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MaxPreps 2014 Top 50 preseason national high school volleyball rankings

August 30, 2014
Carroll Athletic Booster Club

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014

With a win streak of 56 straight matches, six straight state titles and coming off a 47-0 season in which two sophomore starters were All-Americans, it's easy to rank St. James Academy (Lenexa, Kan.) as the No. 1 team in the first MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings.

The All-Americans are front row standout Audriana Fitzmorris and setter Jenna Gray, who led St. James to a No. 2 national ranking a year ago, second only to unbeaten and MaxPreps mythical national champion The Woodlands (Texas).

Coach Nancy Dorsey describes Fitzmorris and Gray as "amazing." Both were named 2014 Preseason All-Americans, the only team with two players honored on the team.

Jenna Gray, St. James Academy
File photo by Sam Soliday
Jenna Gray, St. James Academy

"We will be a strong team and with two girls like Gray and Fitzmorris you have a chance to make a serious run at state again as well as a strong national showing," said Dorsey. "We graduated two D-1 left sides so two new girls will be stepping into that role."

Statistically, the 6-4 Fitzmorris has a kill ratio of 67 percent (392, 4.0 per set) and blocked 152 shots in 98 sets a year ago. Yet the statistics don't describe how Fitzmorris, the youngest member of the U.S. Women's Junior National Team, dominates a game.

"She changes the game in so many ways," said Dorsey. "She is a force at the net and almost an automatic sideout. We score points just by having her in the front court to block. Hitters try to avoid her block and it forces errors. She is incredibly consistent and rarely makes errors. She can be effective from anywhere on the court: Front, back, left, right, middle. She's good at every skill and just a force to be reckoned with."

Setter Gray, who was MaxPreps' Freshman of the Year in 2012, dished out 1,164 assists (11.6 average) in leading St. James to an unbeaten season. She had 226 digs, blocked 59 shots (second-highest on the team) and served 96 percent with 29 aces.

Fitzmorris hit over .600 last season, which is hard at any position, and she was only a sophomore.  

"I think this so speaks to the connection between Jenna and Fitz as well," said Dorsey.

But Dorsey knows it takes more than two awesome players to make noise at the national level.

"Our supporting cast will be strong but less experienced than we have had the past two seasons," said Dorsey, who in six seasons has lost 11 matches and won 251. "We have a 6-3 middle, McKenna Coatney, who is agile and athletic, who will help us tremendously. She also gives us more size than we had last year in this position. We also have another junior middle hitter Kenzie Kraft (5-10) who is very agile as well and quite capable of stepping in and stepping up." 

Toss in returning liberos and defensive standouts Kathleen Reilly and Abby Brown, and it's easy to justify a No. 1 ranking.

"We have a very tough schedule, playing out-of-state powerhouses Mother McAuley and Dike-New Hartford from Iowa, not to mention our in-state rivals like St. Thomas Aquinas," said Dorsey, who noted the Kansas City area teams will be "very strong across the board." 

Mark your calenders for Sept. 6 when St. James and Dike-New Hartford meet.

St. James defeated Dike-New Hartford last season, 25-23, 27-25, 25-16. It was Dike's lone loss of the season. Since that Sept. 10 date, the Wolverines have won 39 straight matches.

The Wolverines enter the season with five returning starters, including four all-state players – Briana Weber, 6-5Brooke Morgan, setter Rachel Koop and Lizzy Blough. Also returning is 5-6 junior defensive specialist Taylor Hedges.

"It will be a very similar team to last year, maybe a little more versatile being able to move players around more," said coach Diane Harms, who has guided the Wolverines to a 232-23 record since 2007. During their three-year state title run, they are 107-3.

The Wolverines open the season ranked No. 3 and Mother McCauley is No. 8.

Megan Porter, Carroll
File photo by Neil Fonville
Brayden Gruenewald, Carroll

The season-opening No. 2 ranking belongs to Carroll (Southlake, Texas), a team that went 48-2 a year ago and is off to an 8-0 start in 2014 with a sweep of the prestigious Adidas Texas Volleyball invitational in mid-August. Carroll's Megan Porterwas named the tournament MVP. 

Carroll was a 5A state semifinalist last season and returns 13 players who were suited up for last year's state event.

Carroll has a new coach for 2014 – five-time state champion volleyball coach Ryan Mitchell, who led Lovejoy to five consecutive state championships (2008-2012, with the first four in Class 3A and the last in 4A) in seven seasons after starting the program in 2006.

