By CONOR NICHOLL
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2020 Volleyball Updates are presented by Nex-Tech Wireless, Seatbelts Are For Everyone (SAFE), American Implement, Craw-Kan Telephone, Rainbow Communications, Labette Bank
Statewide Volleyball Notes – 11/4/20 – Editor’s Note: We thank all the coaches, players and league statisticians for availability, updating statistics and league records throughout the season. This is the second year Sports In Kansas has delivered statewide volleyball coverage every week. More than 15 teams were individually featured throughout year on SIK platforms, including Olathe Northwest, Smoky Valley, Spearville, Garden City, Sabetha, Meade, Goodland, Lansing, Smith Center, Sedgwick, Heritage Christian, Thomas More Prep-Marian, Hays High, Maize South, Rock Creek, Colgan, Frontenac and Phillipsburg.
Class 2A: Olathe Heritage Christian, Smith Center lead trend of key freshmen/transfers for state teams
DODGE CITY – Olathe Heritage Christian Academy finished 22-16 in 2019. Junior Katrina Davis, generally a setter in a 5-1 offense, led the Chargers with 298 kills. Davis was the lone non-senior among the Chargers’ top-four hitters for coach Tom Slaughter.
This season, both Davis and Slaughter knew Heritage Christian would add freshmen Cy Rae Campbell and Rachel Van Gorp. Campbell, a 5-foot-11 middle hitter, was named as Top 150 national player on the Class of 2024 watch list by Prep Volleyball, an industry leader. Van Gorp’s mother, Janice (Ninemire) Van Gorp is well-known in the Kansas City area.
Janice graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest where she stood out in volleyball, basketball and track. She played volleyball all four years at Iowa State, including first team all-Big Eight as a senior.
Van Gorp taught and coached at Shawnee Mission North and Heritage Christian. She led SMN to a state title in ’02 and then built Heritage Christian into a state contender. She unexpectedly passed away in ’15 at the age of 46. Shawnee Mission North has a tournament in her honor.
Additionally, Janice served as Davis’ first club coach. Davis knew she and Rachel could play one season of high school volleyball together.
“From a young age, Rachel has been amazing,” Davis said. “Like I remember when she was 11, she could hit so well, and I was just so excited to play with her, and I knew my senior year and her freshmen year we were going to do really good, so it’s great to see us win.”
Heritage Christian purposefully played a highly challenging schedule, including a three-set loss to Ottawa, a Class 4A final four squad. HCA took defeats to 6A programs Shawnee Mission Northwest, Lawrence Free State and Blue Valley Northwest, along with other bigger schools De Soto and Bonner Springs. Slaughter said he most enjoyed the freshmen “development” with shot selection that came with playing higher opponents after facing eighth graders in ’19.
“You have to be able to do more than just rip on the ball hard,” Slaughter said. “You have to be able to make shots. You have to be able to think through and be like, ‘That girl is probably one of the best blockers in the state, maybe I should not try to hit the ball through her.’”
The talented freshmen and learning yielded a Class 2A championship against Smith Center last Friday at United Wireless Arena in Dodge City. In the 2A quarterfinals, Heritage Christian beat No. 1-ranked and senior-laden Pittsburg St. Mary’s-Colgan.
The Chargers finished 30-8, including a 5-0 mark in the final four. That included a 25-21, 25-14 victory versus the Lady Red in the finals. Campbell led with 10 kills and Van Gorp finished with nine. Slaughter, who coached Blue Valley West from ’00-15, took over Heritage Christian after Van Gorp passed. He won volleyball crowns at HCA in ’16-17 with 36-9 marks.
“They are special athletes,” Slaughter said of the freshmen. “They really have been playing at a high level for a long time, and it just shows. They have incredible gifts that I feel like they’ve been blessed to be athletic. They are explosive. They have a good hand eye coordination, good read on the ball, and they have always had the potential.”
Smith Center, which graduated seven seniors from last year, had the best finish in school history. SC had just two healthy returners from ’19 with juniors Tallon Rentschler and Ashlyn Long. Like Heritage Christian, Smith Center heavily relied on freshmen: setter Camryn Hutchinson, Dakota Kattenberg and Gracie Kirchhoff for longtime coach Nick Linn. He cleared 900 career victories this fall.
Kirchhoff finished second on SC with 250 digs, 20 behind Long. Hutchinson led with 550 assists.
“It’s crazy, because we have no seniors, and we are super young,” Rentschler said. “….Everyone maybe underestimated us, but I was super proud of our performance today. I love it. We played so good today.”
The 2A finalists shared similar roster construction to many state champions and runner-ups in other classes. Multiple other squads, including 6A’s Blue Valley West and Olathe Northwest, 5A’s St. Thomas Aquinas and 1A-II’s Hanover, significantly relied on freshmen and/or first-year transfers. BVW, Aquinas and Hanover all won titles.
