By CONOR NICHOLL (Cnicholl1@gmail.com) for Sports in Kansas
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Statewide Volleyball Notes - 9/2/20
Thomas More Prep-Marian seniors Emilee Augustine and Jadyn Gottschalk have played together since age 12. They were freshmen reserves on the Monarchs’ state title team in ’17. As sophomores, Augustine finished second with 256 digs. Gottschalk played in all 78 sets and recorded 68 digs. The duo also combined for 43 service aces.
In ‘19, Gottschalk led TMP with 65 aces, and Augustine delivered 47. Augustine was first with 365 digs and Gottschalk second with 284.
Last Saturday, the experienced senior duo again anchored the Monarchs’ back line. The 5-foot-5 Augustine is the veteran libero and one of two team captains, and Gottschalk is listed as a middle/outside hitter, though is a talented defensive player.
Augustine consistently wore a smile through the season-opening Maroon and Gold Invitational at Hays High School. She delivered multiple diving digs and loves wearing the different colored libero uniform.
She and Gottschalk showed great chemistry as TMP, ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, went 5-0 and won the tournament. The Monarchs defeated host Hays High in a three-set thriller in the championship.
TMP, 33-7 last season, has seniors Sasha Wasinger and Sophia Coulter (a team captain) and 6-foot junior Emilee Lane, one of the state’s best hitters. Lane earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the eight-team tournament. TMP junior setter/hitter Kassidi Yost picked up all-tournament team.
Afterward, Augustine was among the final people to leave the HHS gym. She kept beaming in KSHSAA’s Return to Play from the coronavirus. Last weekend marked the first KSHSAA sanctioned events since the state basketball tournament was cancelled after the first round games in March.
“With the whole situation, the pandemic, you don’t really know, this could be your last games, so you know you just want to live it for the moment,” Augustine said.
Augustine’s demeanor encapsulated an excellent first week of high school volleyball, a sport that took another positive turn Tuesday night when the seven Wichita public high schools voted to go ahead with fall sports. For the last two weeks, the board representing the seven public schools had voted for no fall sports.
The two private schools in Wichita (Kapaun and Bishop Carroll) had already elected to have a full fall sports season. Wichita East, with multiple experienced seniors, could enjoy the program’s best team in 30 years. Senior libero Brooke Tholen has been offered by Ottawa and Independence Community College.
While Augustine and Gottschalk are well-established players, the return to play provided a host of others to step up in a leading role for the first time, including at Hays High and Maize South.
Several stars, including at Spring Hill, Cheney and Smoky Valley, opened with strong showings. Other teams, including perennial top-25 national power St. James, were set to open later this week.
Hays High, 22-14 last season, graduated its top-three hitters. Senior left-hander Alexa Moeckel was fourth with 85 kills last fall. Moeckel had a season-high eight kills versus Riley County last year and had five matches with at least five kills. Moeckel worked throughout the summer with new coach Shannon Funk, sister to TMP coach Natausha Dreher, on scoring more.
Moeckel enjoyed a strong day, and like Augustine, consistently wore a look of joy and exuberance after big kills. She delivered nine kills in the final, including five in a 20-point stretch during the second set. Senior libero Brooklyn Schaffer, among the state’s best defensive players, was Outstanding Defensive Player in the tournament.
Hays High’s other two seniors are Kaitlyn Suppes and Maia Lummus. Suppes was second with 211 assists in ’19, and Lummus played junior varsity. All four celebrated senior day, a common occurrence this year at the first home event. Generally, senior day is the last home event, but that changed because of the coronavirus uncertainty.
“She has always had a good swing, but now she is swinging smart as well, and so she is finding those holes and is putting the ball in open spots,” Funk said of Alexa. “And it paid off a lot today, and I tell you what, all my seniors played so smart today. They really showed their maturity and their discipline.”
Sophomore Carly Lang played in 45 sets with 27 kills last fall. Junior Aleyia Ruder was a reserve with 65 kills. Both Ruder, honorable mention all-state, and Lang, delivered strong basketball seasons last year.
Each opened with a solid volleyball tournament, and Lang picked up all-tournament team honors.
In addition, the rest of the all-tournament team featured Bucklin’s Caroline Bowman, Salina Central’s McKenzie Maring, Wheatland-Grinnell’s Livia Schultz, Scott City’s Ella Rumford, and Colby’s Kennedy Stanley and Briana Barnett. Colby finished third. Wheatland-Grinnell is ranked sixth in Class 1A, Division II.
