Volleyball: Area teams begin state tournament

Four area teams are headed to the UIL state volleyball tournament semifinals this week. The tournament will be held at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Class 3A Lucas Lovejoy (46-4) will begin its state championship defense against Sinton (30-10) at 1 p.m. on Friday. The Leopards will need to step up their blocking and maintain ball control to repeat.

“I think this team has a lot of big-game experience and we have the ability to score in all six rotations," said coach Ryan Mitchell, who added that Lovejoy has put great emphasis on film study and scouting during the playoffs in order to identify opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. "We are also a very aggressive serving team, which takes a lot of teams out of system. The team that serve receives the best at state usually wins, so that will be a key for us this weekend.”

Mitchell calls three-time state champion Andie Malloy “the engine that makes our team run.” The experience of junior Mallorie Puckett and fellow junior Shannon Connell's ball distribution have also helped Lovejoy get to this point.

Mitchell is confident that if his players perform at the top of their game they will walk away champions once again.

Richardson Pearce looking for redemption

Class 4A Richardson Pearce (35-13) is looking for redemption after losing in the state semifinals last year.

Pearce will face Canyon Randall (42-4) on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Coach Jason Nicholson has stressed that Pearce needs to maintain ball control both in serve receive and defense.

“If we can serve and pass we will be a tough team for whomever we face," Nicholson said. "Canyon Randall has a great team and a great coach, so we understand that we have to take care of the ball and keep our errors to a minimum.”

The young Mustangs have kept a similar practice routine heading into Thursday's match, focusing on skills early in practice and later moving on to strategy and decision-making.

“I am very proud of these girls and am impressed with the resolve they have had all season," Nicholson said. "They grow each and every day, and it has been an exciting ride.”

McKinney Boyd has one goal in mind

McKinney Boyd coach Kelly Quinn says her team has one expectation for this weekend: to win state.

Boyd has coined the playoff slogan “1,028 inches,” signifying the team’s total number of inches in height and the belief that it takes every inch of every player to reach the ultimate goal of winning the state championship.

The Broncos can attribute much of their success to team unity and the ability of each player step up in her individual role.

Quinn pointed out junior libero Kaley Seaber as a key reason for the team’s success this season.

“She has been the glue and a significant driving force behind our team's unity and focus,” Quinn said.

Boyd has had plenty to brag about already this season, including the honor of being undefeated district champions, Region II champions, finishing second in the Duncanville Tournament and taking fifth place in the Pearland Tournament.

Class 5A McKinney Boyd (44-6) will play Houston Cypress Falls (40-7) at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Coppell finding balance with defense

Coppell is a much different team than it was at the beginning of the season. It has made the transition from more of an offensive team to a defensive team.

“I think a key has been to strengthen our defense and serve receive to balance the offense,” coach Julie Green said. “I believe that our major strength is that we are balanced. Our defense is as important as our offense, and we work hard to put six balanced rotations on the court.”

Coppell’s goal all along has been to win state, and the players have been able to take what they have learned in practice and apply it to games.

“If we put forth our best focus, play together and give relentless effort, I am happy,” Green said.

Coppell is focused on getting off to strong starts, which fuels passing and offense and in turn, defense.

“I firmly believe that it takes a talented team -- one that is unselfish and committed to the team goal above any individual one -- to make it all the way,” Green said. “I am most proud of the girls in that they have gone from a group of talented individuals to a talented team.”

Class 5A Coppell (40-8) will play San Antonio Johnson (44-6) on Friday at 7 p.m.