Coppell’s quest for its third state championship in volleyball – won back-to-back state titles in 2011 and 2012 – begins at 7 p.m. Friday when the Cowgirls battle District 5-6A champion Prosper in a Class 6A bi-district matchup at Frisco Heritage High School.
Although the Cowgirls (14-10) enter as a No. 4 seed, they are battle-tested. Coppell has taken defending state runner-up Plano West, ranked No. 19 in 6A by the Texas Girls Coaches Association, to five sets in both meetings this season, played No. 7 Flower Mound twice, gave No. 5 Weatherford and No. 18 Sachse all they could handle earlier in the season, and came within a couple of points of forcing a fifth set against 5A’s No. 12 McKinney North.
"We had a great match last Friday with Plano West,” said Julie Price, Coppell head coach. “We went five sets, had an opportunity to win it in four and didn't, but did some many good things statistically when we step out and decide to play. If we put that type of game together against Prosper, we've got a really good shot of doing some things."
Defending Prosper (14-3) won’t be easy. The Lady Eagles are loaded with Division I talent at the net. Senior right-side hitter Bailey Birmingham (Tulsa signee), senior Kialah Jefferson (Virginia Commonwealth), senior outside hitter Nikki Steinheiser (Boston College), senior outside hitter Sami Jacobs (Alabama) and senior 6-4 middle blocker Taylor Youtsey (Cal Poly) headline a deep cast of hitters for the Lady Eagles that has recorded 730 kills in 58 sets, led by Birmingham’s 162. Jacobs (145) and junior Kendall Hewitt (120) are also in triple digits in kills.
Setting up the offense for Prosper are junior Jazzlyn Ford (345 assists) and sophomore Callie Kieffer (333 assists).
"They're really good,” Price said of Prosper. “They're super balanced offensively, so we've got to work to keep them out of system. We've got to serve aggressively and be intentional with our offense to keep them out of system."
The quality of hitters that Coppell has faced throughout the season will have them prepared for Friday night. The Cowgirls have squared off against several Div. I-bound hitters: Flower Mound seniors Kaylee Cox (Missouri), Angelique Cyr (Arizona State), Caroline Dykes (East Tennessee State) and Hailey Hutchings (Grand Canyon), Hebron’s Brooke Nichols (Old Dominion), McKinney North’s Nylah Encalade (McNeese State), and Plano West’s Avery Lowe (Gonzaga).
Of course, Coppell has a Div. I-bound star of its own in 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker Madison Gilliland (Texas Tech). The four-year varsity starter already has 294 kills to go along with 76 blocks this season. Gilliland and fellow seniors Grace Bass and Mari Taira (team-high 428 assists) are ready to lead the Cowgirls on another postseason run before they graduate.
Coppell has received significant contributions from its hitters outside of Gilliland. Sophomore Reagan Engler has become a force at the net, as seen by her 158 kills. Juniors Haley Holz (155 kills) and Abigail Hendricks (113) as well as sophomore Skye La Mendola (124) also have Prosper’s attention.
"Any team can knock off any team, especially here in the Metroplex, where our districts are so deep,” Price said. “I think a fourth-place team in one district can certainly beat a first-place team in another, because there are a lot of good teams that aren't going to the playoffs. I do think anything can happen once you get there."