School might just be starting, but volleyball season is in full swing for all three McKinney ISD programs as they begin the quest to reach postseason play.
Unlike recent seasons, none of the programs enter the season with a bona fide, blue-chip star to act as the face of the program. Inatead, all three have a solid collection of talent that is trying to develop chemistry and winning habits in non-district action so that things are automatic come district play.
Out of the three MISD programs, North entered the season with the most questions due to having a new coach and a completely different roster after making the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year.
Through two weeks of action, the young North squad has passed its early season tests with flying colors. As a result, the Lady Bulldogs entered this weekend’s tournament at Richardson Berkner off to a 7-1 start, which is officially the best in program history.
The record is even more impressive when you add in the fact that they’ve beaten a 6A powerhouse in Plano Senior, a TAPPS powerhouse in Bishop Lynch and a perennial 5A playoff participant in Frisco Wakeland. So far, North’s been led by junior Nylah Encalade, sophomore Sydney Huck and freshman sensation Lily Nicholson.
Each has already had shining moments this season while setting the proper tone for a team that is trending to be the best in program history.
“It’s really exciting, but we haven’t really thought about the record or the hot start, especially with my kids being so young, and our philosophy [is] to take things one game at a time,” said Libby Rodriguez, North head coach. “I think our start has changed our mindset, and, every day, we keep pushing and working harder, because these girls want to win more and more. At the end of the day, it’s awesome to have that hunger from your team as a whole.”
The Lionettes enter this season trying to maintain the momentum they established last season, when they produced the program’s best season in two decades on their way to winning two playoff matches and reaching the regional quarterfinal round.
So far this season, things have been an uphill battle for McKinney, as it sported a 3-5 record entering tournament play this week and has been beaten in straight sets in four of its five losses. This season, McKinney will be led by the talented senior trio of D’Erricka Frierson, Sammie Hicks and Emily Phillips, along with junior Jenna Ross.
Though not off to the start it envisioned, McKinney is focused on moving in the right direction to be ready for the monster teams they will see in 9-6A action.
“Our first two weeks of action, we’ve learned a lot about this team and are reloading at key positions in efforts to make a run like we did last season,” said Erinn Higginbotham, McKinney head coach. “We have some great, hungry kids and are using this time to find out who works with who and to work on the little things. This is a great group who works hard, and we, as coaches, are working on those little details to set them up for success.”
After not making the playoffs in two seasons, Boyd currently has the longest playoff drought in the district and is in the midst of the longest playoff drought in program history.
The Lady Broncos’ roster is full of a bunch of new faces in new places, and things have been up and down for Boyd. Currently, Boyd has beaten quality teams in Bishop Lynch, Rockwall and Aledo and lost to powerhouse programs like Southlake Carroll and Frisco Liberty, along with a loss to defending state champion Flower Mound.
After losing a strong class of eight from last year’s squad, Boyd has been led by star senior libero Darian Markham, junior Ella Bose and the talented sophomore duo of Avery Calame and Hannah Billeter. If Boyd wants to make noise in district, this quartet must continue producing while helping teammates raise their game.
“I always schedule a tough non-district schedule so that we are ready for our tough district, and we are taking this time to work on things that we are struggling [with] so that we don’t have many problems come district,” said J.J. Castillo, Boyd head coach. “This group works so hard and is very coachable. We just need to work on our mental game to make sure we execute what we work on in practice. Constantly improving and working on our mindset is what we are working on so that we can get off to a good start in district.”