California routinely turns out some of the top high school volleyball teams in the country, and this year should be no different. Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach, familiar rivals in the California state playoffs, start the year as the top two teams in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Volleyball Rankings.
1. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.), 42-1
The Monarchs finished the 2008 season ranked No. 2 in the nation by the MaxPreps computer rankings while capturing the California Division II state championship with a 3-0 victory over Redlands East Valley. Coach Bret Almazan-Cezar welcomes back 12 players from last year’s squad, including four starters.
Leading the way is All-American candidate Rachel Williams, a 5-foot-10 senior middle blocker who led the Monarchs with 473 kills last year. She’s joined by Kristina Graven, a 6-foot senior opposite hitter who racked up 351 kills. Mitty also returns setter Joan Caloiaro, who registered 934 assists during her junior campaign. Middle blockers Shannon Flemming and Brittany Bozzini also return after stellar performances in 2008. Flemming pounded 170 kills and Bozzini added 117.
The Monarchs have reached the state finals each of the past six seasons, winning three titles. Mitty has won six state titles in its history.
2. Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), 28-6
Mira Costa won three straight state championships from 2005 to 2007, beating Archbishop Mitty each season, in establishing itself as one of the premier volleyball teams in the country. However, the Mustangs did not reach the state finals last year, falling to La Costa Canyon in the Southern California regionals.
Ten players return from last year’s squad, including six starters. Falyn Fonoimoana leads the way for the Mustangs. The 6-4 outside hitter committed to USC as a sophomore and has quickly established herelf as the premier player in the country. She’s joined by returning starters Emma White (OH, Jr.), Alyssa Anderson (S, Sr.), Alex McBride (MB, Sr.), Andi Zbojniewicz (L, Jr.) and Sheridan Taylor (MH, Sr).
Fonoimoana and Anderson were both All-CIF first-team selections.
3. Bishop Miege (Shawnee Mission, Kansas), 38-5
The Stags won the Kansas 5A state title last year, but they land near the top of the preseason ranks thanks to an outstanding summer season. The Kansas City-based club team KC Power 16-1 won the 2009 National USA Volleyball Championship in Miami in June with four Stags playing prominent roles.
Setter Liz Powell (junior) and right side hitter Shelby Workman (sophomore) were both named to the National All-Tournament Team while Grace Whitley, a junior middle blocker, was the tournament MVP. Leslie Starks, a junior defensive specialist, also played for the team. Whitley and Powell both transferred from St. Teresa’s Academy in Missouri. The Stags also return middle hitters Jessica Eley and Adri Maurer.
4. Sacred Heart (Lousville, Kent.), 29-10
The Valkyries fell just short of a state title run, defeating four-time state champion Assumption before falling to Mercy in the state finals. While both Assumption and Mercy suffer graduation losses, Sacred Heart returns nearly a dozen players from last year’s squad, and thus begins the season ranked No. 1 in the state by the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association.
Setter Caitlin Dotson and outside hitter Emily Juhl were both first-team all-state last year, while defensive specialist Ashley Potts and outside hitter Kelsey Dunaway made the second team.
5. Reagan (San Antonio, Texas), 45-3
With Texas beginning its season in early August, the Rattlers have already rattled off 21 wins without a defeat by the middle of last week. The Texas Girls Coaches Association pegged Reagan as the No. 1 team in the state to start the season, and the Rattlers haven’t disappointed, already defeating No. 2 Westlake twice. Kayla Keller, Preslie Alexander and Kayci Evans have been impressive so far this season, with Keller smashing 199 kills, and Alexander and Evans adding 165 and 103, respectively. Setter Kacy Griffin, meanwhile, leads the nation in assists, with 448, including 54 in one match.
6. Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Illinois), 39-3
The Angels captured the class 3A championship in Illinois last year and return 10 players from a 39-3 squad. Leading hitter Annemarie Hickey returns after registering 410 kills as a junior. She’ll have plenty of help, in senior outside hitter Alyssa Warren (175 kills), junior middle Lainey Wyman (174) and senior middle Claire Randich (140). The Angels need to replace setter Gina Vera, who had 900 of Joliet’s 1000 assists last year.
7. Dos Pueblos (Goleta, California), 28-7
The Chargers reached the Southern Section championships before falling to Santa Barbara last year. Dos Pueblos then lost in the first round of the SoCal playoffs to Clovis West. While Dos Pueblos only returns seven players from last year’s squad, the key for the Chargers is quality over quantity.
Senior twins Carly and Samantha Wopat were both members of the U.S. Youth National Team. Carly is a 6-2 middle blocker while Samantha is a 6-1 outside hitter. Both earned first-team All-CIF honors last year and are headed to Stanford.
