With two games to go in the regular season, McKinney Boyd is a battle for its playoff life. A win Tuesday night over Allen definitely helped, giving Boyd sole possession of third in the 9-6A and owning the season tie-breaker over Allen after having swept the season series.
For Boyd and third-year coach Jennifer (JJ) Castillo, getting back to the playoffs is just step one for the program - a program that saw immense success under the program's first coach, Kelly Arbabi, who guided Boyd to back-to-back State Tournament appearances in 2011 and 2012 and was 231-78 from 2010 to 2017. Arbabi stepped down following the 2017 season to spend more time with her family.
"Coach Arbabi left a legacy and strong program. It was a great foundation to help shape and mold the type of program and culture I wanted to build," says Castillo, who also explained that getting back to the playoffs "would mean a lot to this group, especially the seniors. They have been battling for a playoff spot for the past two seasons and are even more determined this year to earn that playoff spot."
But does having that winning tradition bring any extra pressure to Castillo? Not in the least bit.
"No pressure at all. Every year it's a new group of players, new team, new dynamic. I've learned you have to adjust to the group of players and figure out a way to help them be successful," she says.
Since the back-to-back State runs, the Boyd volleyball program has seen decent playoff success, but have missed the playoffs the past two years. In 2013 and 2014, Boyd made it to the second round. In 2015, it went to the Regional Finals before losing to the eventual state champion, Hebron. In 2016, despite winning 37 games, it was bounced in the first round. And in Arbabi's last year, the team missed the playoffs.
For Castillo, getting the program back to the level it was once at is a step-by-step building process - getting better each time the team hits the court, both in practice and in games, and being disciplined and focused on those day-to-day standards.
"In order to be a state contender you have to compete with state level competition," she says. "I make sure my preseason is challenging and schedule the area's toughest competition. We may not always win those matches, but it helps us further down the road. It exposes the girls to high level playing and learning from those teams. The players start to buy in more when we actually beat those state level teams. They see that we can compete and contend with those teams."
And Castillo has the experience - both a player and assistant coach - to guide the program back to prominence. Having played at the collegiate level at Stephen F. Austin, being a homegrown product in playing for Allen and then being an assistant at Prosper, Castillo is ready to tackle that challenge.
"As a coach, you have to adapt and grow. I've learned an immense amount from those two successful programs, but I've learned the most through my past two seasons at Boyd - areas where I need to improve as a coach and what I want my program to look like."
Boyd finishes out the regular season against Plano and McKinney, both teams it has swept earlier in the district schedule. Boyd has already clinched a playoff spot, ending the two-year drought, but a win in either of those matches assures the team the third seed in the 9-6A.
McKinney Boyd is back in the postseason conversation.
Under the direction of coach JJ Castillo, the Broncos hold the fourth spot in District 9-6A and are playoff bound.
VYPE caught up with senior Broncos Abigail Quigley and PJ Marano this week to go inside the huddle.
VYPE: What does getting back in the playoffs mean to you?
QUIGLEY: "I've been here for four years and this is our first playoff appearance since I've been here. We are a staple in this community and we are proud to show off how our hard work has paid off."
VYPE: What's been the biggest moment so far this season?
MARANO: "Playing in the cross-town showdown against our rival McKinney High School, we have been known to lose to them. We beat them in three – we crushed them and it was an awesome feeling. The stands were packed and it just brought everything full circle for me."
VYPE: On to the real questions. What's your favorite place to eat?
QUIGLEY: "Sally's Pizza, for sure."
VYPE: What celebrity would you most want to go on a date with?
MARANO: "Zac Efron"
VYPE: What's your walk-up or hype song?
QUIGLEY: AC/DC's Back in Black
VYPE: Where do you see yourself in five years?
MARANO: "Going to Arkansas and working on my speech pathology degree."
VYPE: What's your dream school?
QUIGLEY: St. Edwards