Mitchell had a 315-14 record at Lovejoy.

No. 4 Notre Dame Prep (Pontiac, Mich.) is loaded with 10 players returning for its state title-winning team. Prep won 62 matches last year, including its final 20.

Led by outside hitter Haley DeSales, setter Jewls Tavaera and multi-sport libero Katherine Kopp, La Salle (Pasadena, Calif.) rounds out the Top 5. They just might be the most athletic trio on any prep team either side of the Mississippi.

The remainder of the Top 10 includes St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.), Corona Del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), Mother McAuley (Chicago), Mercy (Louisville, Ky.) and No. 10 Punahou (Honolulu).

Though not in the top five, St. Francis could be the team to watch. It returns five players from a 2013 state champion team that won 39 of 42 matches. All three losses were to McAuley. Key returnees are 6-1 Mary Boken, 6-0 Molly Haggerty (a member of the USA Junior Women's National Team), 6-foot twins Kamryn and Laney Malloy and junior setter Dani Messa. Add Lisa Mordell, who will move from defensive specialist to Libero, and St. Francis is loaded.

"This team is tall, good blockers, with strong hitters," said coach Peg Kopec. "We have a high level of experience. If we are fortunate enough to dodge injuries, we should be stronger than last year."

Another date to mark on the calender is Sept. 9, when Mother McAuley hosts St. Francis.

MaxPreps preseason Xcellent 50 National Volleyball Rankings

1. St. James Academy (Lenexa, Kan.), 47-0 in 2013
The win streak is at 56 and All-Americans Audriana Fitzmorris and Jenna Gray are ready for their junior seasons with a goal of a seventh-straight title.

2. Carroll (Southlake, Texas), 48-2
Carroll is off to a 9-0 start with Megan Porter earning MVP honors at the Adidas Texas Volleyball Classic.

3. Dike-New Hartford (Dike, Iowa), 45-1
Dike-New Hartford stretched its win streak to 39 and won the state 2A title for the third-straight year. The team returns a lot, like five starters. They return four all-state players – Briana Weber, 6-5 Brooke Morgan, setterRachel Koop and Lizzy Blough. All four are seniors now and their only 2013 loss was to St. James Academy. Dike-New Hartford (45-1) has now won 99 consecutive matches over Iowa opponents.

4. Notre Dame Prep (Pontiac, Mich.), 62-2-1

Haley DeSales, La Salle
File photo by Heston Quan
Haley DeSales, La Salle

The Irish won their final 20 matches and the Michigan state B title. Katherine Carlson (1,001 kills) gets a lot of attention, but Ashley Knutson,Bella BucchiEmma KowalkowskiHannah Antoszand Jenna Sassack all played more than 135 sets a year ago.

5. La Salle (Pasadena, Calif.), 32-6
Eliminated in the playoffs by state runner-up Los Alamitos, LaSalle returns three starters who make very good first impressions – outside hitter Haley DeSales (5.4 kills per set), setter Jewls (Alyssa) Tavera (11.1 assists) and libero Katherine Knop (5 digs per set). The Lancers open the season on Sept. 9 at Flintridge-Sacred Heart (La Canada-Flintridge, Calif.).

6. St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.), 39-3 
St. Francis won its third-straight 3A title. All three Spartan losses last season were to No. 9 Mother McAuley (Chicago). The Spartans enter 2014 with a 15-match winning streak and open the season Friday by hosting Marian Central Catholic (Woodstock, Ill.).

7. Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.), 29-7
The Seahawks lost in the 2013 section quarterfinals but return a big-time trio in 6-4 senior Yaasmeen Bedart-Ghani, 6-0 Abril Bustamante and their top setter in Norene Losia. Add to that trio Kristen HamlinMegan Rice,Katie BarkleyHayes HoneaKacey BakerSophia Loila and Taylor Cottle and it's easy to understand the high ranking. The season opens on Sept. 11 at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).

8. Mother McAuley (Chicago), 40-2
The Macs won the Illinois state 4A title. Mother McAuley returns three starters – Ryann DeJarldKelsey Clarkand Kennedy Arundel - and four other players who saw action in 100 or more sets a year ago.

9. Mercy (Louisville, Ky.), 37-2
Mercy was the state 2013 runner-up to No. 11 Assumption. It lost Courntey Crabbe and she was a good one, but she was the only senior on the team. The Jaguars are loaded with talent that includes five players who have committed to D-I schools: seniors Devon Rachel (Charleston), Merideth Jewell (Morehead State), Lexie Hamrick (North Carolina) and Nikki Koval (South Florida) and junior Morgan Elmore (Lipscomb).

