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2023 Volleyball Preview


By Brent Maycock, KSHSAA Covered



2022 State champion: Washburn Rural

2022 State runner-up: Blue Valley

2022 Review: Washburn Rural didn’t carry the burden of being undefeated into the 2022 state tournament as it did in 2021. But the Junior Blues did bring some baggage back to Salina a year ago, namely the memory of how the 2021 quest for a perfect season ended. Still unbeaten after pool play in 2021, Rural collapsed on the tourney’s final day, not only failing to reach the title match, but finishing fourth. Fueled by the memory of that unimaginable and unsatisfying ending, the Junior Blues returned to Salina winners of 39 straight matches after a loss to eventual 5A runner-up St. James Academy in the second match of the season. The determination to end its string of near-misses – runner-up in 2019, third in 2020, fourth in 2021 – Rural left little doubt it was the best team in 6A, and arguably the state. Rural blew through pool play foes Blue Valley WestBlue Valley and Liberal to return to the semifinals and then throttled Mill Valley 25-9, 25-18 to erase the memory of its 2021 semifinals disappointment. Getting a rematch with Blue Valley in the finals, the Junior Blues took the Tigers’ best shot, but pulled out a 25-21, 26-24 win to claim the program’s first state title since 2012 and the eighth for longtime coach Kevin Bordewick. Rural finished the season 45-1, the best record in program history. Blue Valley finished with a 31-11 mark and its best state showing since topping Rural for the 2019 state championship. Blue Valley North, the 2021 state champion, finished third after beating Mill Valley in the third-place match.

2023 Contenders: Fresh off capturing its first state championship since 2012, Washburn Rural won’t lower its expectations for 2023, its sights set on adding a ninth state title to the program’s resume. But the Junior Blues will have a different dynamic this season after graduating arguably the best player in program history, Brooklyn DeLeye. The University of Kentucky signee became just the second player in state history to record more than 2,000 career kills and she was named the 6A player of the year for the second straight year after leading Rural to a 45-1 mark last season and 161-21 record the past four years. Also gone is second-leading hitter Taylor Russell and a trio of others who played key roles in the title run a year ago. Rural has a history of reloading, however, and with setter Zoe Canfield and middle hitter Jada Ingram back as third-year starters, the foundation is there to build around for another title run. Blue Valley North fell short in its bid to repeat as 6A state champions after winning the 2021 state title. But the Mustangs are stocked with enough talent to get back on top this season. Senior Janelle Green and juniors Logan Parks and Jenna McClure were major contributors on the 2021 title team and were the Mustangs’ three All-State selections a year ago with Green and Parks earning first-team 6A honors. The team North beat to get back to the state tournament last year very well could be the favorite to win it all this year. Olathe Northwest was the No. 2 seed in the east bracket last year but was upset by the Mustangs in the sub-state finals in three sets. The Ravens return not only one of the top hitters in the state in Nebraska signee and Sunflower League player of the year Skyler Pierce, but also fellow first-team all-League selections Jillian Huckabey and Emmy Sher and four others who earned all-league honors. Northwest finished third in 2021, runner-up in 2020 and was back-to-back 6A champion in 2016 and 2017. Blue Valley finished second to Rural a year ago but will have a vastly different look this year after the graduation of 10 seniors off the state roster. About the only thing keeping it from being a total rebuild for Dave Johnson’s Tigers is the return of first-team All-Class 6A libero Ryan McAleer. Blue Valley West made it three Blue Valley teams at the state tourney last year, upsetting east No. 1 seed Olathe West in the sub-state finals. The Jaguars were state champs in 2020 and went 1-2 in pool play last year. Bigger things could be in store this year as West returns its entire team from a year ago, led by second-team All-Class 6A setter Lily Wedman. Fellow juniors Ella Davidson and Alex Myers each had more than 250 kills last year with Davidson a second-team All-Eastern Kansas League pick. Mill Valley enjoyed a breakthrough season a year ago for first-year coach Kylie Corneliusen, not only returning to state for the first time since 2013, but finishing fourth to cap a 32-11 season. The arrival of freshman Ella Florez played a key role in that success as she earned second-team All-6A and first-team All-Sunflower League honors as a setter/hitter. Junior teammate Saida Jacobs was honorable mention 6A while senior Kaitlyn Burke led the team in kills. Only two players graduated and the Jaguars should challenge for league and state titles. Olathe West saw its best season end prematurely when the Owls, top-seeded in the east, were upset by Blue Valley West in the sub-state finals. West graduated first-team All-Sunflower League picks Amber Allen and Ava Testrake, but returns second-teamers Riley Ourth and Brynn Stowell. The depth of the Sunflower League goes beyond the Olathe powers with Free State coming off its fourth straight state appearance. The Firebirds graduated seven seniors off last year’s tourney team, including first-team all-leaguer Sawyer Thomsen. Shawnee Mission Northwest posted 24 wins last year, but was an upset victim to Gardner-Edgerton in the sub-state semifinals and must replace leading hitter and first-team all-leaguer Elinor Engel. Blue Valley Northwest also posted 24 wins and nearly upset Mill Valley in the sub-state finals, but also has a huge hole to fill with the graduation of first-team All-6A pick Alayna Pearson. Liberal won its first Western Athletic Conference title since 2008 and reached the state tournament for the first time since that same season. It will have to replace six seniors off a 27-win team, but have a solid hitter to build around in senior Keyona Hall. Wichita Northwest is working on a streak of three straight state appearances and two straight Greater Wichita Athletic League titles. The Grizzlies are still looking for a second-day breakthrough at state, going 0-3 the past two seasons. Four of the five seniors who graduated were first-team all-league selections, leaving senior Nina Mitchell as the lone returning first-teamer. Garden City fell in the sub-state finals last year to Free State but returns a pair of all-leaguers including first-teamer Piper Harris.



