Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Prosper ready for state semis behind rookie coach, no stars
PROSPER — If Prosper is the Cinderella story of this year’s volleyball postseason, the team sure didn’t act like it Tuesday.
Practice was quiet, focused and organized. There was no sign of a team just happy to be competing in its first state tournament.
Credit for that is due primarily to first-year coach Erin McClanahan, who has been running practices this way since the season began in August.
“She definitely brought an intense work ethic to us when she came here,” junior middle blocker Kandyce Freeman said. “Last year we practiced, but it wasn’t ever this disciplined.”
State tournaments are old hat for McClanahan, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant at five-time defending champion Lovejoy.
Now McClanahan and Prosper (34-11) will try to take Lovejoy’s place as 4A state champs. They’ll face Dripping Springs (40-9) in a state semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
Prosper, ranked eighth in the area, toppled No. 5 Frisco, No. 3 Waxahachie and No. 2 Frisco Centennial in consecutive rounds to reach the program’s first state tournament. It held a 1-5 record against those three teams in regular-season meetings.
Prosper, it should be noted, missed the playoffs after going 5-9 and taking sixth place in District 9-4A last year.
“This team, I will say, is the most mentally-tough team I have ever been around,” McClanahan said. “We don’t have a superstar to carry us on her back.”
McClanahan coached former SportsDay players of the year Andie Malloy (now at Baylor) and Ebony Nwanebu (USC) during her time at Lovejoy.
In recent years, 4A and 5A state championship teams typically include at least one player of that caliber to lead the way.
But Prosper had only one player sign a national letter of intent last week. Senior Meredith Bramer, a 5-9 outside hitter, signed with North Texas as a libero.
Bramer leads the team with 437 kills and 48 aces, and she’s second with 609 digs.
“This team has never had a big-time stud,” McClanahan said. “But we have a lot of talent. When I took this job, I told them from day one that we could go to state. We’ve taken an unconventional route, but it’s worked.”
Prosper was well prepared for the rigors of its postseason run. McClanahan gave the team challenging tests at the Denton Ryan Kick-Off Classic and the Northwest ISD Classic.
Then Prosper got put through the ringer in 9-4A, which is among the toughest 4A districts in the state. It finished third behind Centennial and Frisco.
If Prosper wins its semifinal it would face either Amarillo or Friendswood in the state championship at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Getting there means beating a fourth consecutive higher-ranked opponent in Dripping Springs.
So far, playing above its ranking hasn’t been a problem for Prosper.
“Once we beat Frisco Centennial the first time, during district, I don’t think we were underdogs anymore,” Freeman said. “We’ve been given that name, but I don’t think we are.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.