TMP’s Dreher sees similarities between ’20 and ‘17
Dreher has consistently put TMP among the elite teams with 34-5, 37-4, 42-3, 20-16 and 33-7 marks the last five years. The Monarchs returned all but one player. The ’17 squad, which defeated Cheney for the state crown, featured six seniors, all whom significantly played.
“The expectations on themselves are very similar to some of our other teams,” Dreher said of ’20.
Dreher said the ’20 TMP seniors, in a practice last week, had the “exact same conversation” the ’17 seniors had.
“I had a couple of my seniors come up to me, and they are like, ‘Coach, we should be playing way better than this,’” she said. “We should be playing way better than this.’ One of the teams I was fortunate enough to coach three years ago that had a really good run, I remember their seniors coming up to me saying the exact same thing.”
Dreher told the ’20 team to stay patient. Like Augustine, she is hopeful the Monarchs “get to keep playing” and post another strong year.
“I am like, “It’s August,” Dreher said. “Take a breath. It will be OK. They have a lot of similarities and especially how much they enjoy each other.”
Smoky Valley, Hesston, Hillsboro part of key triangular; SV celebrates senior night
The Central Kansas League perennially has strong volleyball teams. Instead of the CKL preseason tournament, Smoky Valley hosted a triangular along with Hesston and Hillsboro.
Hillsboro defeated Smoky Valley: 25-21, 18-25, 28-26. SV defeated Hesston, 25-15, 25-14. Smoky Valley is ranked No. 8 in Class 3A.
Overall, McKinley Johnson led Smoky Valley with 29 assists, and Elyse Ramsey delivered 24. Abby Rose posted 18 kills, Bri Franklin delivered 12, with Addie Heitschmidt at 11 and Belle Peters with seven. Franklin had three solo and eight assisted blocks. Kerington Haxton finished with eight digs.
After the matches, Smoky Valley recognized the eight seniors: Franklin, Haxton, Heitschmidt, Johnson, Whitley McElroy, Peters, Ramsey and Madison Repp. This Thursday, Smoky Valley and TMP travel to Abilene. Last season, Smoky Valley finished 24-15 with losses to Hesston and Hillsboro at the season-opening CKL tournament.
Maize South off to strong start; has Senior Night on Tuesday
Maize South finished 39-4, though graduated its top-three hitters. The Mavericks have just two seniors with setter Laurel Jones and senior libero Riley Kennedy. Longtime coach Teri Larson liked her personnel.
Junior Callie Palecki also returned on the back row, and the offense featured junior left-hander Skylar Lopez, a move-in from Cimarron; sophomore 6-foot-2 middle hitter Avery Lowe, and 5-10 outside Gracie Morrow. The 6-1 Jones, a Marquette commit, has the ability to hit and block, too.
“I think we are going to surprise some people,” Larson said. “We have got new freshmen, and we have got a move-in that is going to make an impact, and we are pretty tall, so we are going to have a very good block, which I am excited about.”
The Mavericks, ranked No. 10 in Class 5A, opened with the AVCTL tournament at Goddard-Eisenhower last week. Maize South swept Eisenhower and Goddard, lost in three sets to Andover, and swept Liberal. On Tuesday, the Mavericks opened senior night with a sweep of Garden City.
After the weekend, Morrow and Jones led with 26 and 21 kills, respectively. Lowe hit .343 with 16 kills, and Lopez was a solid .280 with 10 kills.
Spring Hill, No. 18 nationally, starts 2-0; Mill Valley’s Ravnsborg, a top-150 national player, leads Jaguars in digs
In ’19, Spring Hill finished 38-4 with coach Erica Book, a former All-American libero at Washburn who still holds several Lady Blues’ records. Spring Hill was under .500 from ’14-17 before Book took over. SH went 29-10 in ’18 before the nine-win improvement last fall. SH is ranked second in Class 5A.
Spring Hill graduated just one senior, and returns seniors Jalyn Stevenson and Alli Frank. Stevenson has committed to Washburn, Frank to Baker. Stevenson was first team all-state Class 5A by the Kansas Volleyball Association and the Tri-County Spotlight Volleyball Player of the Year.