2022 State champion: St. Thomas Aquinas

2022 State runner-up: St. James Academy

2022 Review: The 2022 season was all about unfinished business for St. Thomas Aquinas. After capturing back-to-back state championships in 2019 and 2020, the Saints not only came up short in their bid for a three-peat, but failed to reach the 2021 state championship match, finishing third after losing in the semifinals to eventual runner-up and arch rival St. James Academy. Aquinas and St. James then spent the 2022 season on a collision course to play for the state title with Aquinas twice getting the upper hand on the Thunder in the regular season to claim the Eastern Kansas League title. After both won their pools and then battled through three-set semifinals – Aquinas fighting past Seaman; St. James rallying to beat Hutchinson – the showdown for the finals materialized and was everything to be expected. Aquinas won the first set 25-22 only to see St. James take the second set by the same score. In a back-and-forth third set, the Saints got a couple big kills from senior Betsy Goodenow late and survived 25-23 to win the program’s third title in four years and eighth in its history. Aquinas finished the season 40-3 with two of the three losses coming to 6A champion Washburn Rural and the other to Missouri power Liberty North. St. James ended with a 37-4 mark, three of the losses coming to Aquinas. Hutchinson bounced back from its semifinal loss to top Seaman 25-16, 25-18 for third place and a 34-8 mark, the best season in Salthawk history.

2023 Contenders: Since 2012, St. James Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas have combined to win 9 of the 11 Class 5A state championships contested during that span – the lone exceptions coming in 2021 (Lansing) and 2016 (Shawnee Heights). With a combined 17 state championships overall, the contender list in 5A every year starts with the Eastern Kansas League rivals, and 2023 will be no different. Aquinas has won three of the last four 5A titles and is looking for its second back-to-back title run in five years. The Saints will have to do it without EKL player of the year Betsy Goodenow, who was one of four seniors to graduate off last year’s team. Also gone is first-team all-leaguer Reagan Anderson, the team’s libero. However, more than enough weapons return for the Saints, starting with first-team all-leaguers in junior hitter Alea Goolsby and senior setter Kelsey Schenck. Three others earned all-league honors, including 6-3 senior Tatum Grimes, who joined Goolsby and Goodenow as first-team All-5A picks. As impressive as Aquinas’ resume and roster is, St. James might be even more so. The Thunder have reached the state championship match all but two seasons since the school opened in 2007, capturing nine state titles overall and taking second six times. The Thunder suffered three of their four losses to Aquinas a year ago and handed 6A champion Washburn Rural its only loss of the season. Even though graduation claimed four seniors off last year’s runner-up team, the Thunder return four of the five players who earned All-5A honors of some kind, including senior libero Mya Bolton and junior setter Reese Messer, who were first-team picks. Senior Julia Headley led a balanced offense and is one of four returners with at least 125 kills. Cracking Aquinas’ and St. James’ stranglehold on the 5A crown has been a monumental task for the rest of 5A, but both Seaman and Hutchinson gave the EKL powers a run in the semifinals a year ago. Of the two, Seaman – which lost 25-15, 19-25, 25-9 to Aquinas in the semifinals – is poised to position itself best for another shot this season. The Vikings only graduated two seniors off last year’s fourth-place team, most notably first-team All-United Kansas Conference libero Laynee Brown. But every other key player returns for the Vikings, including UKC player of the year Maegan Mills, a junior who also was first-team All-5A. Senior middle Brooklyn Gormley was second-team 5A and first-team all-league while Seaman will get a full season from senior four-year starter Taylin Stallbaumer, who missed half of last season. Seaman will have five players 6 foot or taller to spread the ball to with junior Campbell Charbot and Stallbaumer distributing. Hutchinson, which had St. James on the ropes in a 24-26, 25-23, 25-19 semifinal loss last year, is coming off the best state finish and season in program history. But the Salthawks have some serious holes to fill if they are going to strive for a third straight 30-win season. Graduation claimed two-time Ark Valley Chisholm Trail I MVP Maliyah Johnson and starting setter Josie McLean, who also was first-team all-league. Making things even tougher, returning second-team all-league junior Aliyah Green transferred to Andover, leaving junior Grace Posch as the lone returner to earn all-league honors. Hutchinson finished second in the AVCTL I last year to Maize South, which also was a state participant for the fifth straight year last year, going 0-3 in pool play. Though three seniors must be replaced, including 6-3 middle Avery Lowe, the Mavericks return four other six-footers. That includes senior Gracie Morrow, a second-team All-5A pick last year who led the team in kills, but only barely over junior Jillian Gregory. The duo have one of the top setters in the state to work with in senior Camdyn Stucky, who is committed to Tennessee and was a newcomer to the program last year after transferring in from Wichita Northwest. The Mavericks will benefit from an incoming transfer again this season as three-sport standout Ashley Singhateh comes in from Eureka after leading the Tornado to the Class 3A state tournament last year. The Mavericks could make some serious noise and improve on its best state finish of fourth in 2020. Lansing was able to summit the mountain in 2021 and wrest away the 5A state title behind a senior-dominated roster. The Lions merely reloaded last season and despite returning only one full-time starter from their championship team returned to state for the ninth straight year. This season, four starters must be replaced and for the second straight year, there’s a new head coach for the program. But it’s a familiar face in former Lion coach Julie Slater, who built the program into a powerhouse before retiring a few years ago. Slater inherits a team led by senior Anna Laincz, who was a second-team All-5A pick last year after leading the team in kills. Senior setter Tabor Scanlon also is back, as are seniors Ashlynn Jaccard and Virginia Van Der Werff, who are now more than a year removed from missing the 2021 season with ACL injuries. Andover Central returned to state for the first time since 2016 last year, going 1-2 in pool play to finish the season 34-9. The Jaguars have to replace leading hitters Allie Paulsen (AVCTL II MVP) and Maddi Amekporfor, but return standout senior setter Hayden Snodgrass and senior libero Willow Deckinger. The development of returning hitters such as junior Jordyn Washington will key how far the Jaguars can go this season. Bishop Carroll has been a fixture at the 5A state tournament with 19 appearances in the last 21 years. The best finish recently was a third in 2020, but the Golden Eagles haven’t advanced from pool play the past two seasons. Six seniors graduated off last year’s state squad, five of whom were either first- or second-team All-Greater Wichita Athletic League picks. Sophomore Avery McCorry was a second-team all-leaguer a year ago and leads a young returning squad with just one senior on it. Carroll’s arch rival, Kapaun Mt. Carmel, very well could supplant the Eagles and Wichita Northwest atop the GWAL this year, returning first-team all-leaguers Kate McIlvain and Lizzie Romer off last year’s 24-16 squad that lost to Maize South in the sub-state finals. The Crusaders knocked off Valley Center (23-13) in the semifinals but the Hornets must replace three players who were first or second-team all-leaguers. Newton posted 22 wins last year and reached the sub-state finals before falling to Andover Central. The Railers return first-team All-AVCTL I pick Abby Koontz and second-teamer Emma Rains. Eisenhower could emerge as a contender in the AVCTL II after going 27-11 last year. Junior Delainee Dexter was a first-team all-leaguer and pairs with Carly Dameron to give the Tigers a solid 1-2 punch. Emporia pushed Bishop Carroll in the sub-state finals and went 28-11 overall. Sophomore Jade Xu was an impact freshman a year ago, leading the Spartans in kills. The bulk of the team returns to go with her as only a handful of players graduated. Spring Hill has been a regular contender in recent seasons and was denied a state trip by St. James last year. The Broncos lost a trio of players who earned All-Frontier League honors, but return first-teamer Shannon Frakes and second-teamer Keliah Rivers from a 22-win squad. Shawnee Heights fell to Spring Hill in the sub-state semifinals and went 20-14, but graduated all three All-UKC selections. Likewise, Topeka West has a big hole to fill with the loss of Kansas State signee Makinsey Jones from its 24-win team last season. Great Bend must replace Western Athletic Conference MVP Valerie Luna off its 19-win team. Sumner Academy racked up 23 wins a year ago and returns libero Sui Par and setter Keneth Rodriguez. Blue Valley Southwest won 20 matches and was eliminated by Aquinas, but returns second-team all-league junior libero Hadley Porter as well as last year’s top-four hitters.



