Lovejoy volleyball

Lovejoy volleyball captured the Class 5A state championship last season.

The Lovejoy and Plano West volleyball teams were among the top two finishers in their respective classifications last season — the Lady Leopards hoisting their seventh state title and the Lady Wolves falling one set win shy of capturing their first.

Those programs were part of a select few around the state to garner some preseason fervor from USA Today and the American Volleyball Coaches Association following the release of their national Super 25 and regional preseason polls.

Lovejoy, which returns the bulk of its championship roster, checked in at No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the USA Today/AVCA Region IV ballot, which factors in programs from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana. West was listed at No. 10 in the regional poll.

The poll only included teams who are conducting a fall season as of Aug. 14, as many states around the country have shuffled the start dates for their seasons due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

High school volleyball is already underway in Texas with the UIL’s Class 1A-4A programs conducting non-district matches since Aug. 10. Lovejoy, West and the rest of 5A and 6A won’t begin their preseasons until Sept. 14.

When that time rolls around, Lovejoy will embark on its latest state title defense after a commanding run in 2019. With head coach Ryan Mitchell back at the helm, the Lady Leopards posted a 48-5 record and advanced to the state tournament for the ninth time in program history.

The Lady Leopards didn’t let their chance go to waste, taking down Friendswood in four sets and then sweeping Canyon Randall, ranked No. 2 in 5A, to capture the 5A championship. 

Lovejoy has plenty back from its 2019 arsenal, including state tournament MVP and senior outside hitter Cecily Bramschreiber, as well as all-tournament selections Averi Carlson, a junior setter, and Lexie Collins, a senior middle blocker.

The Lady Leopards’ No. 2 spot in the USA Today/AVCA Super 25 was bested only by Nebraska powerhouse Skutt Catholic.

Four other Texas teams cracked the national preseason poll, including several more from the Metroplex. Denton Guyer, fresh off a regional finals appearance in 2019, was listed at No. 4, while Klein made an appearance at No. 12, Flower Mound was at No. 17 and Prosper ranked No. 23. Flower Mound hoisted a 6A state title in 2018 and was ranked No. 1 in the classification for much of the regular season by the Texas Girls Coaches Association, while Prosper will share a district with Guyer this season as part of 5-6A — a conference that includes other area powers like Allen and McKinney Boyd.

Lovejoy, Prosper, Klein, Flower Mound and Prosper all made up the top five of the USA Today/AVCA Region IV poll, in order, while West checked in at No. 10 fresh off its deepest playoff run in program history. The Lady Wolves, last seen dropping a five-set thriller to Trophy Club Byron Nelson in the 6A final, are coming off back-to-back state tournament appearances and have plenty of talent returning — from senior setter Ashley Le and senior outside hitter Avery Lowe to senior libero Morgan Carter and junior libero Lindsey Zhang — but have to replace a loaded arsenal of college-bound hitters in Jill Pressly, Iman Ndiaye and Noelle Piatas.

The Lady Wolves tip off their 2020 campaign Sept. 15 with a 5:30 p.m. road tilt against Southlake Carroll. That same night, Lovejoy squares off against fellow state-ranked club Prosper in a 6:30 p.m. road match.

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

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