10. Punahou (Honolulu), 21-2
Punahou opened the 2014 season in impressive fashion by winning the Ann Kang Invitational in mid-August. Punahou went 9-0 (18-1 overall) and defeated Mira Costa (Newport Beach, Calif.) in the finals, 27-25 twice, for its third-straight Kang title. The tournament featured eight island teams and eight from the mainland.

11. Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), 37-6
The Rockets won their fourth-straight state title, but lost a lot to graduation. However, this is Assumption andMolly SauerMiranda Elpers and Kenzie Maloney return for their senior seasons. Sauer, a libero, played on the USA Women's Junior National Team.

12. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), 33-8
Mater Dei reached the state semifinals and returns 13 players 5-10 or taller, including 6-4 senior Brittany Welsh. Also back is game-changing setter Payton Chang. The season begins on Sept. 5 at Sage Hill (Newport Beach, Calif.).

13. Jupiter (Fla.), 25-3

Berkeley Obad, Coronado
File photo by Jann Hendry
Berkeley Obad, Coronado

The Warriors return all but one player from a team that reached the state 8A semifinals and outscored their opponents 73-12 last season. Key returnees include seniors Lauren WaideBreeanna Navarro,Allie WeeksDani JaffeCara GuthrieCassi Depasquale and Sara Putt. They open the season Wednesday at Spanish River (Boca Raton, Fla.).

14. Lewis-Palmer (Monument, Colo.), 27-2
Led by All-American Alexa Smith, the reigning 4A state champions also return standout sophomoresLydia Bartalo and Elizabeth Reich.

15. Coronado (Henderson, Nev.), 31-6
Coronado won the state's large school title in 2013 and should be better this year with junior standoutsCali Thompson and Berkeley Oblad returning. Thompson is a quality setter and Oblad uses her 6-4 frame offensively and defensively. The Cougars enter the season with a 19-match winning streak.

16. P.K. Yonge (Gainesville, Fla.), 30-2
The Blue Wave lost in the state 4A quarterfinals, but everyone returns and they still have only one senior.

17. Indianapolis Cathedral, 26-7
The Irish were on the verge last year and with just about everyone back, this could be the year. Key returnees are 6-5 Tarah Wylie, 6-1 Nia Parker-Robinson, 6-2 Audrey Adams, 6-1 Megan Sloan, sophomore setter Maria Schorr and defensive standout Payton White.

18. Center Grove (Greenwood, Ind.), 21-15
The Trojans, featuring a half dozen players six feet or taller, opened the season with 3-0 wins over No. 19 Avon and No. 21 Carmel. Key returnees include 6-3 junior hitter Madison Smeathers, 5-11 junior setter Taylor Hammill and 6-2 senior middle blocker Alison Line.

19. Avon (Ind.), 37-3

Marissa Round, Olathe East
File photo by Sam Soliday
Marissa Round, Olathe East

In winning its final 26 matches, Avon has won back-to-back state titles and returns seniors Beth Prince and Calle Weddle, a pair of outstanding hitters. 

20. Olathe East (Kan.), 38-5
The state large schools champion returns everyone, including Marissa RoundEmily Blais,Carlie FangmanAbbey BartKelli Kalinoski and setter Lindsey Benson (11 assists per set). The season begins Friday at Blue Valley (Stilwell, Kan.).

21. Carmel (Ind.), 37-2
A state runner-up to No. 13 Avon last season, Carmel returns nine players from the 2013 team, including All-American Carly Skjodt.

22. Marist (Atlanta), 32-14
Fresh from a shutout over reigning large school champion Walton (Marietta, Ga.), the War Eagles are 9-0. Top returnees are Sydney Leimbach,Megan Prater and Hanna Weiland.

23. Burlington (Wis.), 33-11-1 
Everyone's back, including 6-3 Quinn Spieker. Also back are libero Teagan Taylor and Ali Rueter, a pair of all-area players.

24. Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville, Fla.), 26-3
Kenny lost in the semifinals to state champion Bishop Moore, buts returns a ton of talent with Nadine Williams,Natalie ChebiMolly BurkhardtDenvyr Tyler-Palmer and Sophia Liguori.

25. Venice (Fla.), 23-8 
The region champions a year ago won 12 of their last 13 matches and return Lolo MattmullerGen Beaumierand Hannah Richards.

Tags Carroll Athletic Booster Club • Publisher
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