2022 State champion: Bishop Miege

2022 State runner-up: Andale

2022 Review: After breaking through for the program’s first state championship in 2021, Andale seemed poised to repeat as Class 4A state champions in 2022. The Indians were the lone undefeated team left in the state when the postseason rolled around, going into the 4A tourney with a perfect 39-0 record. The bid for a perfect season ended when Andale was knocked off in pool play by perennial power Bishop Miege. Both advanced to the semifinals and then earned a rematch in the finals with straight set semifinal victories. But redemption was not in the cards for Andale. Instead, Miege denied the Indians the repeat with a 25-22, 32-30 thriller in the finals, wrapping up the Stags’ state-record 27th state championship, their first since 2020. Miege finished the season with a modest 21-21 record, the byproduct of playing in the toughest volleyball league in the state, the Eastern Kansas League, which produced six state qualifiers, including the 5A champion (St. Thomas Aquinas) and runner-up (St. James Academy) and the 6A runner-up (Blue Valley). Miege alum Lindsay (Zych) Franco led her alma mater to the title a year after guiding Lansing to the 5A state crown. Andale finished with a 42-2 record, a year after going 40-3 in its 2021 championship season. Circle matched the best finish in program history, taking third after beating Louisburg in the third-place match to cap a 38-5 season.

2023 Contenders: No program can match Bishop Miege’s history with its 27 state titles nearly double the amount won by any other program in the state. Last year’s crown came with the Stags going into the state tournament with a sub-.500 record of 16-21 – a somewhat common occurrence of late with the Stags playing in the ultra-tough Eastern Kansas League and taking on a tough non-league schedule. This year’s Miege team, however, is loaded enough to not only make a run at another state title, but a league title as well. Graduation claimed first-team All-4A pick Ali Olson, but only one other player off last year’s title team. Senior Ava Martin and junior Lauren Lopez joined Olson on the All-4A first team while senior Gabby Anderson was second team and junior Kirston Verhulst was honorable mention. Lopez led the team in kills last year and Martin was tops in assists. That’s more firepower than anyone else in 4A returns from last year. Runner-up a year ago after winning its first state title in 2021, Andale must reload in a big way to reach the finals once again. Graduation claimed nine seniors off last year’s team, including 4A player of the year McKenzie Fairchild as well as fellow first-team All-4A pick Maddie Schrandt. The Indians will build around sophomore Hayden Grimes, who starred at libero last year and led the team in aces and digs as a freshman. Circle has reached the state tournament in four different decades under veteran coach Shelly Nibarger, who earned her 900thcareer victory at state last year. The Thunderbirds lost five seniors to graduation, including first-team All-Ark Valley Chisholm Trail III pick Lyric Edgerle. But seniors Jacqueline Corcoran and Reagan Smith return after being first-team all-leaguers with Corcoran also the league MVP and a first-team All-4A pick after racking up more than 400 kills. The third-place finish last year matched the program’s best state showing and the T-Birds are poised to take the next step this year. The Frontier League is loaded with talent and the league’s overall depth reared its head last year as league champion Baldwin was upset in sub-state play by league rival Louisburg, which was barely over .500 entering postseason play. The Wildcats rode the momentum of the sub-state upset to a fourth-place state finish. Four seniors graduated, including second-team All-4A pick Allie Kennedy and two others who earned all-league honors. Paola and Tonganoxie joined Louisburg as state qualifiers from the Frontier, neither making it out of pool play. Tonganoxie also pulled off a sub-state upset, taking out No. 2 east seed Independence to earn its first state berth since 2016, ending a string of five straight losing seasons. The Chieftains are primed for a higher postseason seed this year, returning all but one player off last year’s state team, graduating libero Kylie Vandervoort. Sisters Lucy and Finley Rieke were 1-2 on the team in kills last year with Lucy a second-team all-league pick. Paola also ended a state drought since 2016 with last year’s appearance but the Panthers have a few more holes to fill, namely first-team all-league hitter Maggie Kauk and setter Madelyn Pitzer. Baldwin will be primed to redemption after the premature end to its 2022 season in which the Bulldogs posted a 30-4 record. Senior Fisayo Afonja returns after being a second-team All-4A selection as do two others who earned all-league honors. Eudora won 20 matches last year but lost in the sub-state semifinals to Ottawa, which boasts one of the state’s top players in senior Emery Keebaugh, a first-team All-4A pick last year. Rock Creek is coming off its first state appearance since 2008 and must replace seven seniors. Junior Ayla Klingenberg set the school single-season kills record last year and was a second-team All-4A selection, giving the Mustangs a big piece to build around. The Mustangs move to the North Central Kansas League this year where Clay Center is the three-time reigning champion and was a state qualifier last year. The Tigers also have big holes to fill with graduation also claiming seven seniors off the state team. Abilene could be the team to beat in the league, however, returning first-team all-leaguer Claira Dannefer and another all-league selection. Perennial power McPherson had a down season last year, but should rebound and be back in the mix, returning first-team All-AVCTL III picks Haely Hagermann and Alex Romero. Mulvane won 21 matches and reached the sub-state finals before falling to Clay Center. The Wildcats will be led by senior Ashlyn Alumbaugh, a second-team all-AVCTL III pick. Like Baldwin, Independence will be motivated by its sub-state championship loss to Tonganoxie. The Bulldogs return first-team all-leaguers Alex Jones and Priscilla Raschen. The competition in the Southeast Kansas League will be stiff with Parsons and Chanute each coming off 20-win seasons and returning key players – Iniya Hinman for Parsons and Kierny Follmer for Chanute, both first-team all-league picks.



