By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
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Statewide Volleyball Notes - 9/16/20
All rankings as of Sept. 10 from the Kansas Volleyball Association.
Lansing retools after Slater’s retirement behind new coach Zych; outstanding setter and defensive players
In 2019, Lansing earned its second straight third-place finish in Class 5A. Legendary coach Julie Slater retired after 35 years with the Lions. She is second on the all-time Kansas wins list with 1,003. Lansing graduated five players who either signed with Division I or Division II squads.
That included Karli Schmidt and Caroline Crawford, the previous two 5A Players of the Year. They inked with Kansas, and Crawford was a first team All-American. Six-foot-3 middle blocker Amelia Van Der Werff headed to Middle Tennessee State. The trio were among the top-21 players in the classification, according to the Kansas Volleyball Association all-state lists. Lansing graduated 86 percent of its kills.
Lindsay Zych was a two-year starter at libero for Bishop Miege and defender for Division I University of Missouri-Kansas City. Miege captured state all four years of Zych’s career under Gwen Pike, Kansas’ all-time winningest coach. Zych first served as an assistant at Miege and for Slater last fall.
“A fantastic program with a fantastic group of kids and a fantastic community,” Zych said. “And coach Slater was super welcoming to me and let me take quite a bit of the reins last year when it came to running some of our offense – she kind of let me dictate quite a bit, which is super helpful for me to get to know a lot of these kids.”
Zych, the daughter of highly successful Miege boys’ basketball coach Rick Zych, picked up a first-grade teaching job in Lansing. Zych eventually took over for Slater, a role she called “a little intimidating up front.” Zych and Slater still frequently talk. Zych labeled Slater a mentor.
“It’s some pretty big shoes to fill, but I feel pretty confident in the way that the program is continuing to go from what she has built,” Zych said. “…The stars just kind of aligned, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else right now.”
Led by junior libero Kamyrn Farris and junior setter Caitlin Bishop, Lansing has delivered several signature comeback wins against a highly challenging schedule.
After a four-set victory versus Basehor-Linwood on Tuesday, Lansing is 8-0. Farris easily paced Lansing with 386 digs last season.
“She has to be on there, six rotations leading our team,” Zych said of Bishop. “She and our libero, Kamyrn Farris, are really the glue of our team that hold us together.”
Through the first seven wins, the 5-foot-7 Bishop had 161 assists and 27 digs, along with a pair of solo blocks, five aces and one service error. Bishop ran a 6-2 offense the last two seasons and tallied 1,083 assists. She was named to Prep Volleyball 2019 Sophomore 79 special mention for class of 2022. Both Farris and Bishop have goals to play in college.
“I feel like one of my strongest assets is my ability to lead my team,” Bishop wrote on her recruiting page. “One of my coaches once said she’s never seen me NOT be a captain on my club team. I have a very high IQ for volleyball and basketball. I love being the general on the court and the one who everyone looks to.”
As of the Sept. 9 poll, the Lions stood fourth in 5A. Zych has preached scrappy play and defense, which has helped in a pair of three-set victories and a 3-1 win versus Bishop Miege, ranked No. 5 in 4A.
“We may not be getting kills from big-time hitters every single point,” Zych said. “But we have really been working on finding ways to score, and just being really scrappy, and really, really relentless in the back row. As a former libero myself, I think that’s really big for our team, and our defense is absolutely fantastic.”
Lansing owns a 2-1 win versus Topeka Seaman and Spring Hill, ranked third in 5A. On Sept. 3, Lansing scored fewer points than Seaman, but won 25-18, 9-25, 25-22. Seaman is 11-2 with its lone Kansas loss to Lansing.
“When the going gets tough, we have been able to handle pressure pretty well, and that’s something that’s really hard as a high school volleyball player to do, and I am just super proud of this group,” Zych said. “They are awesome kids to coach.”
On Sept. 10, Lansing beat Miege after it lost the first set: 16-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-20. Lansing’s defense held Miege to a .147 average and kills on just 34 percent of swings.
Miege senior Payton Verhulst, a first team all-state 4A player two years ago, returned to volleyball after she didn’t play last fall. Verhulst is a top-10 national basketball recruit for the ’21 class and has committed to Louisville. Lansing held her to 11 kills and a .182 average.
