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Sports in Kansas: State Volleyball Preview

Smith Center is one of the four teams in the 2A state tournament.
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas
Oct 29, 2020

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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

All rankings as of Oct. 21 by the Kansas Volleyball Association

Statewide Volleyball Notes – 10/29/20 – Teams adjust to new state format

Goodland’s Angie Brumbaugh, like many volleyball coaches, simply wanted to have a season this year after significant uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were just hoping that we would get to have some matches,” Brumbaugh said. “So we are just thankful that the state’s just working to try to allow kids an opportunity to compete and do things that they love to do, which makes them successful in the classroom and outside of sports as well.”

Volleyball dealt with several major changes, notably with the postseason structure. Traditionally, eight teams qualified to the two-day state tournament. Pool play occurred Friday, semifinals and championship Saturday. Top-two from the four-team pools advanced.

This year, KSHSAA elected to limit large crowds and have the state quarterfinal matches Tuesday at host sites in a best of five match. Quarterfinals matchups were based on the two closest geographic sub-states. Then, state is a one-day event with the teams playing five matches – a round robin, semifinals and finals.

Generally, teams play very few best-of-five matches in the regular season, normally just on occasion in the large metro areas. Additionally, this year teams were advised to not play in tournaments with five matches in one day – though they would do so at state.  

Some corners, specifically well-known St. James Academy coach Nancy Dorsey, expressed great displeasure in the setup. Multiple No. 1-ranked squads, including Andale and Sabetha, had to go on the road for a quarterfinal match Tuesday.

“It came to my attention this year that KSHSAA, our state association made some changes to the post-season under the guise of “covid” and I have some serious concerns,” Dorsey wrote in a long post on her blog. “First, and most importantly, these changes were made to the sports that girls play, not the ones the boys play.”

However, Brumbaugh didn’t mind the set up – and neither did TMP coach Natausha Dreher or sophomore Talexa Weeter, the Cowgirls’ leading hitter. Goodland beat TMP in five sets, including 16-14 in the fifth, in a great match in front of a raucous crowd at Al Billinger Fieldhouse in Hays. Brumbaugh labeled the environment “fun.”

“We knew early that that’s what the option would be,” Brumbaugh said. “It just kind of spreads it out a little bit, and this whole year, I mean back in August, I was just hoping we’d get to play.”

By and large, the different format did not yield a significant home field advantage. Ranked teams went 10-3 against unranked teams.

Overall, the home teams combined for a 14-14 record. Eight of the matches went five sets.

“It’s really not a lot different, because if you think about some of nights when we have tris and quads, I mean, you might play back to back, two or three matches in a row,” Brumbaugh said of five sets. “So we really don’t prepare a lot different for that.”

Class 6A home teams went 3-1, along with 5A, Class 1A, Division I, and 1A, Division II. Class 4A home squads were 0-4, while 3A and 2A were both 1-3.

However, all four of the 4A favorites were on the road, including top-three teams Andale, McPherson and Bishop Miege.

Seven unranked (non-top-10) squads reached the final four, all in 3A down. Class 6A Garden City delivered a big comeback at Derby to win in five sets.

In 3A, Goodland won the five-set match at unranked TMP. In 2A, defending champion Wabaunsee is unranked. Heritage Christian, unranked, delivered arguably the biggest upset with a win versus Pittsburg St. Mary’s Colgan, the No. 1 squad in 2A.

In 1A, Division I, Central Prairie League rivals St. John and Central Plains are unranked. Wheatland-Grinnell is unranked in Division II.

Garden City, Heritage Christian, Central Plains and Wheatland-Grinnell were the only unranked teams to beat a ranked squad Tuesday.

In one of a few matches moved to Wednesday because of weather, Smoky Valley beat Cheney, 25-17, 25-18, 24-26, 25-19, in a matchup of 3A top-three teams. SV won at home in front of a loud crowd.

Junior Abby Rose, a Division I recruit, led with 14 kills and led down the stretch. Smoky Valley finished the fourth set on a 15-6 run, including six straight points to finish.

Cheney took its last lead at 18-17 before Rose delivered back-to-back blocks and a kill. She had another kill to break a 19-19 tie. She served out the final run, including an ace on the final point. Overall, Rose led with 14 kills, and Bri Franklin, a Kansas Wesleyan signing, delivered 10 kills. SV coach Sharlene Ramsey said the Vikings “put together such a complete game.” Six hitters had more than five kills apiece.