2022 State champion: Olathe Heritage Christian

2022 State runner-up: Nemaha Central

2022 Review: There was definite sense of deja-vu surrounding the 2022 Class 3A state tournament. For starters, all eight teams that competed in the 2021 state tournament found their way back to Hutchinson. Not only were they back, but most with better records as the tourney’s No. 8 seed, Smoky Valley, had 32 wins and none of the eight teams had fewer than 30 victories. As strong as the field was, however, it couldn’t change a repeat final outcome of the tournament. After capturing the 2021 3A state championship, Olathe Heritage Christian repeated in 2022. The Chargers cruised through pool play with three straight-set wins and then handled Cheney in the semifinals, setting up a showdown with No. 1 seeded and one-loss Nemaha Central in the finals. Led by standouts Rachel Van Gorp and Cy Rae Campbell, Heritage Christian overpowered the Thunder, rolling to a 25-16, 25-13 win to cap a 36-7 season. The title was the third straight for the Chargers, who won the 2020 2A state title before moving up to 3A the past two seasons. Nemaha Central finished with a program-record 46 wins, going 46-2 with the finals loss ending a 38-match winning streak. Cheney downed Riverton in the third-place match to finish 38-6, while Riverton ended with a 39-5 mark.

2023 Contenders: It’s hard to imagine a field deeper than last year’s 3A tournament, one in which the eight teams combined for a 277-36 record going into the tournament. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine two-time reigning champion Olathe Heritage Christian relinquishing its 3A crown this season. The Chargers have been dominant in Hutchinson and last year was no different as they won all five matches in straight sets and surrendered 20 points in just one of those sets. Though three players were lost to graduation, including second-team All-3A setter Maci Hazel, Heritage Christian is loaded for another title run. Senior Rachel Van Gorp has been named the 3A player of the year each of the last two seasons and has nearly 1,200 kills in her career. She mans the outside while fellow senior Cy Rae Campbell handles the middle and was also a first-team All-3A pick for the second straight year last season. Seniors Grace Schmedding and Caelyn Ferguson also are big hitters, giving the Chargers four lethal weapons in the offense with the key to this year’s success hinging on filling Hazel’s void. The holes for the bulk of Heritage Christian’s top challengers from a year ago are more significant. Nemaha Central finished as state runner-up to the Chargers, the finals loss ending the Thunder’s 38-match winning streak. Nemaha’s only other loss came to Big Seven League foe Royal Valley. The Thunder must replace first-team All-3A hitters Addy Holthaus and Ella Larkin and seven seniors overall off last year’s team. But the Thunder have shown the ability to reload in a hurry and with top setter Lily Schultejans and emerging middle hitters Cali Honeyman and Reagan Gerety back, Nemaha Central will stay high on the list of challengers. So too will Cheney, which took third last season. The Cardinals have posted eight top-four finishes under veteran coach Sara Walkup, including a runner-up finish to Heritage Christian in 2021. Five seniors graduated off last year’s team, including All-3A first-teamer and Central Plains League MVP Campbell Hague and four-year starter Anna Martin. But the Cardinals do return second-team All-3A hitter Alex Bittner and libero Jailyn Adolph, both of whom earned all-league honors as well. Beloit very well could end up being Heritage’s top challenger for the title, returning every key contributor and all but one player from last year’s 35-7 team. The Trojans were state runners-up in 2019 and fourth in 2021 and still are relatively young with only three seniors on this year’s team. Junior Addison Budke has been a major force since her freshman year and already has more than 1,000 career kills as a two-time first-team All-3A selection. Senior teammate Mylie Brown is closing in on 1,000 career kills as well and was a second-team All-3A pick last year. Twin sisters Jaidyn and Kailyn Follis joined that duo as first-team All-North Central Activities Association picks and two other returners were honorable mention all-league, giving the Trojans enough firepower to make a run at an eighth straight league title and state crown. A fixture at the state tourney for the last three years, Riverton finally had a breakthrough in reaching the semifinals for the first time in program history, finishing fourth. The 30-win season was the fourth in the past six years for the program. The Rams will have to replace a talented senior class largely responsible for that success, led by Jacy Thomasson, who topped 2,000 career kills at the state tourney last year. Also gone is four-year setter Morgan Compton. Senior EJ Wells will take over as the team’s primary attacker this year after being a second-team All-CNC pick last year. State runner-up in 2020 and third in 2021, Smoky Valley couldn’t emerge from pool play last year after going in as the No. 8 seed with a 32-8 mark. The Vikings will have to replace six seniors off last year’s team but return the bulk of last year’s top contributors. Senior Hope Duncan recorded more than 400 kills last year while senior setter Adrian Hazelwood had more than 900 assists. Junior Kat Blanchat was a solid hitting complement to Duncan with nearly 400 kills as well. Winners of two straight Class 3A state basketball titles, Goodland has made Hutchinson a second home the past couple of seasons and took fourth in state volleyball in 2020. The Cowgirls went 37-5 last year and 1-2 at state but has a major task in replacing a stellar senior class from a year ago that included a trio of first-team All-Great West Activities Conference picks in Lindsey Cure (league MVP), Olivia Lehman and Talexa Weeter. Senior Jaxi Mitchek leads the group of returners and also was first-team all-league, ranking third on the team in kills. She’s part of a senior class this year that will transition from supporting to starring roles. Eureka rounded out last year’s state-tournament field and graduated leading hitter Maggie Miller and six other seniors. Making things even more daunting is the loss of returning senior Ashley Singhateh, one of the state’s top three-sport athletes, who transferred to Maize South. Sophomore Brenna Rucker returns after leading the team in assists, aces and blocks last year as a freshman. If not for being in the same sub-state as Heritage Christian, Rossville might have made some noise at last year’s state tournament. The Bulldawgs finished 34-6 and as Mid-East League champions. Senior Kinsey Perine returns after earning second-team All-3A and unanimous all-league honors a year ago when she had a whopping 568 kills. Kinley Porter added 332 kills and 524 assists and also is back. The most notable graduation loss was libero Brinley Dyche. The same sub-state that included Heritage and Rossville was loaded with strong teams with three others posting at least 22 wins – West Franklin, Silver Lake and Santa Fe Trail. Of that trio, Trail returns the most this season with first-team All-Pioneer League picks Braegan Buessing and Lauren Fund back as well as second-teamer Abby Clark. Silver Lake’s tradition is as good as almost any program in the state but Sarah Wehrli is the lone returning all-league selection and was an honorable mention All-Mid-East League selection, but six players who saw significant minutes return overall. West Franklin won 31 matches but must replace a pair of unanimous All-Flint Hills League picks. Hiawatha and Royal Valley were Nemaha Central’s top challengers in the Big Seven League with Royal Valley handing the Thunder their only loss during the regular season. The Panthers return first-team all-leaguer Samantha Klotz but must replace a pair of unanimous all-league picks. Hiawatha is in the same boat after going 27-9 last year, losing two first-team all-leaguers and returning powerful middle hitter Abby Elffner, a unanimous all-league pick. Phillipsburg went 30-8 last year, falling to Beloit in the sub-state finals. The Panthers graduated three seniors who earned All-Mid-Continent League honors, including second-team All-3A pick Heather Schemper, and will reload around second-team all-leaguer Jenna Storz. Southeast of Saline ended Beloit’s 50-match league winning streak and went 22-14 overall. The Trojans return first-team all-leaguers Lexi Jacobson and Brielle Ptacek. Council Grove ended the Trojans’ season in the sub-state semifinals and went 26-13, but lost all three all-league selections to graduation. Halstead reached the sub-state finals before losing to Cheney and finished 28-10 overall. Senior Dominique Schuette was a first-team All-Central Kansas League selection and younger sister Dalaina was a second-team pick, both returning this season. Wichita Trinity Academy was 29-9 last year and will build around second-team All-Central Plains pick Elle Davis after losing a pair of all-league selections, including All-3A second-teamer Sarah Graham. Lakin won 31 matches last year but was upset in the sub-state quarterfinals. The Broncos return senior hitters Jara Davidson and Sammie Vogel, who led the team in kills last year. Holcomb could have an even bigger breakout season after winning 27 matches last year. Junior Halle Jones returns after leading the team with 382 kills while Paige Jones also returns after being a first-team All-GWAC pick. Frontenac and Girard each won at least 30 matches last year with Frontenac topping Girard in the sub-state semifinals before losing to Riverton in the finals. The two combined to lose five All-CNC picks between them with Raider senior Kendi Matlock the lone returner for either team to earn postseason honors. Neodesha saw a 36-win season end with a sub-state finals loss to Eureka. The Bluestreaks only lost two seniors, but one was leading hitter Kristen Stover, who had 394 kills and 413 assists. Returning senior Prayer Roebuck wasn’t far behind with 373 kills last year and Samantha Stover had 267 assists. Humboldt posted 31 wins and also was eliminated by Eureka. Two of the Cubs’ three first-team All-Tri-Valley League picks return in Skylar Hottenstein and Shelby Shaughnessy.



