McKinney Boyd senior Hannah Billeter was named offensive player of the year in District 5-6A last season.

The McKinney Boyd volleyball team has garnered its share of preseason hardware over the years, and that continued last week by besting all comers at the Battle of the Rock tournament in Rockwall.

The key early on, head coach JJ Castillo said, is keeping that arrow pointing up for the Lady Broncos as they prepare for a daunting run through District 5-6A.

“They’re playing very well right now. It’s about where I expected us to be, because there’s still a lot we can get better at and we don’t want to be peaking too soon,” Castillo said. “The sets have been close, so we want to make sure we’re still capitalizing and finishing. I love that we’ve started off the season doing that.”

Castillo credits a core of eight seniors, many of whom have logged multiple years on varsity together, for helping the Lady Broncos to a productive start. The head coach lauded her team for their scrappiness while noting improvements in execution on offense — something that paid dividends in Rockwall with wins over Weatherford, Aledo, Rockwall and Frisco Reedy, all in straight sets. 

“It’s a huge confidence boost. Winning is just as contagious as losing,” Castillo said. “I think it’s a great start for them, but in the past we’ve had great preseasons and this group is focused on continuing to get better and not just satisfied with winning a tournament. They see the bigger picture.”

Ideally, Castillo hopes that trajectory remains on the ascent through district play and into the playoffs. The Lady Broncos qualified for the postseason for the No. 3 seed out of 5-6A last season but won just three of their final six regular-season games before falling to Plano West in the bi-district round.

Boyd looks to avoid a similar outcome to its 2021 campaign and has a veteran cast to help navigate a challenging conference schedule. Some of that experience has already begun to shine through non-district play, with seniors Hannah Billeter and Avery Calame firing on all cylinders in their final varsity campaigns.

Through Boyd’s first 16 sets, Billeter — last season’s 5-6A offensive player of the year — has 88 kills on 5.5 per set to Calame’s 61. Calame, meanwhile, has 80 digs to start the year versus 62 digs for Billeter.

“They’re just dynamic. They can pass, they can hit, they can block and they can defend. They do a variety of different things and are very well rounded,” Castillo said. “They can hit from the front and back row. They’ve helped each other in opening up ways to score, because teams aren’t able to just focus on the outsides. They’re both so dynamic and even more so this year, and it really helps our team.”

Orchestrating that attack has been the duo of sophomore Carson Eickenloff and junior Camryn Weldon at setter, both of whom played all the way around during the Rockwall tournament. Castillo also lauded the play at libero by senior Macy Parker.

After having its Tuesday home match against Coppell cancelled due to a power outage, the Lady Broncos continue their preseason Friday-Saturday in the Allen Texas Open. Boyd won the event during its last iteration in 2019.

“We just want to keep the ball rolling. The goal is to win but with everything we’re trying to add to our game during practice, I want us to put that into play in games,” Castillo said. “Whether it’s winning the whole weekend or just improving in a certain area, we just want to be where we’re starting to play our best volleyball by the time district starts. 

“We don’t want to be still playing at the same level. We want to always be finding ways to get better and be more dynamic.”

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

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