By CONOR NICHOLL
In the latest state volleyball rankings released last Thursday, Class 4A’s top-10 features Andale, McPherson, Baldwin, Circle, Bishop Miege, Clay Center, Louisburg, Augusta, Paola and Clearwater.
While strength of schedule varies greatly across the state, especially in 4A, Andale and unranked Labette County are 1-2 in the classification in winning percentage.
Labette County ranks seventh among those 10 ranked schools in MaxPreps’ statistical rankings that factor in record and strength of schedule.
Class 4A is extremely strong at the top. Five 4A squads (Andale, McPherson, Baldwin, Circle and Clay Center) rank 32nd or better in Kansas for all classes in MaxPreps.
Labette County stands No. 54, ahead of Paola (66), Clearwater (70) and Bishop Miege (103). Miege has by far the hardest schedule among the 4A favorites.
Labette County is 27-3, 6-0 in the SEK and has won six straight matches, including a pair Tuesday on Pink Out Night in Fort Scott. Overall, the Grizzlies have taken 58 of a possible 66 sets and won multiple tournaments. Labette County lost twice to Paola on Sept. 11 and has one loss since.
That includes a 3-0 win versus Frontenac on Sept. 16 and a 2-1 three-set victory against Pittsburg Colgan on Sept. 25.
On Oct. 2, LC finished 4-1. The Grizzlies lost to Girard in three sets, and then beat Coffeyville, St. Paul, Frontenac and Girard in four straight matches.
As of last Thursday’s rankings, St. Paul was 19-1 and ranked sixth in Class 1A, Division I.
A longtime state power, Colgan is 13-11 this fall. Labette County was 0-3 versus Colgan and had not beaten the Panthers since 2018.
Frontenac is 19-5 overall, and 0-2 versus Labette County. The Grizzlies had lost two in a row to Frontenac before this fall.
LC is 2-0 against 5A Pittsburg this season. Before this year, the Grizzlies were 2-12 in the last 14 matches versus the Purple Dragons.
Under coach Heather Wilson, Labette County lists 12 players on the roster, including seven seniors: Abby Pegues, Sage Davis, Ashantae Davis, Karsyn Stewart, Mikayla Easley, Ava Alloway, Anna Dean and Lauren Forbes. The roster also has Therann Moore, juniors Ridley Lynn and Shelbi Wilson, and sophomore Addison Rexwinkle. Overall, 46 players are the volleyball program.
LC has been a consistent winner under longtime former coach Kristi Snider and currently Wilson. The Grizzlies finished 22-9 last fall. In 2020, Dean was a unanimous first team all-league selection, and Wilson picked up first team. Stewart was a second team selection.
Overall, Dean is on the short list for best girl athlete in the SEK area. She was second team all-conference in basketball last winter.
This year, Dean paces the offense with 207 kills and a .240 average. Forbes has 137 kills and a .133 average, and Stewart stands at 116 kills with a .130 mark. Labette County has errors on just 12.4 percent of swings, including just 10 percent from Dean, a very low rate.
Last year, LC had errors on 13.5 percent of swings, and 11.8 from Dean.
Pegues paces with 38 aces, and Dean leads with 51 blocks. Five players have at least 147 digs, including 329 from Dean and 276 by Alloway. Wilson is among the state leaders in assists with 459. Alloway and Dean are primary in serve-receive.