2022 State champion: Hillsboro

2022 State runner-up: Smith Center

2022 Review: After squaring off in the 2021 2A state championship match, Smith Center and Hillsboro spent the 2022 season seemingly on a collision course to do it all over again. Sure enough, that’s how it played out. Smith Center suffered a few mid-season hiccups against larger schools, while Hillsboro stumbled just once, that coming to 4A third-place finisher Circle, which the Trojans later beat. The powers secured the top two seeds at the 2A state tournament and then won their pools with Smith Center surviving a big-time threat in the pool finale against Inman in a three-set match decided by a 27-25 final game. After cruising past their semifinal foes – Hillsboro rolling Inman 25-17, 25-19; Smith Center handling Jefferson County North 25-16, 25-12 – the finals rematch materialized. And this time, Hillsboro flipped the script. After losing 25-23, 25-12 to Smith Center in the 2021 championship match, the Trojans dominated the 2022 finale, overwhelming the Lady Red in a 25-12, 25-13 victory. The state title was the fifth overall for Hillsboro and first since 2013, capping a 44-1 season. Smith Center finished with a 40-5 mark, delivering veteran coach Nick Linn his 1,000th career win in sub-state play. Jefferson North rebounded from its semifinal loss to finish third with a 25-18, 25-22 win over Inman in the third-place match.