Spring Hill won league volleyball for the first time since ’83 and advanced to state for the first time since ’85. Stevenson is on the AVCA Under Armour All-America Watch list, and Spring Hill is No. 18 in USA Today’s national Top-25.
Last Friday, Spring Hill defeated Mill Valley in a four-set match and beat Ottawa in four sets on Tuesday. Versus MV, Stevenson finished with 22 kills and hit .375, and Frank delivered 15 kills and hit .538. As well, junior Kate Frakes had 14 kills with six blocks. Senior Mariah Hess led with 16 digs.
Mill Valley had 36 of its 38 kills from non-seniors. Senior defender/setter Jaden Ravnsborg, a Kansas State commit, finished with a team-high 18 digs. Ravnsborg is one of six Kansans named to the 2021 Prep Volleyball Top 150 national list.
Victoria beats WaKeeney-Trego in matchup of ranked teams
Last year, Victoria reached state for the first time since 1991. The Knights had just two seniors last fall and returned more than 90 percent of the team’s kills. WaKeeney-Trego finished 23-12 and returned senior Lili Shubert, who delivered 458 kills and an honorable mention all-state player.
Victoria also returned junior outside hitter Kassi Weber, an honorable mention all-state 1A selection. WaKeeney ranked eighth in Class 2A, and Victoria fourth in Class 1A, Division I.
On Friday, Victoria defeated Trego, 22-25, 28-26, 25-16. Junior Melany Huser paced the Knights with 12 kills, one of four Victoria players with at least six kills. Sophomore Janet Hugunin paced the Knights with 16 assists, and junior Kaitlyn Windholz had 12 assists and 10 digs.
Defending 2A state champion Wabaunsee off to 6-0
Alma-Wabaunsee, the defending Class 2A champion, started 6-0, including five two-set wins. Notably, Wabaunsee hosted its own quad last Saturday. The Chargers have defeated McLouth in three sets and swept traditional power Centralia. Charger 6-foot-1 junior Lauren Schutter missed freshman year with an injury and enjoyed a huge sophomore year with 210 kills and a .277 hitting percentage. She opened with 50 kills and a .389 hitting percentage.
Senior Maddy Wertzberger hit 46 kills with a .337 hitting percentage.
After the first week, Valley Heights is 6-1, Hanover 2-0 and Centralia 3-2 to lead Twin Valley League play, according to TVL statistician Vicki Adams.
Fairchild leads 4A Andale
Andale, the defending 4A runner-up, is ranked first in Class 4A this season. The Indians have opened 4-0. Senior Katelyn Fairchild delivered 28 kills and hit .397, and sophomore McKenzie Fairchild finished with 19 kills and a .471 average. Katelyn Fairchild is a returning first team all-state player. Junior Annabeth Baalmann took over for Jenna Jarmer. She graduated after an honorable mention all-state setting season. Baalmann finished with 62 assists in the one-setter offense.
Loaded McPherson volleyball off to 4-0 start; Pelham with big performance for Maranatha Christian Academy
McPherson, ranked sixth in 5A, had limited trouble in four victories on Saturday. The Bullpups defeated Derby (25-8, 26-24), beat Newton (25-22, 27-25), then Garden City (25-17, 25-22) and Winfield (25-16, 25-14).
Junior Rhian Swanson, a returning 5A honorable mention selection, has committed to Kansas and has played with Team USA. Swanson paced the Bullpups with 54 kills.
Additionally, Maranatha Christian Academy opened 1-2, though senior Addi Pelham, also a ’21 Prep Volleyball Top 150 selection, delivered 38 kills and a .462 average. Pelham has committed to Division I Lipscomb. Pelham and Smoky Valley’s Abby Rose (.459) lead Kansas in hitting percentage after the first week of play.
Sabetha beats No. 1 Valley Heights; wins Marysville Invitational; Cheney (No. 2 3A) starts 2-0
Sabetha finished 4-0 at the Marysville Invitational. The Bluejays opened with pool play victories against Valley Heights, Chapman and Riley County. In the finals match, Sabetha beat Nemaha Central in three sets. NC is ranked seventh in Class 3A, and Valley Heights is first in 2A. Sabetha beat VH, 26-24, 25-15.
On Tuesday, Cheney, ranked second in Class 3A with a highly experienced team, defeated Arkansas City (25-13, 25-15) and Eisenhower (26-24, 25-21).
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