The Chargers also return setters Paige Crane and Sammy Brown, as well as Sally Yingst. Brown was first-team all-league while Crane made the second team and Yingst was an honorable mention.
8. Ursuline (Cincinnati, Ohio), 28-1
The Lions entered the state finals undefeated last year, but lost to likewise unbeaten Olmstead Falls 3-1. Coach Jeni Case could take Ursuline Academy that final step this year, with 10 returning players from last year’s team, including all-state selections Jade Henderson and Dani Reinert. Henderson, a senior outside hitter, had a team-high 306 kills last year and is joined on the front line by Christina Beer, who had 149 kills. Reinert, meanwhile, had 904 assists with just 21 errors on the season.
9. Shakopee (Minnesota), 31-2
The top team in the state the past two seasons, Shakopee could be in line for another state title this year, thanks to the return of Ashley Wittman, who has already committed to play in-state with the Gophers. Wittman was the Metro Player of the Year in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and was named the National Junior Player of the Year by prepvolleyball.com after posting 587 kills.
Nine other players return for coach Matt Busch, including seniors Amelia Yager (S), Alyssa Davis (MH), Elizabeth Benusa (OH), Jean Theis (MB), Mollie Geske (L) and Mariah Monnens (MB). Geske was a third-team all-Metro pick.
10. Burris (Muncie, Indiana), 34-4
Burris has been the gold standard for volleyball in the Hoosier state for the past 30 years, racking up 20 state championships in that time and six undefeated seasons. Only two players are missing from last year’s squad that went 34-4, albeit one of them was all-state setter Mia Tabberson.
However, all-state hitter Taylor Unroe returns, along with Taylor Morey and setter Allyson Morey. The addition of transfer Chelsie Toth should also help in the middle.
11. Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.), 28-3
The Buccaneers fell just short of a state championship last year, falling to Lake Highland Prep in the Florida 3A finals. However, Berkeley Prep returns nearly every player from last year’s squad, including outside hitters Lindsay Young and Chelsea Parker.
Young recently committed to Colgate and is coming off a junior season in which she had 242 kills. Meanwhile, Parker battled injuries but still managed 205 kills. The Buccaneers have plenty of young talent, including sophomores Mackenzie Dagostino (174 kills) and Jordan Burgess (team-high 336 kills). Dagostino and junior Ginny Willis will do the setting for Berkeley Prep in place of the team’s lone senior from last year, Christina Theofilos, who is now at Notre Dame.
Berkeley Prep will travel across country this year to participate in the Archbishop Mitty Tournament in San Jose.
12. La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.), 37-1
Last year’s No. 1-ranked team in the nation and California Division I champion lost the services of All-American hitter Katie Fuller, but three starters return, including Avocado League MVP Kendall Polan at setter and all-league second-team picks Natalie Hagglund and Natalie Loos. Polan had 1,084 assists last year, while Hagglund had 205 kills and Loos had 238.
Loos reportedly suffered a knee injury over the summer; however, she is currently listed on the Mavericks’ roster. La Costa Canyon has some impressive size up front with sophomores Lisa Kramer (6-1) and Natalie Bausback (6-2) making the team as middle blockers.
13. Assumption (Louisville, Kent.), 30-8
Assumption begins the season ranked No. 2 in the state after missing out on a state championship last year, a rarity for the Rockets, who have won 14 state titles and four national championships. Although the Rockets lost three all-state players to graduation, two others return.
Claire Gerwig was a second-team all-state player as a sophomore outside hitter last year while 6-2 junior middle blocker Jeni Houser earned honorable mention.
14. Dublin Coffman (Dublin, Ohio), 25-2
The Shamrocks have plenty of size returning this year, with four returning players over 6-foot. Andrea Baylin (6-1) was a first-team all-Ohio player last year at outside hitter for Coffman, which went 25-2 overall. She’s joined by fellow senior Alex Blair, a 6-2 outside hitter.
In the middle, the Shamrocks have Bailey Farthing (6-1) while junior Meredith Stranges (6-1) will play opposite. Coffman also has a pair of setters returning in Stacy Axner and Lindsey Zitzke, both juniors.
15. Brebeuf Jesuit (Indianapolis, Ind.), 25-8
The Braves return every significant player from a team that reached the state semifinals last year. Brebeuf Jesuit starts the season ranked No. 1 in the state by the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association preseason poll. Among the returning players are first-team all-state selections Lauren Rafdal and Sloane White, second-team picks Cali Estes and Jeme Obeime, as well as Lucy Reser, Liz Hineman and Natalie Wichern.
