ALLEN — One year removed from stunning the The Woodlands in the semifinals of the Allen Texas Open, the McKinney Boyd volleyball team one-upped itself on Saturday.
Once again, the Lady Highlanders carried a top-10 state ranking into their matchup with the Lady Broncos and were once again dealt their first setback of the season — this time in the championship match to complete Boyd’s run to the top of the 32-team tournament, held at Allen High School.
“We lost eight seniors from last year, but I know these girls have been working on stuff and becoming more cohesive as a group since it’s pretty much brand new,” said J.J. Castillo, Boyd head coach. “I think the girls really believe in the process and they’re seeing the results of that.”
The Woodlands, which entered the tournament ranked No. 3 in Class 6A by the Texas Girls Coaches Association, had just come off the high of taking down No. 2-ranked Plano West in three sets in its semifinal bout before waging another back-and-forth scrap with the Lady Broncos.
After staying at arm’s length for much of the first set, Boyd surged ahead down the stretch with a 6-1 run to close out the frame — riding an ace from sophomore Avery Calame and a kill by senior Olivia Tarsi to a 25-19 set win.
Moments later, the Lady Broncos used another late push to snap a 20-20 gridlock and scored five of the next seven points to seal the tournament title.
“Our defense is really strong. When our passing and defense are on, we can really utilize that to the best of our abilities because we allow the other team to make the errors instead of us,” Castillo said. “We just came together as a team and we were being smart and making the right shots.”
Castillo lauded the play of her upstart outside hitters, sophomore Hannah Billeter and Calame — the latter receiving an all-tournament selection. Senior libero Darian Markham, who fueled the Lady Broncos’ defense with a flurry of rally-saving, highlight-reel digs, was named the tournament MVP.
“[Markham is] amazing. I can’t even take credit for any of that. She’s just so aggressive and she reads well,” Castillo said. “Her volleyball IQ is really high, plus she’s fast and makes a lot of plays that most players can’t. She’s the heartbeat of our team.”
Saturday’s championship win polished off an 8-0 tournament run for the Lady Broncos, who picked up additional victories over Frisco Lebanon Trail (25-13, 27-25), Celina (25-17, 25-15), College Station (25-15, 18-25, 25-14), Plano East (25-13, 25-16), Midlothian (25-12, 19-25, 25-18), Frisco Centennial (25-19, 25-20) and Tomball Concordia Lutheran (25-22, 25-13).
Lady Wolves falter late
After winning last year’s Allen Texas Open, Plano West carried similar visions into last week, buoyed by a start that saw West drop only one set over the course of a 9-0 start. The Lady Wolves looked the part in dispatching each of their first six opponents at the tournament in straight sets, but stumbled down the stretch with losses to The Woodlands (25-23, 21-25, 25-19) and Concordia Lutheran (26-28, 25-20, 25-20).
“We got overconfident with being basic against weaker opponents. I was worried that would end up coming back to bite us against a strong block, so once we faced an actual strong, discipline block like The Woodlands had, we just kept hitting right into it and, for once this season, that didn’t work and my players tightened up,” said Justin Water, West head coach. “They completely lost focus of what we’ve been working on in practice and we just turned into a one-dimensional team.
“We went back to our comfort zone, tightened up in serve-receive, we let up at the service line, we slowed down our offense instead of running the tempo offense we had all season. We didn’t hit any angles and didn’t use our shots. It was just a lack of focus.”
Seniors Iman Ndiaye and Jill Pressly received all-tournament selections for the Lady Wolves, who get an opportune chance to right the ship at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when they host reigning 6A state champion Flower Mound.
“If we can take down Flower Mound on Tuesday, and we’ll probably face Byron Nelson (TGCA No. 1 in 6A) over the weekend at our tournament, that’d be two big wins and that would put us right back to where we started. I’m looking forward to it,” Waters said.
East, Marcus, Centennial pick up all-tourney spots
After impressing at the Marauder Showcase, Marcus turned in another productive weekend after tying Colleyville Heritage for fifth place. The Lady Marauders went unbeaten in pool play and advanced to the quarterfinals of the championship bracket before falling to Concordia Lutheran in three sets (23-25, 25-22, 25-18).
Marcus bounced back with a win over state-ranked Frisco Centennial (25-18, 25-20) to finish the event at 5-2 overall. Outside hitter Maggie Boyd netted an all-tournament selection for the Lady Marauders.
Meanwhile, Plano East cracked the top 10 with a seventh-place finish at posting a 4-3 finish in Allen. Like Marcus, that included three consecutive wins to open up pool play, followed by a quarterfinal appearance on Saturday in a two-set loss to The Woodlands.
The Lady Panthers went the distance with Colleyville Heritage, but came up short in a three-set loss that included a 30-28 marathon third frame. Sidney McLain represented East on the all-tournament team.
Tying the Lady Panthers in seventh place was Centennial, which posted a 3-1 record on Friday and advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round, dropping a two-setter to Boyd and later falling to Marcus. Senior Carin Smith was named to the all-tournament team for the Lady Titans.
Lebanon Trail wins consolation, Allen places 11th
One of the area’s most impressive starts has come from Frisco Lebanon Trail, which returns its entire roster from last season. That continuity has paid off for the Lady Trail Blazers, who shook off a first-round loss to The Woodlands on Saturday and rattled off three straight victories to win the consolation portion of the bracket.
Lebanon Trail’s bounce-back trek included wins over Keller Timber Creek (25-18, 25-20), Hockaday (23-25, 25-20, 25-18) and Midlothian (25-15, 26-24) to finish 6-2 and ninth overall.
Joining the Lady Trail Blazers on that side of the bracket was tournament host Allen, which took 11th overall after falling to Midlothian in the consolation semifinals. The Lady Eagles’ showing was a tale of two halves, winning all four matches played on Friday but managing just one victory in three outings on Saturday.
Other area participants in the Allen Texas Open included John Paul II (13th place), Frisco (13th), Celina (19th), Frisco Lone Star (21st), Frisco Heritage (27th) and Rowlett (27th).