PLANO WEST VB

Plano West junior Ashley Le and the Lady Wolves advanced to the Class 6A state championship match.

The final high school volleyball season of the decade ended with a bang on Saturday, with the top two programs in the Metroplex waging a five-set war as Trophy Club Byron Nelson triumphed over Plano West.

The thriller culminated a busy three sets from the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, which produced all manner of happiness and heartbreak for the 24 qualifiers among the UIL’s six classifications.

Although only one team in each class gets to end its year by hoisting a state championship, the season, the memories, moments and relationships built over the years carry a weight that’s just as important for numerous programs throughout the Metroplex.

In keeping with the tradition of Thanksgiving week, here’s a look at some of the things local volleyball teams have reason to be thankful for.

 

Program-defining talent

Be thankful for the once-in-a-generation senior talent that can fuel a special season — something teams like Frisco Liberty and Plano West saw rewarded in 2019. 

It’s a shame that Liberty and Lovejoy were pinned against each another so early in the postseason, as it now seems that they very well could have been 5A’s top two teams — given how the Lady Leopards dispatched of the rest of their postseason opposition.

As frustrating and disappointing as a five-set loss to the eventual state champs may be for the Lady Redhawks, they still have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season.

The program is fresh off of a flawless 18-0 run through district en route to a 9-5A title and a lot of that immense success had to do with often times having the best player on the court in superstar Jenna Wenaas, who posted a whopping 642 kills and 440 digs in her final season with Liberty.

The Minnesota signee concluded a dominant four-year run on the varsity program that also included a District MVP trophy as a sophomore, on top of countless team accolades throughout her four-year span terrorizing the competition.

For West, 2019 was the culmination of years of hard work put in by the program’s most decorated senior class ever — led by Jill Pressly and Iman Ndiaye. Those two were at the forefront of the Lady Wolves’ second-ever trip to the state tournament last year, which abruptly ended in the semifinals.

One year later, West turned in its best season ever — complete with a redemptive, five-set win over Fort Bend Ridge Point in the semifinals, followed by pushing the nation’s No. 1-ranked team to five sets before falling just short of a 6A championship.

Ndiaye and Pressly were named to the all-tournament team for their efforts, a fitting coda to two of the best careers of any volleyball player to pass through Plano ISD.

 

A return to supremacy

Be thankful for ending a season on the highest of highs. Look no further than Lovejoy, which scaled the mountaintop for the first time since 2014 in capturing the 5A state championship.

The Lady Leopards did so behind some of the best defense and ball control the volleyball juggernaut has ever produced, which fueled a versatile offense helmed by sophomore Averi Carlson and junior Cecily Bramschreiber.

Posting a 48-5 record and closing out the year on a 20-match winning streak, Lovejoy reclaimed its throne following a four-set semifinal win over Friendswood and a sweep of Canyon Randall in the 5A championship match.

Lovejoy finding success on the volleyball court is nothing new — Saturday marked the program’s seventh state championship since 2008 and its 10th state tournament appearance in 12 years.

Don’t expect any drop-off in 2020 either, with players like Carlson, Bramschreiber and juniors Callie Kemohah, Lexie Collins, Ellie Jonke and Brynn Eggar all expected back next season.

 

Sustained excellence

Be thankful for the continuation of success, with programs like Prosper, Coppell and Hebron all extending gaudy playoff streaks in 2019.

It’s crazy to think that just two years ago that Prosper, which won a championship in 2017 and has made the playoffs 11 of the past 12 seasons, was in the same 5A district as teams like RL Turner and Newman Smith, and now the Lady Eagles square off weekly with the likes of Plano ISD, McKinney Boyd and Allen.

Prosper hasn’t skipped a beat making its transition into 6A and is fresh off of another successful postseason run.

In fact, the Lady Eagles reached the regional tournament yet again and did so by knocking off a powerful Sachse squad in five sets in Round 3.

Meanwhile, Coppell and Hebron survived a rough-and-tumble 6-6A district to extend their prolific postseason runs. The Lady Hawks, not far removed from winning three consecutive state championships, have now qualified for the postseason 19 straight years, whereas the Cowgirls’ run extends more than two decades with 21 consecutive appearances.

 

The future

Be thankful for the promise that next season could hold. 

Few programs can submit a stretch as impressive as Flower Mound has in recent years. The Lady Jaguars captured a 6A state title in 2018, were among the best teams in the state once again this season, and still have sky-high prospects for next year.

The Lady Jaguars bring back the majority of their regional quarterfinalist lineup, including juniors Kaylee Cox and Angelique Cyr — arguably the state’s top one-two punch for the 2020 season.

Experience will also be on the side of programs like Allen, McKinney North, Lake Dallas and Marcus — all of whom sport young rosters that enjoyed success in 2019 and should only be better going forward.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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