Two days later, Lansing lost the first set to Spring Hill and then won the next two 25-22, 25-18. SH, nationally ranked preseason top-25, returned all of its hitters, including Jalyn Stevenson, a Washburn commit. Lansing limited SH to kills on 33 percent of swings and a .227 average.
“Our mindset from the back row has just been getting in and … not afraid if there is no block or one block and you have someone like Payton Verhulst from Miege coming,” Zych said.
Rick Zych has won more than 600 career games and captured five state titles with Miege boys’ basketball. Lindsay, a 5-foot-6 libero/defensive specialist, played in 99 matches in four years at UMKC from ’12-15, though saw her playing time decrease each season. Later in her career, Lindsay started to view the game like a coach.
“I loved, loved, loved coaching,” she said. “It’s just something that’s in my blood.”
Her dad has come to all the matches this fall. During matches, he has called out from the crowd “stay focused, stay focused” to the players. As well, he has taught his daughter to focus on areas to change when the team is losing and things aren’t going well. For matches, Lindsay has told the players to view them as “business trips.”
“He kind of helped me realize that with high school kids, you can’t dwell on their mistakes,” she said. “You have got to be more positive than negative and getting the kids as much confidence and experience as they can - will only benefit the players and only benefit your program.”
Lindsay first went to Miege and assisted under Kathleen Rush in her first season as head coach. Lindsay realized she wanted to build her own program and become a head coach. Lansing has a varsity position open, and she went 29 miles north.
Zych works with the defensive specialists/liberos on defense and serve-receive for about 30 minutes each practice “trying to get a feel for reading the game.”
“A lot of it is kind of teaching your mind to have a different feel of the game from the back row perspective,” she said.
Zych has coached the defenders to read the hitters, such as being on the outside of the block every time the block is closed and looking at the opposing hitters’ shoulders. It’s the same tactics Zych has picked up from Pike and her UMKC coach, Christi Posey.
“Right now, we are really good at digging balls with our defensive players,” Zych said. “But we have really been working on digging balls in system, so not only up high in the middle of the court, but in system, so our setters can run our offense and have all three options every single time.”
Lansing has also looked to funnel every ball toward Farris, whom Zych labeled “an unbelievable defender.” Lansing has tried to take the line away, which has forced teams to hit cross court to the 5-11 Farris.
She delivered 12 digs against Platte County (Mo.), three aces against Blue Valley Southwest, a pair of aces versus Spring Hill, and nine digs against Park Hill South (Mo.).
Against PHS, three of her digs – including the first two - came on cross-court attacks when Lansing blocked the line, according to Hudl video. Versus PHS, nine digs are available on Hudl; five came on cross-court. Farris delivered a great dig when line was open once, too.
Junior McKenzie Moburg, sophomore Skylar Weaver and lone seniors Taylor Cackler and Karis Jones have played on the back line. Zych called Moburg “another extremely high-level player.” Moburg has a 2.3 (on a 3-scale) passing average. Weaver plays all six rotations after she was a junior varsity outside hitter in ’19. She has delivered 28 kills, 49 digs and served at a 2.21.
“Super versatile and super athletic,” Zych said.
Freshman middle hitter Ashlynn Jaccard has started and asked to stay after practice numerous times to become acclimated to high school. Hitting-wise, juniors Iyannah Jackson (6-1) and Olivia Mae Van Der Werff (5-11) were right sides in ’19. They had 95 and 77 kills last fall, by far most among returners.
“Super high-level, top-level player, she is fantastic,” Zych said. “…(Olivia is) an awesome offensive threat.”
Return to play for Blue Valley schools; Wichita East celebrates Senior Night
Blue Valley, the defending 6A champions and ranked second in 6A, had its return to play from COVID-19 on Sept. 10.
BV lost 6A Player of the Year Evelyn Diederich, now at South Dakota, and Lindsay Lahr, who signed with Missouri State. BV defeated defending 4A champion Topeka Hayden 22-25, 25-19, 25-12. Blue Valley fell to Spring Hill in three sets and beat K.C. Piper in two sets. Hayden is ranked second in 4A.
