The wins just keep on coming for the Plano West volleyball team. So much so that when head coach Cooper Phillips met with his team on Monday, he was upfront about the Lady Wolves' increasingly gaudy win streak.
"I was honest with them. I was feeling a bit of pressure and their response was, 'Why?' I don't think they feel much pressure," Phillips said. "They have that confidence to know how well they're playing right now and that it's going to take someone really stepping up to beat them."
The Lady Wolves won their 18th match in a row on Tuesday, warding off a game effort from Marcus in three sets (25-23, 25-11, 25-20) to up their unbeaten mark in District 6-6A to 4-0. West, ranked No. 3 in Class 6A per Texas Volleyball Insiders, is 20-2 on the year and hasn't been defeated since Aug 13.
Everything has come up blue and white ever since, with Tuesday marking the Lady Wolves' fifth consecutive win via sweep.
Maintaining that level of play isn't particularly easy, especially given the slate of opponents West has been dealt during its 18-match tour de force — names like Lovejoy, Prosper, Southlake Carroll and Coppell — but Phillips can take pause in knowing his Lady Wolves are still being tested as the victories continue to accumulate.
"It's nice to see. Against Coppell, we were down by eight at one point in the second set and came back to win that one," Phillips said. "It shows the grit they have and the willingness to keep playing despite the situation. We practice and preach one point at a time and they really believe in it."
Such was the case Tuesday against an improving Marcus squad. The Lady Marauders carried a 2-1 district record into the match, including a recent three-set sweep of rival Flower Mound, and hung tough with the state-ranked Lady Wolves in the first and third sets.
In just Tuesday's first set, Marcus and West exchanged the lead six times and tied on 13 other occasions. That went as deep into the frame as 23-23 before a kill by junior Kate Mansfield prefaced an attack error by the Lady Marauders to help the Lady Wolves eke out the nip-and-tuck opening frame.
Mansfield was a force in the middle for West, recording 10 kills on a .526 hitting percentage in the win. Senior Blaire Bayless double-doubled with 11 kills and 14 digs, while fellow senior Katelyn Ruhman chipped in nine kills.
That trio combined for 15 kills in the opening frame, while Marcus countered with three apiece from senior Maggie Cox and sophomore Halle Jameson. The Lady Marauders stayed close behind an efficient approach with just six errors committed during the first set.
But those miscues crept up a bit in the second stanza, with Marcus whistled for nine errors within the set's first 15 points. That contributed to an 11-4 West lead that only swelled once the Lady Wolves found their groove midway through the frame. Bayless and Ruhman stayed on the attack, contributing to a 12-4 run to close out a 25-11 win, while the Lady Marauders got sophomore Aubrey Bellus going from the middle.
Bellus had six kills and three blocks in the loss, while Cox led the Lady Marauders with seven kills. Junior Isabel Rueda held down the back line with 15 digs.
Despite the lopsided score, Marcus was right back to matching West point-for-point in the third set. Bellus continued to produce with four more kills, while the Lady Wolves leaned on the trio of Mansfield, Ruhman and senior Ansley Denison to keep pace.
That amounted to a 20-20 tie before West closed out the match with six consecutive points, with senior Darci Pickel chipping in a late ace as part of a lengthy stint behind the service line.
"We just stuck to our game plan and hit our serving targets the right way," Phillips said. "I think we were able to get them out of what they wanted to do a bit, plus we tweaked our defense just enough for their outsides with how crafty and skilled they are, and it made a difference for us tonight."
The win kept the Lady Wolves atop the 6-6A standings at 4-0, trailing the second-place duo of Flower Mound and Coppell at 3-1. Tuesday's results uncluttered a four-team tie for second in the district, with Marcus and Plano East dropping from that pack into a fourth-place tie at 2-2. Hebron (1-3), Plano (1-3) and Lewisville (0-4) round out the conference standings.
The Lady Marauders look to rise back above .500 at 6:30 p.m. Friday when they visit Lewisville, while West travels across town to play Plano East that same time.
FINAL: @planowestvb def @MarcusHSvb1 3-0 (25-23, 25-11, 25-20)Despite a game effort from Marcus, the Lady Wolves just seize the end of set 3 with a 6-0 run to close things out. That's 18 in a row for the Lady Wolves, who improve to 4-0 in 6-6A while Marcus drops to 2-2. pic.twitter.com/C9VPIpak6d— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) September 21, 2022