At the start of the season, the volleyball teams in District 5-6A had Tuesday earmarked as the beginning of the second half of the conference schedule. As has been the case in recent weeks, COVID-19 had different plans.
Of the league’s seven programs, only two — Prosper and McKinney Boyd — have played their district schedule without any postponements related to the ongoing pandemic. Programs like Denton Guyer, which managed only three 5-6A matches before a two-week shutdown, haven’t been as fortunate.
With plenty left to be decided as volleyball teams near the homestretch, here’s a look at where the seven teams in 5-6A stand entering the second half of the district schedule.
After either splitting or outright capturing district titles in 9-6A during their first two years as a Class 6A program, the Lady Eagles lead the pack after a resounding start to their 5-6A campaign.
Improving to 7-0 following Tuesday’s sweep of Little Elm, Prosper has polished off all but one district opponent in three sets and has risen to No. 14 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association rankings.
The Lady Eagles check all the boxes of a dominant team, operating a well-run offensive system that produces attacks from a myriad of capable hitters, led by seniors Bailey Birmingham and Sami Jacobs.
With four of its final five district matches at home, Prosper is in an advantageous spot to bring home the district title.
2. McKinney Boyd
The Lady Broncos were the lone team in 5-6A to take a set off Prosper — something head coach JJ Castillo and her squad can build on in advance of the Nov. 6 rematch. Castillo said her team’s inability to slow the ball down at the net over the final two sets unraveled Boyd’s upset bid of the Lady Eagles.
The Lady Broncos are a justified No. 2 in the district, however, picking up wins over Guyer (3-1) and Allen (3-0) to elevate their standing.
Juniors Hannah Billeter and Avery Calame will give Boyd a puncher’s chance against practically any team in the area — a stout one-two punch at the net to complement the Lady Broncos’ usual scrappiness on defense, led in the back line by senior libero Rylee Hallford.
A two-match skid had Allen under .500 early into the district schedule, but the Lady Eagles have since rebounded with three-set wins over Little Elm and Braswell to thrust themselves back into the playoff equation.
Allen operates with a balance similar to Prosper, albeit without as much top-end firepower on the outside. Still, the Lady Eagles make up for it in the middle where senior Chloe Thomas resides as one of the top blockers in the area.
Wins over McKinney, Little Elm and Braswell already give Allen an inside track at a playoff berth, but two matches remain against Guyer — bouts that could be critical in determining who’s seeded third and fourth in the 5-6A pecking order.
4. Denton Guyer
The Lady Wildcats will be plenty busy over the back half of the district schedule, at last returning to the floor Friday to take on Boyd. It’ll be Guyer’s first match since Oct. 2, a three-week hiatus as the team looks to erase the sting of a 1-2 start to district play.
The Lady Wildcats had aspirations of district title contention take a hit with early losses to Boyd (3-1) and Prosper (3-0), but Guyer still remains plenty formidable behind the three-headed monster of Kyndal Stowers, Jordyn Williams and Brooke Slusser — three players who account for more than 80% of the team’s kills this season.
How Guyer responds to its lengthy layoff remains to be seen, with the team now tasked with playing nine matches over a 22-day stretch.
The 2-4 Lionettes are technically tied with Guyer in district win percentage at .333, but the Lady Wildcats’ abbreviated schedule still includes a 3-0 sweep of the Lionettes to begin the conference schedule on Sept. 25.
Three more losses followed against the district’s current top three, although McKinney did manage to take a set off Allen in a four-frame verdict, before the Lionettes at last garnered some momentum behind sweeps of Little Elm and Braswell last week.
Head coach Leslie Jackson and her squad hope that momentum carries over into the second half of district play, with McKinney likely needing a split with one of the four teams above to threaten for a playoff spot.
6. Denton Braswell
The Lady Bengals exited Tuesday at 1-4 in conference play, still alive in the race for a playoff spot, although those odds are faint with losses already on their ledger against the five teams above them in the standings.
Braswell’s lone victory came in a five-set victory over Little Elm, a back-and-forth scrap where the Lady Bengals rode big nights from Kaeden Robinson and Kamille Gibson to the finish line.
For a team that rosters just four seniors, toughing out five-set matches can be a crucial character builder for a young team — already, Braswell has shown that it can make the district’s upper-level teams work by taking a set off Boyd on Tuesday.
Although the Lady Bengals’ best days are likely down the road, they could be a tricky spoiler in the coming weeks.
7. Little Elm
Little Elm is still searching for its first win in league play after Lobos were swept by Prosper on Tuesday, dropping to 2-8 overall and 0-6 in 5-6A -- a far different result for a Lobo team that had 26 wins in 2019 and 21 victories in 2018.
It's a team in transition.
The Lobos are under the direction of first-year coach Yolanda Beasley, who guided Little Elm to a 2-2 start after wins over Corsicana and Rowlett. Beasley's squad played well at times against a Prosper team that came into the season ranked 20th in the nation by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Little Elm almost pulled off a five-set win over district foe Denton Braswell on Oct. 6.
-David Wolman contributed to this story