Traditional power Lansing had new coach Lindsay Zych. She replaced Julie Slater, second in state annals in career wins. Slater retired. Lansing had graduated a pair of Kansas signees, but the Lions went from third at state in ’19 to second this year.
Nationally ranked Aquinas won 5A with a 25-13, 26-24 victory versus Lansing. The 29-2 Saints earned its second straight title behind senior Caroline Bien and junior Ava Martin. They have committed to Kansas and Creighton, respectively. Six-foot-1 freshman Tatum McMurry collected Prep Volleyball Top 150 for the Class of 2024. McMurry had 107 kills, a .344 hitting percentage and a team-high 66 blocks.
Bishop Miege took a rare sub-.500 season and early playoff exit in ’19. This year, 6-foot-1 senior Payton Verhulst returned to the sport after a year away and paced Miege to a 22-11 record and 4A state title. Verhulst completed her career with 778 kills in three seasons, including a team-high 301 this fall. Verhulst was a first team 4A all-state pick in ’18 and honorable mention 4A-I all-state in ’17.
In Class 1A, Division I, Central Plains had to start the season late because of COVID-19. The Oilers, though, captured their second straight state title at 33-11. CP finished 5-0 last Saturday at Dodge City, including a 26-24, 25-23 victory versus Lebo in the state finale.
Junior Kassidy Nixon, a returning first team all-state pick and likely classification player of the year, finished with 87 kills in the five matchups. She easily led her team with 322 kills, a .348 hitting percentage and 56 blocks.
Senior Lexi Oeser paced CP with 53 aces, and senior Callie Zink led with 277 digs. Junior Ryenne Cunningham was second with 168 kills. A pair of freshmen, Kashlin Beck and Mollie Steiner, were part of the rotation for coach Lisa Crites.
Overall, Van Gorp paced Heritage Christian with 444 kills, sixth-most in Kansas and highest among freshmen. She hit .263. Campbell delivered 269 kills and carried a .266 average.
Freshman Maddie Wolf was the Chargers’ No. 3 hitter at 101 kills. Davis, after she led HCA in kills as a junior, finished fourth with 99. She played an all-state caliber level with a .318 hitting percentage and by far the state lead with 113 aces. She went back to setting in a 5-1 and delivered 870 assists.
“I have always been like a 5-1 setter, and so hitting was new last year,” Davis said. “But I loved it obviously, and having really good dynamic freshmen has helped us win, and I really liked dumping in front row, too, that’s always fun, and we can run slides and get some really good attacks with all the freshmen.”
Class 6A: Blue Valley West and Olathe Northwest led by new players
In the Class 6A finals, Blue Valley West defeated Olathe Northwest, 25-21, 25-17. BV West finished 27-7. Olathe Northwest, the state’s last undefeated squad, went 1-2 in pool play, including a three-set loss to Washburn Rural. However, Northwest beat Rural in three sets in the state semifinals. The Ravens finished 29-3.
Both Blue Valley West and Olathe Northwest are traditional powers. BVW won state in ’05 and ’15. Northwest, with coach Barry Lenth, has spent time in the national rankings. Northwest captured back-to-back crowns in ’16-17. However, BVW finished 22-15 and Northwest tumbled to 14-21.
This year, coach Jessica Horstick led a nice turnaround with multiple transfers. Junior Taylor Stockman led with 286 kills, and junior Brooke Leiker had 216 kills. Stockman came from Blue Valley Southwest.
Junior Jordyn Anderson transferred from Spring Hill. She was third with 127 kills.
Junior Grace Bartlett transferred from St. Thomas Aquinas, Horstick confirmed in an email this week. Senior Alyssa Miller did not play last year but did play as a sophomore. She was eighth in Kansas with 839 assists and took third on the team with 214 digs.
Junior Morgan Colangelo had came from Blue Valley North and was a J.V. player for BVW in ’19. She paced with 27 aces and 331 digs. Horstick labeled Colangelo “an amazing addition” and a “difference maker.”
“This group came together and peaked at the right time,” Horstick wrote. “They were so fun to coach, and I knew they had great potential from the beginning.”
Olathe Northwest graduated leading hitter Kaiti Parks, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker who signed with Kansas. This fall, the Ravens went 12 players deep with seven freshmen.
The top-three hitters were all freshmen: 6-foot-1 outside Skyler Pierce, 5-11 outside Jillian Huckabey and 6-2 middle Julia Headley. Pierce led with 384 kills, Huckabey delivered 291 and Headley with 211. As well, Pierce delivered a .312 hitting percentage, and Headley hit .311. Pierce, Headley and Huckabey were Top 150 national players for the Class of 2024 watch list.
Pierce and freshman libero/defensive specialist Emmy Sher finished 1-2 in aces with 48 and 42. Headley paced with 40 blocks, and Sher delivered 234 digs. The freshmen quartet has earned national attention. All four were named to the AVCA Phenom Watch List. There were just 68 freshmen nationally named, five in Kansas.
