Rachel Langs and the Lovejoy defeated Frisco Liberty in five sets Monday at Berkner High School. The Leopards will play Friday at 5 p.m. in the regional semifinals. 

Lovejoy's non-district volleyball schedule has thus far been one of the more challenging lineups in the area.

For a club that has legitimate state championship aspirations every year, that's exactly the way head coach Jason Nicholson prefers it.

As the Lady Leopards prepare for their journey through District 15-5A and what they hope will be a long playoff run, Nicholson has toyed with different lineups on the court against non-district foes like Class 6A's Plano West and Hebron, plus a slew of top-level Metroplex talent at the Nike ASC, Northwest ISD and Granbury tournaments. 

Lovejoy beat West on the road in four sets, then scored a huge victory over defending 6A state champion Hebron one week later with another four-set victory. Those wins set the tone for a 7-2 overall record at Northwest ISD, which included victories over Bishop Lynch, Rockwall, Rockwall-Heath, Flower Mound and Denton Guyer.

Senior Rachel Langs, a University of Kansas commit, was named to the all-tournament team. 

"We've done well so far [in non-district play]," Langs said. "There are a lot of new people on varsity this year, and I think that we have come together well. We have a lot to work on, but from what I've seen so far I'm very excited for this season."

Last year marked the first time in Lovejoy's storied history that the team qualified for the state tournament and didn't advance to the state final, losing to Cedar Park in four sets in the semifinals. Gone from that team are a bevy of star-quality players, including Callie Holden, Hailey Deschenes, Lexi Smith and Bailey Downing. 

But like seemingly every year, the Lady Leopards have simply reloaded instead of rebuilt. 

Langs is one of the better middle blockers in the state, and she's joined on the court by fellow senior Division I commits Annabelle Archer (North Carolina) and Shanel Bramschreiber (Baylor). Senior Allie Moger also returns, and the addition of Shanel's younger sister, freshman Callie Bramschreiber, bolsters the outside.

There is still plenty of intense competition remaining on the schedule for Lovejoy before entering into district play; the Lady Leopards will compete in the PSA Invitational this weekend -- a tournament comprised of mostly 6A teams -- and host state-ranked Southlake Carroll next Tuesday. It will then cap off the non-district slate with a game against McKinney Boyd, a 6A playoff team one year ago, on Sept. 5.

District play begins Sept. 8 when Lovejoy hosts Mesquite Poteet.

For continued coverage of the local sports scene, follow @timothyglaze on Twitter.

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