“That makes it difficult for an opponent to try and defend that!,” coach Sharlene Ramsey said. “Our girls played so well together and really played for one another. They have a special bond, and it’s what kept them united tonight. Cheney is a great team, and they have had a great season!”

McKinley Johnson and Elyse Ramsey combined for 35 of 35 in serves, and Aubrey Boldra delivered three aces. Kerington Haxton led with 19 digs.

Class 6A - Tournament is Friday at Salina’s Tony Pizza Events Center

Garden City (20-13) – Garden City beat Derby and advanced to the final four for the first time since 1997, according to GC historian Brett Marshall. Look for Garden City featured as Sports in Kansas' American Implement team of the week. 

Washburn Rural (32-4) – Rural rolled over Wichita Northwest, 25-13, 25-15, 25-15. Rural is ranked fourth. The Junior Blues are the defending 6A runner-up for coach Kevin Bordewick, who exceeded 900 career victories this fall. Rural last won state in ’12 and has seven overall titles. Rural is loaded, including with sophomore Brooklyn DeLeye, a first team all-state pick as a freshman and a top national recruit.

Olathe Northwest (27-0) – The state’s lone undefeated team, Northwest narrowly defeated Lawrence Free State, 25-15, 24-26, 25-17, 20-25, 16-14. Olathe Northwest is ranked first in Class 6A. Northwest last won state in ’17 with current Barry Lenth. Northwest took a rare 14-21 down season last fall before the big improvement. Freshmen Skyler Pierce, Jillian Huckabey, Julia Headley, and Lauren Roediger are the team’ top-four hitters. The 6-foot-1 Pierce leads with 289 kills and is second with a .316 average. Headley has a .337 average. Headley has 34 blocks.

Blue Valley West (22-7) – BVW won a five-set match against a talented Shawnee Mission Northwest squad, 22-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-27, 15-7. West is ranked third, and Northwest second. BV West last won state in ’15 and also in ’05. Three of the top-four hitters are juniors. Taylor Stockman paces with 228 kills and a .243 average.

Class 5A – Tournament is Saturday at Salina’s Tony Pizza Events Center

Maize South (29-6) – Maize South rolled over Great Bend, 25-12, 25-11, 25-14. Maize South is ranked ninth in 5A. Coach Teri Larson is a legendary volleyball coach in the Maize school district. She won state at Maize in ’98 and ’99. The Mavericks qualified in ’10 and then the last three years. Senior Laurel Jones, a Marquette commit, has enjoyed another great season. She has 231 kills and a .309 average. Freshman Gracie Morrow has 247 kills with a .263 average. Sophomore Avery Lowe carries a .339 average. The 6-foot-1 Jones has 1,767 assists, 705 kills and 305 digs in her career.

Bishop Carroll (24-3) – BC beat Newton, 25-14, 25-9, 25-12. Bishop Carroll stood fourth in 5A rankings. Carroll last captured a state title in ’01. The Golden Eagles have qualified for state the last four years. BC’s Ella Larkin has committed to LSU.

Lansing (26-1) – The Lions held off Topeka Seaman in a high-profile match, 25-23, 25-9, 16-25, 25-18. Lansing was ranked third, Seaman fifth. Lansing’s lone crown came in ’01. First-year coach Lindsay Zych, a former Lansing assistant, took over after Julie Slater retired following 1,000 career wins, second-most all-time. Lansing finished third in 5A in ’19 and graduated a pair of KU commits. Lansing has qualified for state the last six falls. Junior Olivia Mae van der Werff leads with 326 kills, while junior Iyannah Jackson carries a .362 average. Junior Kamryn Farris has 279 digs, and junior Caitlin Bishop has 770 assists – they are among the best two specialists in Kansas.

St. Thomas Aquinas (24-2) – In a match of nationally ranked teams and significant Eastern Kansas League rivals, Aquinas beat St. James Academy, 25-21, 25-14, 22-25, 25-21. Aquinas was ranked first, St. James second. Aquinas has won seven state titles, including last fall with a 34-7 mark. Before then, the Saints’ last title came in ’14. The Saints are loaded, including freshman Ava Martin (287 kills, .370 average) and senior Caroline Bien (197 kills, .310 average). Bien was named a Prep Volleyball All-American. Bien has committed to KU, Martin to Creighton.