2023 Contenders: Hillsboro was fueled by the mantra of unfinished business in its march to the state championship a year ago. The Trojans will have to adopt a new theme this year after going 44-1 and dominating Smith Center in the state championship match. Losing six seniors off last year’s title team, including first-team All-2A setter Kori Arnold, will give Hillsboro a new dynamic, but no team in 2A returns as potent of a 1-2 punch as the Trojans do. Senior Zaylee Werth was the 2A player of the year last season, recording 507 kills to put her on the brink of 1,000 in her career. Senior running mate Savannah Shahan wasn’t far behind with 382 kills as both earned first-team All-2A honors. Hillsboro’s title hopes may once again run through Smith Center, which has posted back-to-back 40-win seasons. The Lady Red overcame the graduation loss of 2021 2A player of the year Tallon Rentschler to position themselves for a second straight state title. This year the biggest hole to fill will be that of second-team All-2A hitter Maile Hrabe, who led the team in kills. But nearly everyone else is back, including first-team All-2A setter Camryn Hutchinson, who set the school record for assists last season, and second-leading hitter Gracie Kirchhoff. Dakota Kattenberg and Tinley Rentschler also return after recording more than 200 kills each. Arguably no player had a bigger impact in 2A last year than Suttyn Harris did for Inman. The Teutons were already a solid squad, going 27-11 in 2021. But the addition of freshman Harris pushed them to another level as Inman finished with a 36-8 record, taking fourth at state after knocking off undefeated Sedgwick in the sub-state finals. Harris was well over 600 kills a year ago, earning first-team All-2A honors. The Teutons only graduated three seniors off last year’s team and senior setter Kambrey Woods recorded more than 1,000 assists last season, helping the Teutons set team records for assists and kills in a season. Jefferson County North took third at state last season, finishing 33-10 overall and winning the Northeast Kansas League title for the third straight year. The Chargers graduated six seniors, including second-team All-2A pick Audrey Bell, but return senior Emily Langley, who split hitting and setting duties with Bell a year ago. The 30-win season was the eighth straight for the Chargers. After graduating a stellar group of seniors off its 2021 squad, Valley Heights seemed prime for a rebuilding year. Instead, the Mustangs returned to state for the first time since 2019 and went 1-2 in pool play to finish the season 26-15 overall. This time around, the Mustangs only have to replace one player, Taya Smith, as everyone else returns. Sophomore Ava Smith was an impact freshman a year ago, leading the team in kills and is complemented by senior Maggie Toerber and fellow sophomore Mia Vermetten. Garden Plain has been a staple at the state tournament with last year’s berth its fifth straight. The Owls were third in 2021 but couldn’t get out of pool play last season. Their state streak could get tested this year after graduation claimed five seniors who all claimed All-Central Plains honors of some kind a year ago. Senior Kaylor Wasinger also was an honorable mention all-leaguer and will be the core the Owls build around this year under veteran coach Gina Clark, who has led the program to three state titles since 2008. Meade may have been the smallest 2A school a year ago, but held its own in going 31-7 and returning to state for the 18th time in program history. The Buffaloes only lost two seniors, but one is CC Krier who led the team in kills. That leaves enough returning to make a another run at a state berth as senior setter Ryleigh Foster topped 600 assists last year and senior Carlie Martin was just behind Krier for the team lead in kills. Pittsburg St. Mary’s Colgan had a deceiving 23-16 record going into the state tourney, playing in the tough CNC against all 3A programs. The Panthers will sorely miss standout hitter Lauren Torrance, an honorable mention All-2A selection, but almost everyone else is back, including second-leading hitter Lauren Flood and sophomore setter Addisyn Dewey, who flourished as a freshman starter last year. Sedgwick couldn’t quite deliver on the promise of a true breakout season, coming up one win shy of getting to the state tournament. The Cardinals were one of only two undefeated teams in the state going into the postseason, but dropped a heartbreaking 15-25, 26-24, 25-19 decision to Inman in the sub-state finals to fall short of state and finish the season 38-1. The Cardinals do have a few holes to fill this year, but return the sister act of Talya and Kalyn Sampson, who each were first-team All-Heart of America picks with Talya also earning second-team 2A honors. Second-team all-leaguer Logan Stucky also returns. Berean Academy also was in the same sub-state as Inman and Sedgwick and lost in the semifinals to Inman to finish the season 30-7. The Warriors, who went on to win the 2A state basketball title, will have to reload for a similar season this year after graduation claimed every all-league selection of the roster. Jackson Heights also faces a rebuild situation after graduating four All-Northeast Kansas League picks off last year’s 32-9 team that was knocked off by Jefferson North in the sub-state finals. North’s top challenger in the NEK this season could be Pleasant Ridge, which went 25-12 last year and pushed North to three sets in the sub-state semifinals. The Rams return first-team all-NEK picks Kelsi Ko, Bella Major and Ava Potter and honorable mention pick Maddie Heim. Ellinwood went 34-4 last year, falling to Smith Center in three sets in the sub-state finals. Two of the Eagles’ three first-team All-Central Prairie League picks graduated leaving junior Kennedy Behnke as the block to build upon this season. Hoxie and Ellis reached the sub-state semifinals of that same sub-state, each finishing the season with at least 24 wins. Kinley Rogers returns as a first-team All-Mid-Continent League pick to lead Hoxie while Emily Bainter was second team. Ellis will be led by third-team all-league Kaydawn Haag, a state wrestling champion last winter. St. Marys returns second-team All-2A pick Brenna Smith from last year’s 22-16 squad that is hardened by playing in the 3A-dominant Mid-East League. The Bears have a rich tradition and broke through with a return to state in basketball last winter. Maranatha was the top seed at the sub-state with Valley Heights and St. Marys and finished 27-12, falling to Valley Heights in three sets in the finals. The Eagles return three of their top-four hitters from a year ago, led by senior Laine Sramek, a first-team All-Kaw Valley Conference selection. Ell-Saline came within one win of a 30-win season last year, losing in the sub-state finals to Hillsboro. Senior Brin Hecker is the top returner after graduation claimed second-team All-2A pick Keala Wilson. Sedan and West Elk each posted seasons of 25 wins or more in the South Central Border League with West Elk falling in the sub-state finals to Garden Plain after beating Sedan in the semifinals. The Patriots graduated all three all-league selections from a year ago while Sedan returns second-team all-league sisters Haley and Pacey Sellers. Belle Plaine won 21 matches last year and returns a standout in senior Gabby Lujan, a second-team All-2A pick last year. Wichita County was a 25-match winner last year and returns all but two players, including first-team All-Hi-Plains pick Megan Ricke, who led the team in kills last year with 254.



2022 State champion: Little River

2022 State runner-up: Flinthills

2022 Review: Returning the bulk of its 2021 state qualifying team and adding a pair of impact freshmen, Little River entered the 2022 season with somewhat of a target on its back despite not being the returning state champion – that distinction going to Spearville. And despite taking a few hits from larger schools, the Redskins wore that bull’s-eye well, spending the entire season ranked No. 1 or 2 in the KVA poll including the No. 1 spot going into state. Nothing about the state tournament was easy for the Redskins, who saw four of their five matches go three sets, starting with a 21-25, 25-22, 25-22 win over defending champion Spearville in the pool opener. Little River closed pool play with 23-25, 25-9, 25-12 win over Flinthills and after fighting off Pretty Prairie 25-16, 26-28, 25-11 in the semifinals, the Redskins got a rematch with Flinthills in the finals after the Mustangs had rallied to top Doniphan West 17-25, 25-22, 25-22 in the other semifinal. Again, it went three sets with Little River taking the first 25-11 and Flinthills the second 25-18. With the state title on the line, Little River delivered a crushing 25-9 win in the final game to secure the program’s first state championship since 1984. The Redskins finished the season 40-4 while Flinthills, which entered state as the No. 1 seed, capped the best season in program history with a 40-4 mark. Doniphan West downed Pretty Prairie for third to finish the season 38-6, far and away the best season since the consolidation of Highland and Midway-Denton in 2004. Pretty Prairie, which had finished second in 2021, ended with a 38-7 mark.