Against Hayden, sophomore Connely Kilgore led with 10 kills, and senior Sienna King delivered three solo blocks. Junior Tori Hamilton finished with 14 digs, and senior Gabbie O’Toole delivered 19 assists. Notably, Kilgore leads with 24 kills, while senior Emma Williams and Hamilton have 28 and 25 digs, respectively.
Blue Valley graduated its top-three and four of its top-five in kills. Kilgore was the top returner with kills (77) and blocks (38). Williams was second with 193 digs, and Hamilton had 172 digs.
On Tuesday, Wichita East celebrated its Senior Night with its large senior class.
Sabetha stays perfect; beats Royal Valley in huge matchup on Tuesday
The Bluejays improved to 12-0, including a 4-0 tournament win at Rock Creek on Saturday. Sabetha won against Rock Creek, Horton, Hiawatha and Marysville.
Sabetha has captured two tournaments. After 12 matches, Sabetha’s top-three hitters and four of the top five are seniors. Senior Leah Reyner leads with 108 kills, while senior Melinna Schumann has 99 kills. Senior Carmyn Wessel has 58 kills, sophomore Mary Lukert has delivered 24 kills, and senior Erin Deters has 19 kills. The top-three hitters all hit between .207 and .237.
Renyer leads with 16 assists; the top-five all have at least 10 aces. Deters and Wessel lead with 26 blocks. Schumann easily leads with 147 digs. Sabetha opened the season with a 2-0 victory against Valley Heights, ranked first in Class 2A, in the Marysville tournament. VH is 9-3. Sabetha had three three-set wins in its first 12 matches.
On Tuesday, Sabetha faced Royal Valley, 9-0 and Class 3A defending state champions. Sabetha won the match and improved to 13-0. RV was ranked first in 3A, and Sabetha sixth.
Jefferson County North wins tournament
JC North captured the Riley County tournament with a 3-1 record. JCN finished 2-1 in pool play with wins against St. Marys and Holton and a loss to Riley County. However, the Chargers beat RC in straight sets to win the title. JCN is ranked fourth in 2A.
Colgan sweeps Maranatha Christian Academy in matchup of two of state’s top players
Pittsburg Colgan, ranked second in 2A, beat Maranatha Christian Academy with a 25-8, 25-15, 25-20 victory. Colgan has senior Millie Stockard, who has more than 1,300 career kills. Maranatha senior Addi Pelham is a Division I Lipscomb commit and top-150 player nationally for her class. Pelham averages 5.9 kills per set and is hitting .517 in the team’s most recent statistical release.
Cheney remains undefeated; Cline No. 2 state in digs per set
The Cardinals, ranked second in 3A, are 8-0 after a pair of wins Saturday in Haven on coach Sara Walkup’s birthday. In the team’s most recent statistical release, junior Olivia Albers led with 53 kills, six ahead of senior Kylie Scheer. Junior Lacy Luehrs paced with 17 blocks, one ahead of Albers and senior Camdyn Pipkin. Senior Lexi Cline leads with 130 digs, or 7.6 per set, second in Kansas behind Great Bend’s Sydney Unruh, according to MaxPreps’ statistical lists.
Nickerson gives Ellinwood first loss at Ellsworth tournament; Central Plains returns to play
Ellinwood stands at 11-1 after the Ellsworth tournament. The Eagles beat in-county rival and defending 1A state champion Central Plains, 2-0 (25-17, 26-24). CP opened its season after it missed the first two weeks because of COVID-19 protocol. Senior Mya Maxwell led with eight kills, and 5-foot-9 sophomore Brittany Simpson had six kills.
Simpson was the team’s player of the match. Senior Anahi Mendez finished with seven digs. Ellinwood also swept Ellsworth and Sacred Heart. Nickerson beat Ellinwood 25-23, 22-25, 25-14. In the team’s most recent statistical release, Mya Maxwell easily led with 116 kills, and sophomore Bella Baker was second with 65 kills. Mendez and Maxwell paced with 119 and 92 digs, respectively.
Central Plains is first in 1A, Ellinwood is ranked fifth in 2A, and Nickerson seventh in 4A.
Smoky Valley continues to shine
Smoky Valley captured the Southeast of Saline quad Saturday with a 3-0 mark. Smoky Valley continued to defeat ranked opponents. SV beat Concordia, 25-16, 25-11, and then defeated Circle, 25-20, 25-23. Circle is ranked third in Class 4A, and Smoky Valley stands fourth in 3A. Then, SV beat Beloit, 25-17, 25-20 and improved to 9-1.
