Lovejoy volleyball sweeps short-handed McKinney North in regional final, eyes second straight Class 5A state championship

ALLEN — The banner had been made far in advance. With the Lovejoy volleyball team posing behind it, it read, “Region 2 champions 2020.”

Even Lovejoy coach Ryan Mitchell was surprised by how easily his defending state champs swept McKinney North Thursday night at Allen High School.

“When you play a district team for the third time, you don’t know what to expect,” Mitchell said.

Against defending state champ Lovejoy (24-0), the Dallas Morning News’ top-ranked 5A team and the District 10-5A champion, McKinney North (23-4) had the fewest points in three three-set losses this season, falling 25-10, 25-13, 25-19.

The young North team, the runner-up in 10-5A and The Dallas Morning News ranking, was without senior middle Nylah Encalade, a McNeese State signee on the bench with her right foot in a boot because of a high ankle sprain.

“Our defense is what really separates us from most teams,” Mitchell said. “It’s by far Lovejoy’s best defensive and ball-control team I’ve ever seen. Sometimes we have four to five Division I liberos on the court. When you do that, you put a lot of pressure on the other team to make plays.”

Lovejoy’s defense kept the ball off the floor with 20 digs by Grace McLaughlin (Houston Baptist signee), 18 by Callie Kemohah (Oklahoma) and 16 by Cecily Bramschreiber.

A TCU signee, Bramschreiber also paced the offense with 16 kills. Ellie Jonke added 10, Lexie Collins (Wyoming) six and Grace Milliken (Boston College) five with help from 38 assists by junior Averi Carlson, a Baylor commit.

McKinney North took early leads in each of the three sets by never led by more than two points.

Lovejoy advanced to Tuesday’s state semifinal against the winner of Saturday’s Region I title match between Grapevine and Denton.

“We’ve got a lot of film on them,” Mitchell said. “We’ll be able to go to the match on Tuesday and see what happens.”

The Lovejoy volleyball team poses for a selfie after winning the Class 5A state championship with a three-set sweep of Canyon Randall last season. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)

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