2023 Contenders: If the target was big a year ago for Little River, it’s monstrous this season. The defending 1A Division I state champions lost only one senior off last year’s title team, libero Mea DeBaere, leaving veteran coach Kim Rolfs with an absolutely loaded roster for the title defense. Senior Alaina Eck returns after being named the 1A I player of the year, an honor that just as easily could have gone to teammate Aubrey Olander, who joined Eck as a first-team All-State pick. Eck’s 343 kills were just 38 ahead of Olander for a team that had five players with at least 125 kills. Fellow senior Kate Ellwood and junior Chenzi DeBaere split setting duties, each with 398 or more assists. Senior Ashley Stephenson and Kami Grasser and sophomore Havana Olander give the Redskins a plethora of weapons with Stephenson an honorable mention all-1A I pick. Flinthills pushed Little River to the limit in each of their state meetings last year and could has the potential to be right there again. The loss of first-team All-1A I setter Karly Girty leaves a big hole to fill, but she’s one of only four seniors lost off last year’s runner-up team that was the best in program history. Middle hitter Harlee Randall leads a talented junior class and far and away led the Mustangs in kills with nearly 400. Junior Emily Scribner split time at setter with Girty and will take over the primary duties this year while senior Kolby Holcomb will take on a bigger hitting role after having more than 100 kills last year. After also enjoying the best season in program history with its third-place finish, Doniphan West has the pieces to make a run again, even with graduation claiming standouts Avery Weathersbee and Kyra Johnson, who were first and second-team All-1A I picks last year. But the Mustangs return junior Kate Johnson, who led the team in kills as a sophomore with 312 and senior Malaina Whetstine, who was third on the team in kills. Seven players accounted for the bulk of the court time last year, so some new faces will have to step up in a big way. Runner-up in 2021 and fourth last year with a state basketball championship sandwiched in between, Pretty Prairie graduated the bulk of the players responsible for the successful run, which included a 38-7 mark last season. The Bulldogs started five of those seniors with four earning All-Heart of the Plains honors after a second straight league title. Senior setter Joley Harbaugh is one of two returners who saw significant minutes, leading the team with 651 assists. After winning the 2021 state championship Spearville couldn’t advance out of pool play a year ago, going 1-2 with three-set losses to both Little River and Flinthills. The Lancers also were hit hard by graduation, losing six seniors off last year’s squad. Tradition is on Spearville’s side as the program has qualified for state nine times since 2011 either in Class 1A or 2A and the Lancers finished second in 2A in 2019. The biggest losses to graduation were 2021 1A I player of the year Cameron Offerle and two-time All-Stater Tawney Krominga. Senior middle Michaela Hubbell is the top returner for the Lancers. Olpe returned to state for the first time since 2019 and returns more than enough to make it back this season, even losing five seniors off last year’s team. Returning senior Grace Coughlin was the Eagles’ leading hitter last year and earned honorable mention All-1A I honors. Senior setter Kadey Robert also returns. St. Francis went 1-2 in its pool last year to hit the 30-win mark for the season. The Indians graduated five seniors who accounted for the bulk of the team’s offensive stats a year ago. Senior Makaila Matthies returns and will move into a more prominent role after being a defensive specialist last year and racking up more than 300 digs. Sylvan-Lucas was the No. 2 seed at state, going in with a 37-2 mark before going 0-3 in pool play. The Mustangs were the Northern Plains League champions and must replace leading hitter Keeli Knobbe and setter Sophie Pancost but return senior libero Emma Cline and junior setter Maggie Labertew as key starters. Doniphan West’s breakthrough season came at the expense of a number of Twin Valley League rivals who traditionally make noise at state, most notably Centralia, which has the third-most state titles of any program in the state. The Panthers pushed Doniphan to three sets in the sub-state finals and finished 31-10 overall. Standouts Raegan Becker and Lena Haverkamp have graduated, but the Panthers always reload and stay relevant in the 1A title conversation. Frankfort and Washington County also were strong with Washington County reaching its sub-state finals before falling to Sylvan-Lucas. Jesse Hoover returns to lead the Tigers while Hattie Gros will lead Frankfort, both all-league selections last year. Little River’s path to the title also took out another perennial contender in Goessel, which went 24-14 last year. The Bluebirds return two of their three first-team All-Wheat State League selections from a year ago in senior Jaicee Griffin and junior Brooklyn Wuest. Macksville reached its sub-state final a year ago before losing to Pretty Prairie. The Mustangs return first-team All-Central Prairie pick Mayce Russell and second-teamer Kambry Adams. Macksville ended Pratt-Skyline’s 26-win season and the Thunderbirds will have to replace a pair of first-team All-Heart of the Plains picks to duplicate or better that total this season. Colony-Crest won 26 matches last year, but was upset in its sub-state semifinals by 10-win Madison. The Lancers return senior Kayla Hermreck, who was a unanimous All-Three Rivers League selection. Victoria took St. Francis to three sets in its sub-state finals but must replace both of its all-league selections from a year ago. Spearville’s run to state left behind a pair of fellow SPIAA rivals that enjoyed big seasons last year. South Gray went 33-7, falling in three sets to Spearville in the sub-state finals. The Rebels could supplant the Lancers as the SPIAA’s top team this season with the return of three first-team all-leaguers – Jacelyn Heulskamp, Kaylee Moyer and Allie Reed with Moyer also a second-team All-1A I selection after dishing out 789 assists. Reed led the Rebels in kills and Heulskamp was tops in digs from her libero spot. Kiowa County was bounced by South Gray in the semifinals and finished 26-11. Marley Little returns to lead the Mavericks after recording 342 kills last year, but she’s one of only three back.



