Monday marks the first day of the UIL volleyball playoffs, and there are several local teams who hope to be along for more than just the ride.
As the regular season concluded on Tuesday, the postseason brackets officially began to take shape with several districts finalizing their four qualifiers and their spots among the fields of 128 teams in 4A, 5A and 6A.
In some cases, those playoff berths were sewn up weeks ago. Look no further than Celina, which won its district for the third year in a row after navigating 9-4A unscathed to the tune of a 12-0 record. Going unbeaten in district play for the first time during their three-peat, the Lady Bobcats dropped just three sets in 9-4A — winning 10 matches via sweep.
Celina closed out its regular season on Oct. 22 with a 3-0 victory over Sanger, upping the team’s record to 35-1 heading into the playoffs. Like last season, the Lady Bobcats will open the playoffs against Uplift North Hills Prep, the No. 4 seed from 10-4A, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Celina. The Lady Bobcats bested North Hills in three sets in the 2020 bi-district round on scores of 25,-8, 25-8 and 25-8.
While Celina built a healthy cushion in its hold on first place in 9-4A, the duo of Lovejoy and McKinney North stayed on each other’s heels for bragging rights in 10-5A. The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Leopards split their regular season series and handled business elsewhere to assure a split of the district title.
Finishing as co-district champions at 13-1, Lovejoy and North flipped a coin to determine playoff seeding — the Lady Bulldogs, fresh off the first district title in program history, will enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed from 10-5A, and the eight-time state champion Lady Leopards will do so as the district’s No. 2 seed.
North squares off against Frisco Independence in the bi-district round at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at McKinney Boyd and Lovejoy will meet either Frisco Wakeland or Frisco Heritage. The Lady Wolverines and Lady Coyotes tied for second place in 9-5A at 12-6 and split their head-to-head series, setting up a seeding game at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Frisco Lebanon Trail. The loser of that match will draw Lovejoy in the bi-district round.
The Lady Leopards hoisted a second consecutive 5A state title last season and did so by defeating North along the way. The Lady Bulldogs made the deepest playoff run in program history last year with a trip to the regional finals.
Compelling as a rubber match between the two district rivals would be, another Lovejoy-North regional final won’t materialize easily. There’s plenty of talent elsewhere in Region II-5A, including Highland Park (ranked No. 1 in 5A by Texas Volleyball Insiders) and Frisco Reedy (No. 3).
The same goes for Region I over in 6A, which includes a loaded slate of first-round matchups between 5-6A and 6-6A — two districts that had wildly contrasting finishes to the season. The order of finish was seamless in 5-6A with Denton Guyer earning the top seed after an 11-1 run, followed by McKinney Boyd, Allen and Prosper for the last three playoff spots.
District 6-6A, on the other hand, finished with three-way ties for first and fourth place — keeping six of the league’s eight teams in the postseason picture. Flower Mound, Marcus and Plano West all split the district title after posting 12-2 records, including head-to-head splits against each other, while Coppell, Hebron and Plano all tied for fourth place at 6-8.
The district’s top three teams all sorted out their seeding Wednesday at a district meeting. According to Flower Mound head coach Jamie Siegel, the Lady Jaguars will be the No. 1 seed, followed by West at No. 2 and Marcus at No. 3.
The No. 4 seed won’t be decided until Friday night as Hebron, Coppell and Plano wage a three-team play-in tournament for the last playoff spot. Hebron defeated Plano 3-1 on Thursday (25-22, 24-26, 25-22, 25-19) to set up a meeting with Coppell on Friday for the district's final playoff spot.
Finalized bi-district matchups between the two districts include Flower Mound against Prosper, West against Allen and Marcus against Boyd. Guyer draws the play-in winner.
There’s no shortage of history between Allen and West, two programs not long removed from sharing a district for more than 20 years. The two sides met earlier in the season in tournament play at the Allen Volleyball Classic — a two-set upset win for the Lady Eagles on Aug. 20.
Flower Mound-Prosper, meanwhile, is a rematch of last year’s regional quarterfinal — won in three sets by the Lady Jaguars on their road to the state semifinals — while Marcus and Boyd square off for just the second time in six years in a matchup between two programs loaded with hitting depth.
Boyd and Marcus will take the floor at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Frisco Memorial — the same time Allen and West are set to square off at Prosper Rock Hill. Flower Mound and Prosper will meet that same time on Tuesday at The Colony.
District 11-5A featured a similar logjam with Creekview and Newman Smith finishing as part of a three-way tie for second place at 12-4. The Lady Mustangs and Lady Trojans were gridlocked with Hillcrest – like 6-6A, the three teams will conduct a three-team seeding tournament that concludes Saturday with Creekview taking on either Smith or Hillcrest for the No. 2 seed.