McKINNEY — The race for the District 5-6A volleyball championship has amplified in recent days, with Prosper, McKinney Boyd and Denton Guyer all staking claims to the throne.
The Lady Broncos managed to keep pace Tuesday, but not without being pushed to five sets for just the second time all season. Operating without a full deck, Boyd survived a stern test from visiting Allen to win 3-2 (25-18, 18-25, 20-25, 25-18, 15-9) and improve to 7-2 in district play.
The Lady Broncos pressed on despite junior Avery Calame being sidelined for the match — an absence that denied Boyd one half of its potent one-two punch on the outside. In Calame’s absence, in addition to junior Hannah Billeter’s usual array of hard-hitting offense, Boyd called on a number of complementary hitters to fill the gaps and provide timely points to weather a 2-1 set deficit against Allen.
“It’s huge for us. It’s all about the team, it’s not a one- or two-man show,” said JJ Castillo, Boyd head coach. “Everyone has to step up, and with everything that’s going on right now, you never know who it’s going to have to be each match.”
With Billeter at the controls with a match-high 18 kills, the Lady Broncos got contributions from up and down the lineup over the final two sets. Six different players recorded at least one kill for Boyd during the fourth set, including four from sophomore Kennesen Johnson, who punctuated a 25-18 win with a tip shot that scrambled the Allen defense to force a fifth and deciding frame.
Boyd maintained a similar balance to dig out of a 3-1 hole early into set five, including numerous key points at the net from junior Emily Ludtka. She tallied two kills and two blocks during the final set to help the Lady Broncos open up a 13-7 lead late.
“[Ludtka] stepped up blocking and on offense for us. I love how she plays,” Castillo said.
Allen battled back behind a block from junior Divine Muo, followed by an ace by junior Lorna Platt, but consecutive points from Boyd — the last coming on an Allen error — denied any chance of a Lady Eagle comeback.
Tuesday’s setback marked Allen’s second consecutive five-set loss, having gone the distance the previous Friday against McKinney — a result that could loom large in the postseason race.
“It’s coming down to unforced errors and when points are earned versus points that are made by our mistakes,” said Kelley Gregoriew, Allen head coach. “It’s something we’re continuing to work on, who goes where and who’s going to play. But there were times tonight for both teams where they looked great for stretches and then it just went away.”
Allen fell to 3-4 in district play with the loss in a match that was there for the taking. Despite Billeter controlling the opening frame with seven kills en route to a 25-18 Boyd win, Allen took the next two sets. The Lady Eagles turned up the heat on defense with junior libero Emily Canaan and Co. limiting Billeter to just four combined kills in the second and third sets.
The offense steadily followed with senior Maya Detwiler posting 15 kills and senior Maddie Wendland chipping in 11. Senior Chloe Thomas added a pair of blocks and two aces, along with five kills.
“[Allen] was doing a good job hitting, so we had to slow the ball down a bit and I think a lot of that really got our offense rolling as well,” Castillo said.
The win kept Boyd on the heels of first-place Prosper and a surging Guyer squad that picked up back-to-back wins over the Lady Broncos and Prosper to reinsert itself into the district title race. With Boyd’s rematch against Prosper looming on Tuesday, it looks to stay hot Friday in a home match with crosstown rival McKinney.
Allen, denied a win against a potential playoff team for the second straight match, looks to bounce back at home Friday against first-place Prosper.
“We need to be able to finish out, because this would have been a key win for us,” Gregoriew said.