PROSPER VB

Prosper's Nikki Steinheiser and the Lady Eagles are in first place in District 9-6A.

The first round of the District 9-6A volleyball round robin concluded last week and with a seamless order in the seven-team hierarchy — nobody was tied and any wins for a particular squad came against teams ranked underneath them in the standings. 

Two squads — Prosper and Plano West — exit the midpoint with state rankings attached to their resumes, although McKinney Boyd nearly wedged its way into that conversation with a near-miss against the Lady Eagles.

Allen has the inside track on the district’s final playoff berth, but could meet some resistance from a program like McKinney in hopes of sewing up that postseason spot.

Here’s a look at how those programs and the rest of 9-6A have fared as the homestretch draws near.

1. Prosper (7-0)

Bryan Murphy: After a rough stretch through its non-district slate that included numerous losses to quality opponents such as Lovejoy, Flower Mound, Southlake Carroll and Byron Nelson, Prosper has really picked up the pace in district play.

The Lady Eagles soar into the midpoint of district action undefeated after handing powerhouse Plano West a rare loss in four sets on Sept. 27.

That marquee win for Prosper came just three days after nearly getting swept by McKinney Boyd before the Lady Eagles flipped the script and reeled off three straight wins to escape with a 3-2 triumph.

Prosper entered week ranked No. 5 in the state following its red-hot start against its 9-6A foes, but pivotal matchups with the Lady Wolves and Lady Broncos remain on the docket in the second half of district competition.

2. Plano West (5-1)

Matt Welch: Currently ranked No. 11 in Class 6A , the Lady Wolves have looked the part of a state juggernaut — authoring five district wins via sweep. But much like last year, a 3-1 loss to Prosper has West playing catch-up in its pursuit of a 9-6A championship.

At their best, the Lady Wolves, chocked with a cast of Division I college commits, have the talent and well-rounded arsenal to take down anyone in the state, but maintaining that level of focus against overmatched opponents has been a struggle on occasion. 

Head coach Justin Waters is hopeful the setback against Prosper was a wake-up call for his squad and the Lady Wolves will get a chance to exorcise their regular-season demons against the Lady Eagles on Oct. 22 in a meeting that will likely decide the district title.

3. McKinney Boyd (5-2)

Kendrick E. Johnson: For the second consecutive season, Boyd came through the first round of district action with a 4-2 record. Unlike last year, the Lady Broncos will look to finish district play strong in hopes of securing the program’s first playoff appearance since 2016.

For Boyd to make its playoff dreams a reality, it must continue riding the arms of Avery Calame and Hannah Billeter while getting consistent play from senior leaders Darian Markham and Abigail Quigley. 

If the Lady Broncos can find a way to go 5-1 or 6-0 in the second half of district action, they could find themselves with a favorable draw in the playoffs.

4. Allen (4-3)

Matt Welch: One year removed from a winless district campaign, the Lady Eagles’ continuity has so far been validated with a spot among the district’s top four at the midpoint. Getting there required balancing three straight wins to begin 9-6A play — all against the bottom three teams in the standings — before incurring consecutive setbacks to the district’s top three programs.

That alone puts an added emphasis on the next week for the Lady Eagles, as wins over McKinney and East (teams Allen has already bested once) would go a long way toward assuring Allen finds its way back into the postseason.

With a balanced, athletic groups of hitters and blockers, the Lady Eagles control their own destiny.

5. McKinney (2-5)

Kendrick E. Johnson: Despite getting outstanding play from leaders D'Erricka Frierson, Emily Phillips and Jenna Ross, the Lionettes haven’t found a way to garner consistent results as McKinney has yet win consecutive games in 9-6A action.

After losing to crosstown rival Boyd in straight sets, McKinney finished 0-4 against the district top four teams without taking a set in the first half of district. If McKinney wants to return to the playoffs, it must gain some consistency and find a way to break through against the top four teams in the standings.

6. Plano Senior (1-6)

Matt Welch: All good things come to an end, and after seven consecutive years of playoff appearances, the Lady Wildcats will need to spring a couple upsets to keep that streak alive. 

Managing just one win over its first six district matchups, a young, scrappy-but-undersized Plano squad has shown flashes of brilliance but has battled inconsistencies set to set. Initially plagued by slow starts against Allen and West, the Lady Wildcats corrected that in averaging 21.7 points in the opening set against McKinney, Boyd and Prosper, only to then tally just 13.3 in the second set of those setbacks.

At their best, the Lady Wildcats have the defense and energy to make life hard on any team in 9-6A. It’s whether the team can conjure that level of play consistently enough that’ll determine if they can ascend the standings over the second half.

7. Plano East (0-7)

Matt Welch: The Lady Panthers remain in search of that elusive first district victory, dropping four of their first six district ballgames via sweep. East did manage to pry sets off Allen and Plano, including a spirited affair against the rival Lady Wildcats that saw the Lady Panthers let a 2-0 set lead slip away in a five-set thriller.

Head coach Cathy Manderson has preached an aggressive mentality with her squad, one centered on not getting comfortable and maintaining the focus necessary to take down the heavyweight programs in 9-6A. 

Should an upstart East bunch fully harness that mindset, there’s some spoiler potential down the homestretch.

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

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