green said. “They’re going to be ready. Nobody gets to the state tournament without earning it.”
Coppell will take on Houston Clear Lake in the other 5A semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. The winners meet in the state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“Last year we were a pack of excited girls,” Mollett said. “It’s time to take care of business and get that state ring.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.Class 5A state semifinal
New Braunfels (45-4) vs. McKinney Boyd (37-7)
5 p.m. Friday
McKinney Boyd: Boyd survived four-set matches against The Woodlands and Plano to reach the state tournament for the second consecutive season. Boyd lost its district opener to Plano West, then won nine straight matches to claim the 10-5A title. Arkansas signee Megan Mollett is a 5-9 outside hitter with 490 kills, 400 digs, 59 blocks and 37 aces this season. Senior libero Kaley Seaber has amassed 554 digs, 71 assists and 23 aces.
New Braunfels: Robin Gerlich’s squad is making its third state tournament appearance in the last 10 seasons. Two of New Braunfels’ four losses this season came against San Antonio Reagan, which was the top-ranked team in the state for most of the season. Jessica Waldrip (committed to UTSA) is a 5-11 senior setter with 1,222 assists, 47 aces and 62.5 blocks this season. Libero Daniella Villarreal (UTSA) has 659 digs and 49 aces. There’s also junior middle blocker Neka Cuppetilli, a Baylor pledge, with 457 kills, 126.5 blocks and 72 aces.
Class 5A state semifinal
Coppell (47-3) vs. Houston Clear Lake (32-9)
7 p.m. Friday
Coppell: Coppell hasn’t lost since Sept. 21 and has yet to drop a set in the playoffs. “There’s something about the playoffs that gets us going,” coach Julie Green said. “We look excited and we look focused.” Coppell is led by a handful of talented seniors, including middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu (Texas signee), right side hitter Erica Bohannon (Tulsa), outside hitter Cassidy Pickrell (California-Irvine) and setter Laura Beaty (Mississippi). Sophomore setter Kylie Pickrell is also a Division I prospect.
Houston Clear Lake: Making its first state tournament appearance since 1990, Clear Lake overcame a slow start to the season. It lost five of its first seven matches against some of the best competition in the state. Clear Lake beat 4A state semifinalist Friendswood at the Pearland Classic, and it has been on fire ever since. “This team is very capable,” coach Chanda Eager said. “This senior class has been strong from the beginning, and they continue to improve.” Tulane pledge Sarah Strasner is a 6-2 middle blocker with 395 kills and 120 blocks this season. She’s joined by fellow middle blocker Sarah Sciacca (committed to UT-Tyler), who has 157 kills and 60 blocks.
Class 4A state semifinal
Lovejoy (46-4) vs. Cedar Park (40-7)
7 p.m. today
Lovejoy: A fifth consecutive state title is within reach for Lovejoy, which hasn’t missed a step during its first season as a Class 4A member. “It’s been less of a hiccup than you’d think when moving up classes,” coach Ryan Mitchell said. Lovejoy won four straight 3A championships and has been the favorite since the preseason to win the 4A title. Three of Lovejoy’s four losses came against defending 5A champion Coppell, and the other came against 5A regional finalist Colleyville Heritage. Southern Cal signee Ebony Nwanebu, a 6-4 middle blocker, has amassed roughly 40 percent of Lovejoy’s kills this season. She has 617 kills, 101 blocks and 294 digs. She’s flanked by setter Shannon Connell (Stephen F. Austin signee), libero Bailey Martin (Northwestern State) and outside hitter Mallorie Puckett, who has 252 kills this season.
Cedar Park: This is Cedar Park’s first state tournament appearance. It lost in the regional final to Austin Lake Travis last season. Cedar Park has an experienced nucleus, led by a pair of talented hitters. Junior Hailey Roberts has racked up 400 kills, 97 aces and 297 digs this season, and senior Hope Lemon has 396 kills, 24 blocks and 150 digs. Senior liberos Jordyn Ledyard and Linda Steinhardt have combined for 491 digs, and senior setter Emily Grant has 396 assists. Cedar Park won the Byron Nelson Classic and was the runner-up at Leander’s Volleypalooza, which snapped a 21-match winning streak.
Class 3A state semifinal
Abilene Wylie (41-5) vs. Argyle (35-10)
1 p.m. Friday
Abilene Wylie: Top-ranked Wylie is making its third consecutive trip to the Class 3A state tournament, and this season will be its best chance to win a title. Much of last year’s state finalist roster returns, and Wylie doesn’t need to worry about four-time state champion Lovejoy, which is now in Class 4A. Senior setter Tucker Smith was named the Region I tournament MVP after dishing out 75 assists in wins against Springtown and Stephenville. Senior middle blocker Kylie Jenkins had 15 kills and three blocks in the final against Stephenville, and junior outside hitter Layne Little had 14 kills. Wylie lost to powers Wimberley and Lovejoy the last two seasons.
Argyle: Argyle’s won-loss record can be deceptive, since nine of those losses came against 4A and 5A competition. The other came in the season opener against eventual 3A regional semifinalist Springtown. Argyle coach Clark Oberle, whose team is making its first state tournament appearance, said his squad’s deceptive record could work in its favor. “The TGCA poll came out and had us fourth out of four,” he said. “I think that’s just based on our record. We’re coming in a little under the radar, so the bull’s-eye is not on our chest.” Setter Blair O’Brien is a four-year starter and keeps Argyle balanced offensively. Outside hitter Brooke Robertson leads the team with 351 kills, and sophomore middle blocker Katy Keenan has 327 kills and 93 blocks.