Area volleyball teams ready to dive into postseason play this weekend
This weekend, all three Jackson County volleyball teams will make their postseason push as sub-state competition starts on Saturday.
For Holton (23-12), a spot at the Class 4A-Division II state tournament is just two wins away and the team will have the added bonus of home field advantage, playing host in its sub-state tournament.
With a tough draw, the Wildcats may need every bit of that advantage as the team welcomes in challengers from Topeka Hayden, Jeff West and Kansas City Bishop Ward this weekend.
Hayden certainly poses the biggest hurdle as the team is fresh off a runner-up finish at the Class 4A-DI state tournament last season.
Now Class 4A-DII’s top-ranked team, Hayden hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down this fall, either, boasting a 27-10 overall record and finishing second in the (predominantly 5A and 6A) Centennial League. The only team to top Hayden was the second-ranked team in Class 5A, Shawnee Heights.
With seven seniors on the team, Hayden is deep in experience, including All-State players Mariah Grunert (team-high 542 assists) and Raven Lawlor (team-high 28 blocks, 190 kills, 89 digs), while Taylor Otting (team-high 203 kills) and Amanda Desch (team-high 31 aces, 27 blocks, 186 kills, 88 digs) were also part of last year’s state runner-up finish. Jensen May has also been a key contributor, leading the team with 182 digs.
Having wins against Olathe East (#3 in 6A), Washburn Rural (#8 in 6A) and Silver Lake (#1 in 3A, defending state champs) to boot, Hayden will not be a team to take lightly in this sub-state field.
Then, there is a familiar league foe in Jeff West and while Holton swept the team earlier in the season during league competition, those and the rest of the team’s tight matches should tell them just how difficult it could be to take down the Tigers again.
Jeff West was the only Big Seven team to beat Nemaha Central (#9 in 3A) in league competition this season and recently put together a runner-up finish at the Silver Lake tournament. The Tigers currently own an 20-15 overall record.
It should be no surprise that returning All-League player Bailey Harvey has stepped up for the Tigers this fall, as she currently leads the team with 237 kills and 52 aces. KayCee Mundhenke is helping set up that offense, too, as she currently leads the team with 447 assists. Throw Kaileigh Wright into the mix, and Jeff West has a pretty strong nucleus that could also do some damage in sub-state play.
Rounding out Holton’s sub-state field is Bishop Ward High School of Kansas City and the Cyclones bring a 10-23 record into postseason competition. The Cyclones’ biggest victory was likely a three-set win over Class 2A Maranatha at the start of October.
Sub-State tournament action in Holton will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Royal Valley (17-19) is looking to make a return trip to the state tournament this fall, thought the Panthers are now competing in Class 3A.
What that means, in short, is that the Panthers’ road to state goes through Silver Lake both literally and figuratively. The Eagles will host Class 3A sub-state action this Saturday and are the biggest threat in the field, as the defending champs and current top-ranked team in the class.
The Eagles’ perch atop the standings has been well earned, too, as they have bested all takers from Valley Falls (#6 in 2A) to De Soto (#10 in 4A-DI) and Abilene (#3 in 4A-DI), as well as Manhattan (#7 in 6A) twice. They also split with Hayden (#1 in 4A-DI) and are currently 35-2 on the season.
Perry-Lecompton (19-18) could provide a familiar yet tricky challenge for Royal Valley as well, as the teams split in league competition this season.
After a rough start, the Kaws have picked up signature wins against Atchison and Bishop Seabury and they are led by their seniors, including Sam Mallonee (team-high 183 kills and 74 blocks), Kristin Spencer (117 kills, 255 digs), Joelle Schiffelbein (155 kills), Sara Boyden (team-high 458 digs) and junior Abbi Folks (team-high 317 assists).
St. Marys (9-25) has also given Royal Valley some trouble earlier in the season, besting the Panthers at the Silver Lake tournament.
Key wins for the Bears include splitting with fellow Sub-State foe Rossville and 2014 state runner-up in Class 2A Wabaunsee. The team has a mix of talent, as senior Kati Kolde leads the team in digs (380), Junior Anna Moylan is tops in assists (283), sophomore Mariah Schindler has the most blocks (62) and freshman Josie Harrison is the top attack option with 211 kills.
While the Panthers did beat Rossville over the weekend, the battle-tested Bulldawgs (9-25) will not be a team to be taken lightly in sub-state competition. They have faced at least 10 teams ranked in the top 10 of their classes this season.
Rossville also features some playmakers in the junior class, with twins Sara and Lora Shinn leading the way. Sara has a team-high 236 kills, while Lara leads the team with 70 blocks. Junior libero Sierra Streit has contributed a team-high 210 digs, while senior Britnee Zemek leads the team with 327 assists.
A young Oskaloosa team (3-32), Pleasant Ridge (7-33) and Mission Valley (6-27) will round out the field in Silver Lake. Sub-state action will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
For Jackson Heights (13-21), sub-state competition in Winchester will almost be like a league tournament, and the fact that most teams will be looking up at Valley Falls does little to change that situation.
The Dragons (33-3, #6 in 2A) swept their closest competition in league play this year, including JCN (#8 in 2A) and Immaculata (#9 in 1A-DI). Valley Falls also bested Axtell (#2 in 1A-DII) and a couple of 4A schools in Jeff West and Santa Fe Trail.
A senior-laden team, Valley Falls has gotten major contributions from Sydney Gish (team-high 256 kills and 284 digs), as well as Callie Watson (team-high 44 aces, 206 kills), Macee Jepson (244 digs) and Ali Brown (233 digs). Junior Mallory Brown also leads the team in assists (395), while Rachel Frakes has a team-high 75 blocks.
Valley Falls will be looking to get a little revenge on Wabaunsee, who could be one of the other teams to beat in Saturday’s Class 2A sub-state at Winchester.
The Chargers (21-15) bested the Dragons in sub-state action last season on the way to a runner-up finish in Class 2A. Valley Falls won a match-up in the regular season this fall, but Wabaunsee does have a big win over Rock Creek (#2 in 4A-DI) this season as well as a knack for being a tough opponent.
Alli Terrapin (215 kills), Maddy Michaelis (78 blocks), Britt Michaelis (105 digs) and Alison Herren (228 assists) are some of the team leaders for Wabaunsee.
Jefferson County North (30-7) won’t be an easy out either, as the Chargers have been right on the Dragons’ heels for most of Northeast Kansas League competition.
The Chargers of JCN have tournament wins at Riverside and Central Heights this season and have been led offensively by Amanda Wistuba and Ravyn Jobbins. Jobbins also leads the team in blocks, while Kaylee Page has been the top setter and Josie Noll has provided some solid defense for JCN.
Other non-league teams that Jackson Heights will have to be ready for include a 13-21 Troy squad that bested the Cobras earlier in the season. The Trojans are loaded with upperclassmen (four seniors and two juniors), though the team has dropped several close games on the season.
Valley Heights (12-21) competes in the tough, smaller Twin Valley League and does boast a win on the season over league runner-up Hanover (#7 in 1A-DI). While the Mustangs have been inconsistent, they do have a strong all-around athlete Jo Roepke leading the team at the net and Kayla Smith leading the team with 200 kills this season.
McLouth (1-34) and Horton (9-24) are the final two teams in the sub-state field in Winchester and matches will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday.