Although 5-6A volleyball’s playoff picture projects to look much like last season, any of those top four teams is still within reach of a district championship.
As the conference closed out the first half of its schedule on Friday, one game separated the top four teams in the 5-6A standings — McKinney Boyd and Denton Guyer sat at 5-1 and tied for first place and just ahead of the duo of Prosper and Allen, both 4-2 and gridlocked in third place. Denton Braswell (2-4), McKinney (1-5) and Little Elm (0-6) round out the district standings.
The competition between the top four teams has been just as lively. Of their six head-to-head matches during the first half of the district schedule, five required four sets or more — the only exception was Allen’s 3-0 sweep of Boyd in a match where the Lady Broncos were without star senior Avery Calame.
The closely contested nature of the district leaves plenty undecided heading into the final few weeks of the regular season. Here’s where those top four teams in 5-6A stand as the homestretch draws near.
1. McKinney Boyd (6-1)
The Lady Broncos sit atop the league standings and are in the driver’s seat for 5-6A’s top playoff seed by virtue of their head-to-head victory over Guyer, a 3-1 decision on Sept. 14.
Boyd’s lone setback came in a three-set loss to Allen, a loss that as previously noted came without all-district first-teamer Calame in the lineup, but at full strength no one has shaved more a set off the Lady Broncos in district play.
The tightly contested nature of the first half means hanging onto that top spot won’t come easy for Boyd, but its four-set win over reigning 5-6A champion Prosper on Sept. 28 showcased a blueprint that should make maybe the toughest out in the district.
Naturally, senior Hannah Billeter and Calame — the 1A and 1B of the Lady Broncos’ arsenal — led the way with a combined 29 kills, but Boyd also benefited from double-digit kill performances from Carson Eickenloff and freshman Ale Romo in the win. Eickenloff logged double figures in kills (12), digs (17) and assists (25).
If the Lady Broncos can strike a similar balance in the second half of 5-6A, look out.
1. Denton Guyer (6-1)
Following an up-and-down preseason, albeit against quality competition, the Lady Wildcats are looking a bit more like a team coming off consecutive playoff runs of at least four rounds deep.
Only Boyd managed to best Guyer during the first half of district play, while the Lady Wildcats built an early edge in head-to-head play against Prosper and Allen — both of whom were dispatched in four sets.
Guyer closes the first half of league on the longest winning streak of any team in 5-6A (four) and that momentum begins with star junior Kyndal Stowers. The outside hitter imposed her will on Allen last Friday with 22 kills on 5.5 per set as well as 16 digs in her team’s 3-1 win and has gotten strong contributions elsewhere from players like seniors Gracey Campbell, London Hunt and Reagan Nash to keep the Lady Wildcats in contention.
With Stowers, a Baylor commit, on the floor, Guyer can hang with anyone, especially if the match gets tight late. If the production elsewhere continues to rise, the Lady Wildcats should remain in the hunt for the 5-6A title.
3. Prosper (5-2)
After rolling to an 11-1 finish in 5-6A last season, the Lady Eagles are playing catch-up behind two others in a crowded district title race.
Prosper has plenty to be encouraged by this season, be it the seamless transition of sophomore Ayden Ames into the program while acclimating to a new position, the well-rounded play of senior Jazzlyn Ford or the remarkable hitting efficiency of junior Ella Chaney, whose .453 hitting percentage ranks among the best in the nation.
The Lady Eagles have taken care of business in sweeping Braswell, McKinney and Little Elm, but matchups against the rest of the 5-6A elite have been a challenge. Across the 14 sets played against the district’s other three playoff teams, Prosper is just 5-8 compared to a 9-1 mark through the first half of league play last year (albeit with a markedly different roster).
Prosper has four-set losses to Boyd and Guyer, plus a five-set win over Allen, to remain just one game back of first place. A pivotal stretch looms starting Oct. 12 when Prosper hosts Guyer (Oct. 12) and Allen (Oct. 15) in an effort to gain ground before visiting Boyd on Oct. 22 in its regular-season finale.
4. Allen (4-2)
Plenty can change in a year’s time, and after needing to tough out a play-in match against McKinney just to squeak into the playoffs, Allen entered the week right alongside Prosper and just one game back of the top spot in the district in its first year under head coach Stephanie Poole. The Lady Eagles had a bye on Tuesday.
Allen capitalized on Boyd under the circumstances and scored a much-needed sweep of the current 5-6A front-runners to stay afloat during a first half that included a 3-1 loss to Guyer and a 3-2 loss to Prosper. The latter of those two verdicts looms large — Allen topped Prosper in the first and third sets and was serving for match point in the fourth set before ultimately falling short.
Allen’s defense is as stingy as any in 5-6A thanks to the play of reigning defensive player of the year Emily Canaan, a senior committed to Florida, and the offense has enjoyed a major boost from sophomore Alyssa Boyte — the current team leader in kills and a surefire candidate for 5-6A newcomer of the year.
Since Prosper currently holds the head-to-head edge of Allen, there’s an added importance for both to avoid the No. 4 seed in the standings since that would mean a potentail first-round matchup against current 6-6A front-runner Flower Mound, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
Allen can improve its positioning in a big way with upcoming matches against Boyd (Oct. 12) and Prosper (Oct. 15) as well as a regular-season finale at home against Guyer (Oct. 26).