Class 4A – Tournament is Friday at Hutchinson Sports Arena

Andale (34-2) – No. 1 Andale beat Clearwater, 25-18, 25-18, 25-18. Andale has never won a state title but finished as the runner-up to Topeka Hayden last season. Coach Kaylie Bergkamp has led an Indian group that features Katelyn Fairchild, a Texas A&M track signee. Andale is ranked first in 4A, and Clearwater tenth.

McPherson (33-3) – The Bullpups, led by Kansas commit Rhian Swanson, beat Clay Center, 25-23, 25-22, 25-15. McPherson is ranked second in 4A, Clay Center sixth. McPherson had its lone title in ’12 with Christy Doile, still the current coach. McPherson last qualified for ’16. The Bullpups qualified every year from ’10-16.

Bishop Miege (17-11) – Miege beat Wamego, 25-20, 25-16, 25-18. Miege is ranked third, Wamego ninth. Miege is the all-time winningest program with 25 state titles, the last coming in ’18. The Stags bounced back after a rare missed state appearance last fall. Senior Payton Verhulst, a Louisville basketball commit, returned to volleyball after she took last season off. She is Miege’s top hitter and was a first team all-state volleyball pick as a sophomore.

Ottawa (23-13) – Ottawa has enjoyed a rare Final Four berth and enjoyed a big turnaround with a 25-5, 25-10, 25-19 win versus Labette County. Ottawa is ranked eighth in 4A. Ottawa has never won a state volleyball crown. The Cyclones have their first state berth since ’11 and when they finished third. Ottawa was 15-21 in ’19. Senior Darby Wiedl has been in the top-5 in Kansas for kills at 476.

Class 3A – Tournament is Saturday at Hutchinson Sports Arena

Goodland (34-5) – Goodland won an epic match at TMP, 25-23, 17-25, 25-20, 15-25, 16-14. Neither Goodland or TMP was ranked entering state, though TMP had been ranked earlier this year. The Cowgirls have won 29 consecutive matches. Goodland has won four titles, the last one coming in ’03. That marks Goodland’s last final four appearance before this year. Goodland is very deep and has enjoyed a big turnaround after 34 combined wins the last four years. Sophomore Talexa Weeter has led the team in kills the last two years, and the Lehmans, sophomore Olivia and junior Emma, are key hitters. Senior setter Mikayla Biermann, and senior libero Anna Gutierrez are key specialists.

Smoky Valley (31-2) – The Vikings won at home against Cheney in a high-profile match, 25-17, 25-18, 24-26, 25-19. Cheney is ranked second, Smoky Valley third. SV has enjoyed the best season in school history. The Vikings reached the final four for the first time in school annals. SV reached state and won a league title for the first time since the mid-80s. Smoky Valley has its highly experienced group led by Rose, Franklin, junior Madi Tolle, Aubrey Boldra, and seniors Addie Heitschmidt, Belle Peters, Elyse Ramsey, McKinley Johnson and Kerington Haxton. Rose has 246 kills and hits .388, and Franklin is at 185 kills with a .389 average.

Sabetha (36-1) – The Bluejays beat Perry-Lecompton, 25-16, 25-17, 25-13. Sabetha is at state for the first time since 1999. Sabetha is ranked first in 3A. Sabetha has enjoyed the best season in school annals back-to-back years. The top-three hitters are all seniors: Melinna Schumann, Leah Renyer, and Carmyn Wessel. Schumann (344 kills) is a four-year starter and the team’s best passer. Renyer has 337 kills. Sophomore Mary Lukert also won a regional cross country title and has played in all 82 sets.

West Franklin (32-3) – WF defeated Riverton, 25-18, 23-25, 25-15, 25-18. West Franklin is ranked eighth in 3A. West Franklin last qualified for state in ’07. Coach Angie Corwine picked up her 400th career victory earlier this season. Senior Alex Coopman has 276 kills and a .409 average. Senior Sami Randall has 64 aces, one ahead of senior Ainsley Corwine. Randall also leads with 327 digs. Corwine has delivered 813 asists and has 3,313 in her career.