16. Plant (Tampa, Fla.), 29-3
The Panthers have won three straight 5A state championships but they won’t win a fourth. That’s because Plant has moved up to the 6A class this year. With a pair of All-Hillsboro County first-team players like Penn State-bound Maddie Martin and Duke commit Ali McCurdy returning this year, the Panthers should be the favorite to dominate the 6A level.
The Panthers also return all-area setter Becca Howard and middle hitter Leah Jordan.
17. St. Charles East (St. Charles, Illinois), 38-4
The Fighting Saints captured the 4A state championship with a group that included four seniors and eight underclassmen. While setter Laura Homann and hitter Jacquie Seidel have graduated, the team’s top hitter from last year, senior Caroline Niski, returns after racking up 293 hits last season.
She’s joined on the front line by sister Meghan Niski, who had 217 kills as a freshman. Maisey Mulvey, a sophomore, returns at libero after leading the team with 309 digs. A pair of juniors, Samantha Szarmach (5-10) and Olivia Desormey (6-2) add to the front line. Desormey had 70 blocks last year.
18. Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.), 28-4
The Bruins knocked off a number of the top teams in California last year, including Lakewood, Los Alamitos, Poly, Santa Barbara, Marymount and Redlands East Valley. Wilson returns Moore League MVPs Kellie Culbertson at outside hitter and Kellie Woolever at setter. All-league picks Candace Nicholson (DS), Jenna McNaney (DS) and Rebecca Strehlow (S) also return.
19. Lakewood (Calif.), 24-7
The Lancers return three Moore League first-team standouts in outside hitters Jazmine Orozco and Taylor Hollins and settr Megan Moenoa. Also back are second-team picks Tyler Jackson as a return specialist and Chrissy Tua as a middle blocker. Orozco was also a second team All-CIF selection. Many of the players were members of the team that won the California Division I state championship in 2007.
The Lancers lost in the Southern Section quarterfinals last year to eventual champion Santa Margarita.
20. St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.), 33-8
The Saints secured the No. 2 preseason ranking in the Kansas 5A division behind Bishop Miege, and they have a pair of returning all-state players. Kelsey Sullivan, a 6-1 middle blocker, made the first team while Megan Baska, a libero, made the second team. Margaret Clark, a 5-11 setter, recently committed to Auburn while Lauren Ford (5-11, Jr) and Liz Gohde (5-10, Sr) will help out on the front line. Aquinas won the state championship in 2007 and 2006 and has four state titles in the past 15 years.
21. Pleasant Grove (Utah), 31-2
State player of the year Brooke McAllister is gone from a team that finished second in the 5A division last year, but fellow all-state honoree Danica Mendivil returns at outside hitter while Jennifer Hamsen, an all-state third team selection, is back at opposite. Three players who earned all-state honorable mention also return with Kimberly Dahl at outside hitter, Kemi McFarland at setter and Rae Mulitalo at setter. The Vikings’ only losses last year were to 5A state champion Lone Peak. Pleasant Grove also defeated Lone Peak twice during the regular season.
22. Sunnyslope (Phoenix, Ari.), 40-2
The Vikings did not have a single senior on last year’s team that won the Arizona 4A-Div. 1 championship. Leading hitter Madison Kingdon returns after blasting 349 kills last year while earning all-state honors. She’s joined by all-state second-team picks Heidi Thompson (163 kills) and Haley Lowrance (180), as well as Lauren Foss (129). Thompson and Jessica Durbin shared the setting duties last year, with Thompson registering 525 assists.
23. Colorado Springs Christian (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 29-2
The Lions return 3A state MVP Morgan Broekhuis to the lineup for another run at the state 3A championship. Broekhuis, a 6-5 hitter, averaged 5.27 kills per game, but also found time to average nearly five assists per game. Colorado Springs Christian has won five straight state championships and lost only one starter from last year’s group. Also back are all-state second-team picks Brianne Vande Griend (OH, Sr.) and Ashley Peak (L, Jr.). Heather Poll (OH, Sr.), Katie Maguire (DS, Jr.) and Hannah Walker (S, Sr.) were all-honorable mention.
24. Chaska (Minn.), 24-5
The Hawks will battle Shakopee for large-school supremacy in Minnesota. Amanda Konetchy returns after an all-state performance last year. Chaska also has plenty of size on the front line with Olivia Duenow (6-0, Jr.), Lynn Bielski (5-10, Sr.) and Chelsie Stahl (6-0, Jr.) all returning at middle hitter and Bekah Saugen (6-0, Sr.) back at outside hitter.
25. Jesuit (Portland, Ore.), 42-1
It should be another outstanding year for the defending 6A state champions, who return three players who earned all-state honors last year, including state MVP Ali Grauert. Also back is junior Elizabeth Brenner and senior setter Hayley Feest. Brenner earned first-team honors, while Feest was an honorable mention.