By Audra Paine, TSB Staff
GARLAND — Megan Mollett left the arena on crutches. Her dreams of a state volleyball championship, like those of her McKinney Boyd teammates, also drifted out the doors of Garland’s Culwell Center and into the chilly night air.
A powerful Lady Bronco program had reached the 5A state Final Four for the second straight year. Again, they had fallen heartbreakingly close. New Braunfels defeated Boyd 3-2 Friday night in a thrilling match that the Lady Broncs had hoped would propel them to the championship game once again, like last year.
It wasn’t to be. Boyd lost the first two sets, 24-26, 21-25, and also lost its star player Megan Mollett in the first set, who injured her left knee and did not return to the game.
“I was very sad for Megan to end her career on the injury, but she needs to be proud of the legacy she left for McKinney Boyd volleyball,” said Boyd coach Kelly Quinn following the loss.
And Quinn was proud of Mollett’s teammates from finding a way to rally without her. They went on to win the next two sets, 26-24, 25-19, to force a fifth and deciding match. But New Braunfels pulled it out, winning 15-13 in the nail-biting conclusion.
With the win the Fighting Unicorns (46-4) advanced to Saturday night’s 5A state championship match at 7 against Coppell, the team that defeated Boyd for the 2011 state championship and the team Boyd had hoped to face again in a revenge match that won’t happen. The Lady Broncos ended their season with a 37-8 record.
“New Braunfels is a solid team with a very good setter and a very good middle blocker,” said Quinn. And that is a big part of the reason why they gave Boyd trouble Friday night. And it made the Lady Broncs work even harder without Mollett.
Since Mollett is an all around player, meaning she is in the game at all times, this caused an obvious speed bump on an already bumpy road. They were down one very important player and two very important matches.
In the spirit of “next man up,” sophomores Katelyn Bryant and Ashleigh Martin were put in the match, Bryant as the defender spot on the court and Martin as the outside attacker. Martin, who didn’t play the entire regular season because of a knee injury, swept in and got 14 kills on the match.
“I’m so proud of Ashleigh Martin for coming into the match and getting 14 kills, even though she hasn’t been in all season since before district play,” said Quinn. “That was really special.”
Bryant’s play also caught the eye of her coach, as the sophomore made her varsity debut in the biggest game of her life.
“Her passing was the reason she was in the match,” said Quinn. “I’m very happy with the way she played in her varsity debut.”
Before the loss of Mollett, the Lady Broncos were making uncharacteristic mistakes, like missed serves, causing them to lose a point when they needed them most. With two teams this good competing for a state championship berth, it’s the little things that mean the most and are going to win you the game.
Senior Krista Bukovec, one of the Broncos middle blockers, played an amazing match. She worked hard at the net running slides and quicks, and when she wasn’t doing that, she was drawing the block so her teammates could come in for the kill. She was also matched to defend their best attacker and did a phenomenal job keeping her at bay, even if it was just a touch on a block to slow it down for her teammates. She ended the night with 13 kills on offense.
Kelley Koop, who has committed to play next year at North Florida, led the way on offense with 22 kills and five aces.
Despite losing the team’s best player, Quinn could not have been prouder of the way her players fought through the adversity and put them in a position to win the match.
“When something like that happens, losing a key player, you have to fight for every point. You have to put your mind in neutral and just play for that point. I’m so proud of how the seniors led this team. We went through adversity at the beginning of the season, but these seniors had the experience to lead the girls that had never been on varsity. We thank them for the legacy they’ll leave with us.”