2022 State champion: Lebo

2022 State runner-up: Hanover

2022 Review: The spectre of another “close but not quite” finish to the season was looming large for Lebo. In 2020, the Wolves got a taste of what it was like to play for a state championship, falling in straight sets of the Class 1A Division I state championship match to powerhouse Central Plains. In 2021, the title was once again just out of their reach as Lebo fell in straight sets in the Class 1A Division II championship match against Hanover. It was a feeling the Wolves didn’t want to experience again and yet, it was starting them in the face. After running roughshod through its pool and easily handling Attica in the state semifinals, Lebo continued its roll with a convincing 25-13 rout of two-time defending champion Hanover in the 2022 championship match. On the brink of a huge breakthrough, however, things flipped. Hanover won the second set 25-21 and then grabbed a six-point lead on Lebo in the decisive final game. But Lebo’s resolve showed up and the Wolves avoided a third straight runner-up state finish. The Wolves rallied back and used a 7-0 run to take control. After Hanover showed its own resiliency and tied the match, Lebo responded with a kill from senior All-Stater Brooklyn Jones to secure a 25-23 win and finally claim the state title that had eluded it throughout the program’s history, which included four runner-up finishes overall. Lebo finished the season 44-1 while Hanover saw its two-year reign in 1A Division II come to an end, the Wildcats finishing with a 37-6 mark. Attica place third, outlasting Beloit-St. John’s in three sets.

2023 Contenders: Getting a taste of a championship for the first time, Lebo should be hungry to do it all over again. The only loss the Wolves suffered last season in a 44-1 campaign came to the NEK Nighthawks, a home school squad. The biggest loss in the offseason is the graduation of three-time first-team All-State selection Brooklyn Jones, who led the team in kills last season. Two other role players also graduated but Lebo returns more than enough experience to go after a repeat title. Senior Aubrey Peek and junior Saige Hadley joined Jones on the All-1A Division II first team last year with Hadley racking up 374 kills and Peek adding 215 while also leading the team in digs. Junior setter Abi Jones was an honorable mention All-1A II pick and dished out 942 assists while senior Katie Ott also earned second-team All-Lyon County League honors. Hanover also should be hungry after seeing its two-year reign atop Division II come to an end last year with a finals loss to Lebo. The Wildcats suffered considerably heavier graduation losses, namely 2022 1A II player of the year Massey Holle and 2021 1A II player of the year Ceegan Atkins, who were 1-2 on the team in kills. But Hanover was able to overcome the loss of four seniors going into last season, so the Wildcats are well-prepared to reload. Senior Kaydence Schotte and junior Anna Jueneman were key starters a year ago who return to carry on the tradition the Wildcats have in place. Attica has two top-three finishes in the past three seasons, taking third last year and runner-up in 2020. The Bulldogs were 41-5 last season and must replace their top-three hitters from a year ago, including first-team All-1A II pick Sidney Swingle. But junior Chloe Traffas returns at libero and junior Zoie Redgate is back at setter to give Attica a pair of nice pieces to build an offense around. Beloit-St. John’s turned its first trip to state since 2018 into a fourth-place finish. The Bluejays lost four seniors to graduation, including second-team All-1A II pick Ella Wiles, the team’s leading hitter. Junior Carlie Brummer will take over as the primary hitter this season after ranking second to Wiles last year and senior setter Aubrey Gengler is back as well. Each of the other four state qualifiers a year ago suffered double-digit losses and have some significant holes to fill. South Central and Ingalls both took some lumps in the tough SPIAA League before earning state berths. Ingalls lost three players to graduation but was primarily led by underclassmen a year ago for first-year coach Randy Rockhold. Sophomore Olivia Stein had a huge freshman season with well over 500 kills and is one of the top hitters in 1A II, earning second-team All-1A II honors last season. Both of last year’s setters, senior Kami Whipple and junior Remy Tate also return, as does second-leading hitter senior Avery Strecker, giving the Bulldogs plenty of weapons to make a deep state run this season. South Central graduated first-team all-leaguer Kodie Herd and setter Tory Maris but returns second-teamer Cambree Stapleton and honorable mention pick Izzy Hackney. Wheatland-Grinnell and Hutchinson Central Christian have been state-tourney fixtures in recent years with Wheatland-Grinnell qualifying 11 times since 2007 and finishing top four in seven of those trips, including a state championship in 2015 and three runner-up finishes. The Thunderhawks return senior standout Karoline Schroeder, who missed part of last season with an injury – a stretch that saw the Thunderhawks lose eight straight during a 14-loss regular season. Central Christian, meanwhile, posted consecutive top-four finishes in 2020 and 2021 before not making it out of pool play last year. The Cougars won a state title in 2010. Leading hitters Kaylee Kauffman and Emerie Boman have graduated, leaving junior Belle Barnett to lead the attack this season. Libero Natalie Jensen also returns. Bucklin also enjoyed success in the tough SPIAA, winning 22 matches before losing in the sub-state finals to league rival South Central. The Red Aces graduated Halie Feikert, but return first-team all-leaguer Sydnie Jones, who led the team with 326 kills, 200 more than any other Red Ace. Argonia won 27 matches last year, reaching the sub-state finals before falling to Attica. Second-team All-South Central Border League picks Maya Jones and Tori Morrison return for the Red Raiders this season. Golden Plains was the top seed in its sub-state with 25 wins before getting upset by Wallace County in the semifinals. The Bulldogs return three players who earned All-Western Kansas Liberty League honors, including first-teamer Jordyn Fleckenstein (154 kills) and setter Hayden Wark (549 assists). WKLL rival Northern Valley also won 21 matches and were led last year by Audrey Bina, who was a first-team all-league pick as a freshman with 273 kills, nearly 100 more than fellow returner Mary Baird. That 1-2 punch should serve the Huskies well this season. Greeley County also fell victim to a sub-state upset as a top seed, losing to Ingalls in the finals after winning 27 matches. The Jackrabbits return a pair of first-team All-Northwest Kansas League picks in seniors Jadyn Mangan and Jadence Stewart, who each had more than 300 kills last year. St. Paul and Southern Coffey County each posted 30-win seasons a year ago but were stuck in the same sub-state as eventual champion Lebo. Southern Coffey lost standout Josie Weers, who rewrote the school record books while St. Paul must replace four All-Three Rivers League selections.