Be it for the district championship or the fourth playoff spot, the action was hotly contested down to the wire in 5-6A last season. Prosper, Denton Guyer and McKinney Boyd all finished within two games of one another atop the standings, and Allen had to outlast McKinney in a play-in match to qualify for the postseason.
The 2021 encore should feature some familiar faces, with the league’s aforementioned playoff qualifiers all turning in encouraging results across their respective preseason schedules. Time will tell if teams like McKinney and Little Elm, both of whom are under new leadership, or a Braswell bunch that has already eclipsed its 2020 win total, can upset the apple cart.
Prior to Friday’s conference schedule tipping off, here’s how Star Local Media forecasts 5-6A’s playoff picture shaking out this season.
Despite graduating a senior class that included five Division I college signees, the Lady Eagles appear primed for another run at a district championship.
Ranked No. 7 in Class 6A by Texas Volleyball Insiders, Prosper has reconfigured its personnel to withstand the graduation of three of its top four hitters. The biggest lift in that area has come from sophomore Ayden Ames, a move-in from California who’s averaging more than 3.5 kills per set so far. Senior Kendall Hewitt has acclimated well to a move to the left side of the front line and junior Ella Chaney has logged a staggering .477 hitting percentage — a mark that ranks third in the nation among all stats submitted via MaxPreps.
Head coach Erin Kauffman has lauded her girls’ selflessness in adapting to new roles, something that adds an element of versatility to Prosper’s lineup as it prepares to defend its district championship.
2. McKinney Boyd
Although a few speed bumps cropped late in the preseason, it’s been an overall productive lead-up to district play for the Lady Broncos. Boyd posted a collective record of 11-1 in tournaments in Rockwall and Allen, including a championship win in the former, and enter 5-6A ranked No. 14 by TVI.
Seniors Hannah Billeter and Avery Calame are as tough a one-two punch at the net as any duo in the area, but the Lady Broncos have received strong contributions elsewhere from players like sophomore Carson Eickenloff, junior Camryn Weldon and seniors Macy Parker and Mina Iboni.
Getting that complementary support behind Billeter and Calame will give Boyd a fighting chance against anyone in the district.
3. Denton Guyer
The Lady Wildcats impressed with a second-place district finish last season, and if Guyer has ambitions on contending once again, it’ll likely mean another big year from junior Kyndal Stowers. The Baylor commit’s well-rounded skill set can sway the tide of a match at any moment, but one of the district’s biggest preseason subplots has been the development of the team’s supporting cast under new head coach Leslie Jackson in the wake of graduating cornerstones in Brooke Slusser and Jordyn Williams. Players like senior London Hunt and junior Gracey Campbell have stepped up throughout the preseason.
So long as Guyer is able to deter defenses from loading up on Stowers, another successful year in 5-6A should follow.
The Lady Eagles have flashed their share of potential in their first preseason under new head coach Stephanie Poole — notably knocking off top 10-ranked Plano West in two sets during Allen’s host tournament.
The Lady Eagles have taken sets off teams like Boyd, Eaton, Flower Mound and Marcus, and developing that set-to-set consistency will be key should Allen look to threaten the district’s upper echelon.
They’ve got plenty of experience to lead that pursuit, including reigning 5-6A co-defensive player of the year Emily Canaan at libero, plus multi-year varsity contributors in seniors Leah Reeves, Tori Wilson and Emily Janek. Allen has received an added boost from varsity newcomers like sophomore Alyssa Boyte, who currently leads a balanced attack in kills, and junior Janet Zhang.
The Lady Eagles had a strong preseason, finishing with a 19-7 record that included a pair of wins over two-time defending Class 5A state champion Lovejoy.
Ames has been a solid addition what was a potent offensive attack for the Lady Eagles. She has a team-leading 264 kills on the season. Chaney (190 kills, 41 blocks) and Hewitt (189 kills) add to that formidable attack.
Junior setter Callie Kieffer is off a fantastic start at setter as he has already logged 559 assists.
2. McKinney Boyd
The Lady Broncos enter district play with a 14-4 record, despite losing three of their last four matches to conclude the preseason. But those three opponents were state-ranked Flower Mound, Lovejoy and Plano West – all legitimate title contenders in Classes 5A and 6A, with the Lady Leopards fresh off winning their second consecutive state title.
In search of their 13th straight season with a winning record, Boyd has two reliable veterans who can take over a match in Billeter and Calame.
3. Denton Guyer
Guyer will go as far as Stowers can take the Lady Wildcats.
The Baylor commit had a team-high 288 kills in a shortened 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Guyer will need more production around her following the graduation of two key hitters off last year’s team in Slusser and Williams.
Guyer finished the preseason with a 10-8 record and that included a two-set win over V.R. Eaton, the No. 1-ranked team in the TGCA 6A state poll, as well as a four-set win against defending District 6-5A champion Denton.
The Lady Eagles have rebounded nicely after a slow start to the season in which they won just two of their first six matches – albeit it against Eaton, Flower Mound, Marcus and McKinney North.
Allen has a balanced offense that can make it hard to predict who is going to hit the ball – Boyte, senior Sydni Mitchell, senior Divine Muo and Wilson are all over the 100-kill mark this season. Boyte and Wilson have combined for 92 blocks.
Allen has been a beacon of success as the Lady Eagles have not had a losing season since 2012. Don’t expect that to change this season.