LEBANON TRAIL VOLLEYBALL PEYTON THOMPSON

Peyton Thompson and Lebanon Trail are hoping to make an extended run in the playoffs.

The 2020 season has featured a series of streaks for Lebanon Trail.

The Trail Blazers started with a pair of back-to-back non-district losses, but righted the ship in time for 9-5A play.

Lebanon Trail went on a terror, winning its first 15 matches to punch its playoff ticket and secure at least a share of the district championship.

But a strange thing happened to their magical season.

The Trail Blazers dropped their final three district matches and had to share the 9-5A title with Reedy, and a warm-up loss to Flower Mound Marcus left them with a four-match losing streak heading into the playoffs.

With no more margin for error, Lebanon Trail will try to end one streak and start a more positive one when it takes on third-seeded Prosper Rock Hill in the bi-district round at 7 p.m. Thursday at McKinney Boyd.

The playoffs are a time where stars can lead a team and the Trail Blazers have one of the best all-around players in the area in Tyrah Ariail. The senior, who last week signed with USC, leads the team with 5.1 kills per game and 79 blocks, has recorded 18 aces and is also one of the better serve/receive players, tallying 3.9 digs per game.

Though Ariail certainly stands out, Lebanon Trail is by no stretch a one-player team.

Peyton Thompson is averaging 2.9 kills per game, with Lauren Sullivan recording 2.4 kills per set and M’Kayla Johnson (56 blocks), Thompson (23) and Cloey Bohon (22) join Ariail as strong defensive forces at the net.

The Trail Blazers have three capable setters, led by Xuan Nguyen, who dishes out 5.9 assists per game, while Marissa McLaughlin and Kat Smith are averaging 5.0 and 4.3 assists per set.

The defense in the back is also solid, with Lexi Abbey (4.3 digs per game), Symone Sims (3.8 dpg), Angela Henson (3.3 dpg), McLaughlin (2.4 dpg) and Nguyen (2.3 dpg).

In only its third year as a varsity program, Lebanon Trail has already carved out a reputation for itself, qualifying in its inaugural campaign and advancing to the regional quarterfinals last season and they would like nothing more than to add to that in the coming weeks.

Liberty, Memorial open playoffs

The FISD volleyball district was one of the most competitive in the state, with any team capable of beating another on a given night.

And while Lebanon Trail and Reedy were able to separate themselves atop the standings, Liberty and Memorial emerged from a tight bunch to claim the other two berths.

The Redhawks went 12-6 in district to earn the third seed and will face McKinney North in the bi-district round at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Hebron.

Liberty defeated both Reedy and Lebanon Trail during the regular season, so it knows it can play with the best teams in the area, and they also have the motivation of getting even with the Bulldogs after being swept back in September.

Memorial (11-7) closed strong, with four victories in its final five matches, including wins over Lebanon Trail and Liberty, to finish fourth and earn the first playoff berth in program history.

Their inaugural postseason appearance could not have found a tougher foe, as they will face reigning Class 5A state champion and undefeated Lovejoy (19-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday at McKinney High School.

The Warriors feature a balanced offensive attack, led by junior Finley Evans, who is recording 3.1 kills per set. Evans is one of three players registering more two kills per game along with junior Kourtney Miller (2.3 kpg) and senior Kennedy Kelly (2.2 kpg).

Memorial is also one of the better blocking teams, Junior Kailee Deffebaugh has a team-high 80 blocks, followed by Kelly (64), junior Alexis Melgert (44), Evans (36), senior Lizzy Reed (27) and Miller (25).

Reed is the catalyst on offense, averaging 8.9 assists per set, and she also leads the defense in the back with 4.1 digs per set. Defensively, the Redhawks also lean on junior Katie Noel (3.6 dpg), sophomore Jasmine Sennett (3.1 dpg), Evans (2.9 dpg) and junior Ashley Bender (2.9 dpg).

The Warriors will need to be firing on all cylinders against Lovejoy, which has dropped only one set in 19 matches this season.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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