Down to the final week of a rigorous preseason schedule, the Allen volleyball team wasted no time finding its footing Tuesday at home against Richardson.
The Lady Eagles picked up their third win in their past four matches behind a 3-0 sweep (25-14, 25-18, 25-13) of Richardson to improve to 12-8 and further lay groundwork in advance of the program’s District 5-6A opener, scheduled for the following Tuesday against McKinney.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” said Stephanie Poole, Allen head coach. “We served them tough right off the bat to get them out of system to make things easier on our side and make our transition easier. We got everyone involved and ran the faster tempo that we want to run.”
FINAL: @ALLENVBALL def. Richardson 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-14)Lady Eagles take the sweep in their penultimate tune-up before district play. Match ended on an error, so here's Sydni Mitchell putting one past the back row for point #24 for Allen instead. pic.twitter.com/AvehR4Ldg4— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) September 8, 2021
Matching that pace was a chore all match long for the visiting side. Richardson held a lead following just five total points in Tuesday’s match, pressured into a game of catch-up opposite an Allen squad that deployed its weaponry behind a balanced attack at the net.
Six different Lady Eagles finished the night totaling between four and six kills, led by six apiece from senior Divine Muo, senior Emma Janek and sophomore Alyssa Boyte, and no Allen player recorded more than three individual kills in a set.
With seniors Leah Reeves and Emma Vu alternating at setter, the contributions were widespread on Tuesday. Seniors Sydni Mitchell and Tori Wilson logged five kills apiece, with the latter accounting for two blocks as well, while junior Janet Zhang put away four kills in the win.
“It’s what we’ve been trying to do. In Week Two, we lost one of our senior middles (Sophia Henderson), which caused us to move some people around a bit,” Poole said. “We noticed early on that we were throwing a lot of balls to the outside. We have a sophomore playing outside right now and because of the injury we had to move some other people around.
“We’ve got some inexperience on the outside, so we felt like it was a need to be able to rely on everybody and have a nice, diversified offense.”
Poole lauded the play of Zhang on the outside. A first-year varsity player, she made her presence felt with the final points scored in both of Tuesday’s first and second sets. Zhang was also responsible for one of 11 aces accrued by the Lady Eagles in the win, routinely keeping Richardson off-balance behind the service line.
Vu, in particular, gave the opposition fits in that area with eight aces in the victory. The setter caught fire in the opening set with six aces in a seven-point span to blow the frame open for a 12-3 lead.
“Emma did such a great job. She has a tough float where there’s no spin on that ball,” Poole said. “It was dropping real nice tonight. When she gets a good float, it’s like a knuckleball and really tough to track and pick up on. Emma does a great job of staying focused and she’s always ready to play. Once a server gets into a rhythm like that, it’s tough to break that serve.”
Zhang, Reeves and senior Lorna Platt added aces to punctuate a decisive effort by Allen. The Lady Eagles led by as many as 15 points in the first set, which gave way to a 6-0 run to begin the second stanza. Allen would go on to lead by as many as 12 points in that frame, followed by a third set where the home team again built a double-digit lead late.
Phew! This rally lasted nearly a full minute but here's the last 25 seconds or so. Allen's Alyssa Boyte comes through with the kill. Allen currently leads Richardson 18-9 in the 2nd set. pic.twitter.com/ObOjThTuTu— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) September 8, 2021
It was a welcome sight for Poole as Allen bounced back from Friday’s 3-1 road loss to Hebron, which entered the week ranked No. 11 in Class 6A by Texas Volleyball Insiders. The Lady Hawks are among several ranked teams that have cropped up on Allen’s schedule thus far, serving as a viable tune-up for a district schedule that includes matchups with area powers Prosper, McKinney Boyd and Denton Guyer.
“We’re happy to be flying under the radar,” Poole said. “We’ve had some nice wins — beating Plano West in two sets at our tournament, we’ve taken sets off tough teams like Flower Mound, Eaton and Boyd and took Marcus to five sets. We feel like we’re right there and that we belong on the court with anybody.
“I’m looking for consistency — playing a nice, complete match no matter how many sets it takes and not just being satisfied with taking a set off a great team — and just belief. So much of it is believing that you can go out on any given night and beat any team.”
The Lady Eagles close out their preseason with a 6:30 p.m. Friday home match against Ursuline. Allen’s district opener will follow, traveling to McKinney for a 6:30 p.m. opening serve on Tuesday.