Hebron volleyball

Hebron senior Alessandra Pantoja (15) has been productive both on the court as a player and leader for the Lady Hawks this season.

 

A return to a traditional preseason schedule has afforded Lewisville ISD’s four 6A volleyball programs plenty of time on the court to tune up for one of the most competitive districts in the Metroplex.

With up to three tournaments and a litany of other non-district matchups now in the rearview mirror, those preparations come to a head on Friday with the start of District 6-6A.

One team not lacking in motivation for that 14-game grind is Hebron, one of the state’s most successful volleyball programs this century but a group anxious to make amends after a streak of 19 consecutive playoff appearances was snapped last season.

One thing the Lady Hawks won’t lack for heading into district is comfort playing top-tier competition following a brutish preseason schedule that included stacked tournament fields in the Marauder Showcase, the Northwest ISD Volleyball Classic and Volleypalooza in Round Rock.

“We were sore, we were tired, we were conditioning hard,” said Karin Keeney, Hebron head coach. “I told them, ‘We’ve got to trust that we don’t need to be in top shape right now. We need to be working towards something and always developing.’ I think the kids have bought in and really trust that we’re headed in the right direction and that we’re starting to put it together.”

Through it all, Hebron enters Friday’s 6-6A opener against Lewisville riding a three-match win streak, including 3-1 victories over Prosper Rock Hill, Allen and Denton Guyer — all of whom qualified for the playoffs last season. Tuesday’s win over Guyer was a notable feather in the team’s cap, outlasting a nip-and-tuck first set 26-24 and picking up additional wins in sets three (25-19) and four (25-20).

“We made some changes in the lineup. We’ve had our starting outsides out due to illness and injuries, so we tightened the reins a bit as far as moving some people around and giving some players an opportunity to play six rotations,” Keeney said. “It’s worked in our favor and I think it has settled the team down a bit and made it more competitive.”

Keeney highlighted the play of seniors Harmony Sample and Alessandra Pantoja as catalysts for the surge heading into district play. Hebron’s winning streak has the team sitting at 16-10 on the season and currently ranked No. 11 in Class 6A by Texas Volleyball Insiders.

“We’ve still had plenty of adversity this year with kids being out, but I think they’re handling it better this year,” Keeney said. “We’ve been able to stay together for the majority of it, and that makes all the difference in the world. We’ve started to get into a rhythm and I’m hoping that continues over these next few weeks.”

 

Flower Mound, Marcus stay hot

Sewing up either of the four playoff spots in 6-6A won’t come without some resistance given the familiarity between the LISD schools, coupled with a surging Coppell group that won 20 games during its preseason schedule and a formidable trio of Plano ISD schools.

But with one month of volleyball in the books, Flower Mound and Marcus have reasons for optimism about another productive district run.

The Lady Jaguars enter 6-6A play winners of the past three league championships, making two runs to at least the state semifinals during that span, and sit at 23-3 heading into Friday’s opener against Coppell. Since a 2-0 tournament loss to Mater Dei (Calif.), Flower Mound has won six straight matches, including a 3-1 verdict over McKinney Boyd on Tuesday (18-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-23).

Dating back to the 2018 season, Flower Mound has posted a combined record of 40-2 in district play.

Marcus also had successful showing Tuesday against a McKinney ISD powerhouse, taking a 3-1 decision over a McKinney North team that advanced to the regional finals in 5A last season (25-18, 25-18, 16-25, 25-21). That victory marked the seventh straight for the Lady Marauders, who have picked up wins over Austin Westlake (2-1), The Woodlands (2-0) and Colleyville Heritage (3-1) during a strong close to the preseason.

The Lady Marauders have a week’s worth of 6-6A matchups against Plano East, Coppell and Lewisville to tune up for a pivotal week later this month that includes back-to-back meetings against Plano West (Sept. 21) and Flower Mound (Sept. 24) — the top two teams in the district last season.

 

Lewisville looks to shake minor skid

The Lady Farmers have endured their share of peaks and valleys throughout the preseason but enter Friday’s district opener against Hebron looking to right the ship after losses in four of its past five matches. 

A four-set win over Lake Dallas marked the program’s lone victory over that stretch, recently falling in straight sets to Duncanville on Tuesday (25-14, 25-22, 25-17). Juniors Ciera Speight and Mya Black posted six and five, kills, respectively, while senior Lorraine Cosme totaled 13 digs and senior Mataiya Perry dished out 15 assists.

Duncanville limited Lewisville to minus-.102 hitting as a team.

The loss dipped the Lady Farmers under .500 heading into district play at 12-13. Following Friday’s opener against Hebron, Lewisville draws back-to-back meetings against a pair of playoff qualifiers in Flower Mound (Tuesday) and Marcus (Friday).

 

Creekview, Newman Smith productive in 11-5A so far

Already in the second week of its district schedule, Creekview and Newman Smith authored a five-set thriller in their 11-5A opener on Aug. 31 — an encounter won by the Lady Trojans after a 16-14 fifth set.

Creekview managed to bounce back with wins over Hillcrest (3-0) and RL Turner (3-1). Tuesday’s bout against the Lady Lions was plenty competitive with each of the first three sets decided by two points — Turner claimed set one 27-25 before the Lady Mustangs responded with narrow wins over the next two frames, 25-23 and 26-24. Creekview had an easier time putting the match away with a 25-12 win in the fourth set.

Sophomore Naiyah Woodard led the charge with 11 kills and 10 assists, while senior Sophia Fresquez chipped in 12 digs and three aces.

Smith, meanwhile, went into deep waters once again but came up short in a 3-2 loss to Hillcrest on Tuesday. The Lady Trojans managed to force a fifth set despite trailing 2-0 in the match, winning the third and fourth sets 27-25 and 25-21. 

Junior Ledisi Kpea and freshman Kennady Hughes totaled six kills apiece, with Kpea adding seven blocks in the loss.

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

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