ONW’s other freshmen included 6-foot Lauren Roediger and 5-foot-11 Ally Messbarger.
Pierce earned MaxPreps/AVCA Kansas statewide Player of the Week honors for the week of Oct. 26-Nov.1. In 18 sets, she had 95 kills (5.28 per set) and 53 digs, or 2.94 per set. She delivered 40 service receptions, 10 aces and four blocks. Pierce was the only freshman to win a national award last week.
Earlier this year, Pierce and Headley picked up national attention as Prep Volleyball Newcomer Impact Players, an award given out to freshmen who contributed to their varsity team. Pierce played all six rotations.
1A-II: Hanover wins first state title since 1979 – all kills from non-seniors
In ’19, Hanover finished 19-17 with four of the top-five hitters as seniors. A pair of freshmen, Ceegan Atkins and Massey Holle, had very limited varsity time. Atkins played in just 13 sets and had four total kills. Holle played in two sets.
This year, Atkins and Holle made a big jump and freshman Tessa Lohse played a key defensive role. Hanover finished 34-6, including 5-0 at state. The Wildcats defeated Attica, 25-18, 25-19 in the Class 1A, Division II state championship. All of Hanover’s kills came from non-seniors.
Atkins, an outside hitter, enjoyed a huge season with 331 kills and a .311 average. Junior middle hitter Madison Bruna hit .328 with 204 kills. Junior Allison Jueneman had 190 kills.
Holle recorded 144 kills and a .263 average. Atkins led with 497 digs, and Lohse finished second at 313. Atkins was the lone sophomore named to the 13-player Twin Valley League first team announced earlier this week. Bruna and junior setter Avery Behrends were first team picks.
3A: Sabetha and Smoky Valley enjoy best seasons in school history
Class 3A was the only class that was dominated by seniors. Both champion Sabetha and runner-up Smoky Valley enjoyed the best seasons in school history. Sabetha finished 41-1 with a 25-19, 25-27, 25-23 finals win versus Smoky Valley.
Sabetha has posted the best record in school history in back-to-back years with coach Abby Stueve. The top-three and four of the top-five hitters were seniors.
Senior Melinna Schumann, a Kansas Wesleyan signing and four-year starter, led in kills (399), hitting percentage (.288), digs (473) and receptions (573). Senior Leah Renyer was second with 394 kills and led in aces with 43.
SV went 34-4. The Vikings had enjoyed an impressive turnaround from 1-30 to 15-23 to 24-15. Coach Sharlene Ramsey is in her third season. SV returned its entire roster from last year, including seven seniors and standout junior Abby Rose.
Rose, a Division I prospect, led with 316 kills and a .378 average. Rose also led with 229 digs. Senior Bri Franklin committed to Kansas Wesleyan and hit over .340.
Final Individual Statistics – Top-10 (from MaxPreps)
Weidl, Ottawa, 535
Lovesee, Leon-Bluestem, 518
Thomasson, Riverton, 517
Shubert, WaKeeney-Trego, 502
Regier, Newton, 494
Van Gorp, Heritage Christian Academy, 444
Schutter, Wabaunsee, 438
Hunter, Belle Plaine, 429
Cruse, Bonner Springs, 423
Pelham, Maranatha Christian, 411
Unruh, Great Bend, 514
Krien, St. Francis, 505
McMillan, Beloit, 502
Atkins, Hanover, 497
Enderud, Udall, 491
Lovett, St. James Academy, 491
Gutierrez, Goodland, 491
Bird, Lawrence, 488
Cisneros, Liberal, 482
Cline, Cheney, 476
Davis, Heritage Christian, 113
Meyers, Sedan, 83
Lehman, Goodland, 81
Berry, Riverton, 81
Bruce, Atchison, 77
Corwine, West Franklin, 73
Friesen, Meade, 72
Dumler, Cimarron, 72
Shanfelt, Wichita Classical, 72
Morrow, St. Francis, 71
Shubert, WaKeeney-Trego, .490
Pelham, Maranatha Christian, .481
Roe, Herington, .477
Trout, Chanute, .410
Coopman, West Franklin, .395
Harris, Atchison, .392
Rose, Smoky Valley, .378
Cruse, Bonner Springs, .371
Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas, .366
Lovesee, Bluestem, .358
Evans, Ottawa, 1010
Corwine, West Franklin, 986
Krebs, Sabetha, 965
Bishop, Lansing, 940
Jackson, Olathe Northwest, 871
Davis, Heritage Christian Academy, 870
Baalmann, Andale, 851
Miller, Blue Valley West, 839
Zenner, Newton, 815
Hipfl, Frontenac, 813
Smith Center, .316
Topeka Seaman, .308
Spring Hill, .308
St. Thomas Aquinas, .300
Wichita Trinity Academy, .284
Bishop Carroll, .283
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