Class 2A – Tournament is Friday against Dodge City’s United Wireless Arena

Smith Center (33-6) – In a high-profile match, Smith Center beat Spearville, 27-25, 25-2, 25-22. Coach Nick Linn won his 900th career match earlier this fall. Linn has multiple final four volleyball appearances but has a chance for his first volleyball state finale with SC. He has won a girls’ basketball state title with the Lady Red. Smith Center has no seniors on varsity, the first time Linn has had that occur. Smith Center was ranked sixth, Spearville fifth. Junior 6-foot middle hitter/blocker Tallon Rentschler is among the Lady Red’s all-time best hitters.

Hillsboro (26-4) – The Trojans earned an upset against Garden Plain, 13-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-11. Hillsboro is ranked second in 2A, Garden Plain fourth. However, GP was first and third at state the past two seasons. Hillsboro captured three consecutive titles in ’11-13 and has four total.

Wabaunsee (27-10) – Wabaunsee, second and first in 2A the last two seasons, held off Jefferson County North in an incredible match: 25-20, 15-25, 22-25, 25-23, 20-18. Wabaunsee and Jefferson County North were both unranked. Junior Lauren Schutter and senior Madi Wertzberger were standout players on the ’19 season. Schutter has 369 kills and carries a .378 average; she was a first team all-state pick last fall. Wertzberger has 190 kills with a .207 average.

Olathe Heritage Christian (25-8) – Heritage Christian pulled an upset on the road against a highly experienced Colgan squad: 22-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-11. Heritage Christian was unranked, and Colgan was ranked first in 2A. Heritage Christian won in ’16-17.

Class 1A, Division I – Tournament is Saturday at Dodge City’s United Wireless Arena

St. John-Hudson (22-17) – St. John beat Kiowa County, 25-18, 25-13, 25-17. Neither team was ranked. SJ has four all-time titles, most recently in ’10-11.

Central Plains/Wilson (28-11) – In a matchup of Central Prairie League rivals, CP beat the Knights, 25-23, 25-17, 23-25, 25-10, at home. Central Plains is the defending 1A state champions and will be the favorite at state. Central Plains, which opened the season No. 1 in Division II, bumped up when the new classifications came out in midseason. CP was not ranked, and Victoria was ranked sixth. Central Plains, always with its challenging schedule under coach Lisa Crites, was seeded seventh last fall and won the title. Central Plains has multiple strong players, including junior Kassidy Nixon, a returning first team all-state player.

Pratt-Skyline (27-7) – The Thunderbirds beat Flinthills, 18-25, 25-17, 25-16, 25-8. Skyline was ranked eighth. Skyline has never won a state crown.

Lebo (30-3) – The Wolves beat Centralia in five sets: 22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 9-25, 15-9. Lebo is ranked second, and traditional power Centralia was unranked. Lebo is looking for its first all-time championship.

Class 1A, Division II – Tournament will be Saturday at White Auditorium

Wheatland-Grinnell (24-15) – The Thunderhawks are back in another final four and will have a strong chance to win a state title. W-G beat St. Francis, 25-21, 25-20, 16-25, 17-25, 15-11. W-G is unranked, and SF fourth. The Thunderhawks last won state in ’15. The Thunderhawks use just seven varsity players, led by junior Livia Schultz.

Attica (28-6) – In a game that was moved to Wednesday, Attica beat Otis-Bison, 25-17, 25-12, 25-14. Attica is ranked fifth. It’s lone title was a 2A crown in ’90.

Hanover (29-6) – The Wildcats beat Linn, 20-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-19, in a matchup of Twin Valley League rivals. Hanover, with its bevy of underclassmen, is ranked second in 1A, Division II. The Wildcats’ lone volleyball championship came in ’79. Hanover has just two seniors on the roster; neither one has a kill. Sophomore Ceegan Atkins has 278 kills, junior Madison Bruna has delivered 178 and junior Allison Jueneman with 166.

Hutchinson Central Christian (19-8) – Central Christian beat Marmaton Valley, 25-18, 22-25, 25-15, 25-13. MV was at state for the first time since 1979. CC was ranked sixth in 1A, Division II. Central Christian is at state for the first time since ’15.

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