Plano Senior is headed to the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
McKINNEY – With two playoff spots in District 6-6A up for grabs Tuesday night, the Plano Senior volleyball team left nothing to chance.
That much was apparent as the Lady Wildcats closed out the regular season with arguably their most dominant set of the year, riding an 18-0 run in the third set to a 3-0 sweep at McKinney (25-18, 25-22, 25-7). Plano closes out the regular season with a 9-5 district record, good for a tie for second place with Allen and Denton Guyer. Due to head-to-head tiebreakers between those three, the Lady Wildcats will enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed out of 6-6A.
“It’s a huge thing for us and has been a goal all season,” said Teri Minnis, Plano head coach. “We wanted to take care of business on our side of the net and keep this streak rolling. Getting to the playoffs six straight years in districts like these are pretty impressive.”
The Lady Wildcats were in a celebratory mood following Tuesday’s win, and had time to soak in the reality of a postseason return well before their final point against McKinney. After a back-and-forth two sets, Plano erupted for 18 consecutive in the third set and led at one point, 20-2.
Senior Callie Parlin was at the controls of the Lady Wildcats’ emphatic run, putting the Lionettes’ serve-receive on ice skates point after point after point.
“We’ve been working with Callie all season to get her back in her groove with her serving because when she’s on, she’s one of our most effective servers,” Minnis said. “We found something yesterday in practice and wanted to start serving from the one zone instead of the five zone. Then she comes out and serves 18 in a row tonight.”
Parlin totaled four aces during the run, while the Lady Wildcats’ hitters managed nine kills and a block before McKinney junior Caroline Swan momentarily quelled the bleeding with a kill of her own.
“I saw a tremendous amount of fight from these young ladies this season,” said Erinn Higginbotham, McKinney head coach. “A lot of people thought they weren’t going to compete and they were tremendous. They battled and showed tremendous heart and fight. You can tell they love this game.”
McKinney was paced by eight kills from senior Annie Harris, while Swan chipped in six and the duo of sophomore D’erricka Frierson and junior Aleia Wilborn teamed up for three blocks.
The Lionettes were at their most comfortable early on, spreading their attack and going point for point with Plano before the Lady Wildcats broke free midway through the first set with an 8-0 run for a 23-15 lead.
One key in steering momentum back in Plano’s favor was the aggressive play by junior Faith Panhans, who racked up seven kills at setter and kept McKinney’s defense guessing on several well-timed set fakes.
“[Panhans] is finally comfortable,” Minnis said. “She spent a lot of the season getting in rhythm with our hitters and we haven’t talked much about her being more active. She’s finally come to the realization that people can’t defend when she gets up and challenges them.”
Junior Julia Adams led all hitters with 16 kills, while senior Caitlin Cooper chipped in eight.
The Lady Wildcats look to ride Tuesday’s momentum into next week’s bi-district round, which figures to once again offer competition well beyond the expectation of the first round. District 5-6A features three teams that rank in the top 17 of the latest Texas Girls Coaches Association state poll: Hebron (No. 3), Trophy Club Byron Nelson (No. 14) and Southlake Carroll (No. 17).
All three of those teams finished tied for second place at 10-4 in 5-6A and split their respective head-to-head series. Detail and an opponent for Plano’s bi-district matchup will be decided later this week.
“Regardless of who it is, they’re no different than anyone you see any night in district,” Minnis said. “Between these two districts, they’ve all got great hitters and good defenses. It’s going to be a battle and it’s just disappointing that our first-round matchup should be the state championship game.”
McKinney, meanwhile, looks to build off a 6-6A campaign that resulted in a 4-10 record, but produced numerous competitive outings, including outright wins over programs like Plano East and McKinney Boyd.
“I think you’d rather be in a district like this than one you can win easily,” Higginbotham said. “We have a lot of young players who really grew up this year against opponents like this.”