On Tuesday, SV defeated Hillsboro in two sets and improved to 10-1. Hillsboro is 7-2 and is the only team to beat SV. The Trojans defeated the Vikings in three sets on Aug. 29.
The Vikings have defeated ranked teams TMP, Nickerson and Circle. TMP was 11-2 entering Tuesday. Because of the quality of wins, Smoky Valley is ranked third for all classes in MaxPreps’ statistical rankings behind Colgan and McPherson.
Washington County with tournament victory
Washington County captured the Frankfort tournament, according to Twin Valley League statistician Vicki Adams. WC went 5-0, and Jackson Heights was 4-1. Frankfort, Manhattan CHIEF and Wetmore all went 2-3, though Frankfort took third on tiebreaker and Manhattan CHIEF was fourth.
Washington County defeated Jackson Heights 24-26, 25-17, 25-23. WC has seniors Cam Boykin, Mia Cardenas, Addi Mann, Alyssa Kern, and Kirsten Ouellette for coach Ashley Nutsch. WC has delivered a big turnaround and was 11-22 after the league tournament last season.
On Tuesday, Adams set out the updated standings. Valley Heights is 11-3, 5-0 in league, with Washington County 12-3, 5-1. Centralia stands at 7-3, 5-1, with Hanover 8-2, 5-2. VH is first in 2A.
Win number 200 for Stover, Win 100 for Krier.
Neodesha head coach Jodi Stover picked up her 200th career win at the school in Southeast Kansas. In opposite part of the state in Southwest Kansas, Meade head coach Leanne Krier picked up win number 100 after four years of coaching the school as they defeated Kiowa County.
Rutschman served 24 points in a row for Herington
Herington's Halle Rutschman served 24 points in a row to complete a 25-0 victory over Wichita Classical.
Frontenac sweeps home tournament
Frontenac went 4-0 at its own tournament and stood at 4-2. The Raiders beat Galena, 25-7, 23-25, 25-23. Heather Arnett delivered 13 kills, while Reagen Hipfl and Hattie Pyle each had seven kills. Gracen Hipfl finished with 54 assists, and Mia Brown served six aces. Frontenac beat Columbus, 25-10, 25-14, with 10 kills from Arnett, and seven by Reagen Hipfl. Frontenac finished with 22 assists. Frontenac beat Fort Scott, 25-18, 25-15 with 10 kills from Arnett and six by Pyle. The Raiders finished with 21 assists. Frontenac beat Pierce City, 25-13, 25-9.
By The Numbers
Lili Shubert – Trego .538
Carrie Roe – Herington .512
Addi Pelham – Maranatha .462
Keyana Cruse – Bonner Springs .444
Ivy Fink – Royal Valley .439
Lili Shubert – Trego 137
Torrance Lovesee – Bluestem 122
Raceh Van Gorp – Hertiage Christian 120
Leah Renyer – Sabetha – 119
Jalyn Stephenson – Spring Hill 118
Daphne Garnder – Spring Hill 273
Anna Godek – Wheatland Grinnell 239
Kirsten Evans – Ottawa – 238
Caili Burkholder – Marion – 222
Catherine Torber – Valley Heights – 216
Mallorie Koehn – Maize 32
Kirsten Schroeder – Wheatland Grinnell 31
Kamryn Rietzke – Thunder Ridge 28
Mary Dimitt – Ellinwood – 27
Lindsey Johnson – MDCV – 27
Madison Burna – Hanover -45
Massey Holle – Hanover 44
Lauren Schutter – Wabaunsee 38
Ozi Ajekwu – Lawrence 37
Katy Hurd – Perry Lecompton 34
Melinna Schumann – Sabetha 163
Alli Patton – Scott City 161
Hadley Bird – Lawrence 150
Sydney Unruh – Great Bend – 147
Crosby Curtis – Winfield -145
Team Hitting Percent
Royal Valley .331
Smoky Valley .304
Bonner Springs .299
Spring Hill .297
Trinity Academy ,287
St. Mary’s Colgan .283
Rural Vista .276
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