By CONOR NICHOLL
For the third straight year, Sports In Kansas will provide weekly features/notes with volleyball. Stat Leaders will start next week. Olathe West, Scott City, Smith Center, Maize South and Golden Plains were among the first week standouts.
Olathe West wins Hays tournament behind TeStrake, Allen, multiple new starters in return to Hays
Two years ago, Olathe West volleyball, in its third season of existence, trekked 258 miles one-way west on Interstate 70 for the season-opening Hays High tournament. OW posted 3-32 and 10-25 marks in its first two falls for coach Amy Hoffsommer.
However, 2019 yielded a pair of impressive freshmen for the Owls: hitter Ava TeStrake and setter Amber Allen. The duo helped Olathe West post a 5-0 mark and win the Hays competition. OW enjoyed a 13-win improvement and eventually finished 23-14. For the season, TeStrake led in kills, and Allen finished second in assists in the 6-2 offense.
Last year, Olathe West had planned to come to Hays, though COVID-19 cancelled the trip. Class 3A power Thomas More Prep-Marian won the tournament. Scott City, another 3A school, did not finish in the top-four of the eight-team field. Olathe West eventually completed an 11-13 year. TeStrake enjoyed another solid fall with 156 kills, 13 off the team high, and carried a .207 average. Allen missed the season with a knee injury.
This fall, Olathe West was again able to make the trip. TeStrake, now a 6-foot-4 junior, recently committed to Creighton University, a consistent Top-25 school. St. Thomas Aquinas junior Ava Martin recently committed to the Bluejays.
The Saints are ranked eighth nationally by USA Today, and Lansing is ranked No. 16. Aquinas is the defending 5A champion, and Lansing the 5A runner-up. On Saturday, Aquinas beat Lansing 2-0 (25-17, 25-15) in the season opener. Martin led with nine kills.
Creighton has recently gained two other Kansas City products with Gardner-Edgerton’s Kendra Wait and St. James Academy’s Ellie Bolton. As a true freshman, Wait leads the Bluejays in kills and digs and was named Big East Freshman of the Week on Monday. Bolton started at libero in 2020.
On Saturday in Hays, TeStrake picked up her own award at the Hays tournament. Olathe West finished 4-1 and captured the competition with a three-set championship win versus Scott City.
“Fantastic, we really missed it last year,” Hoffsommer said. “It’s a good bonding experience for us early in the season to face teams we don’t get to see in the season, and just get going, and so it was nice to be back.”
TMP, which defeated OW in pool play, was third. All three top teams went 4-1. TeStrake earned Most Outstanding Player.
“She can create a lot that some players just can’t,” veteran TMP coach Natausha Dreher said. “And you just appreciate that level of skill. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to compete against, because when you get to compete against athletes like that, you know it’s going to make you better. And so, it makes it fun – it makes the game fun.”
TMP senior Emilee Lane, a two-time all-state selection, earned Outstanding Defensive Player. TMP is ranked third in Class 3A. The 6-foot Lane is one of Kansas’ best and entered this fall with 1,281 career kills.
“A lot of growth – a lot of mental growth for sure,” Dreher said of the tournament. “Learning how to play a lot tougher mentally, and just getting more comfortable with each other. It’s August, so we are still learning that, as is everyone else, so you can’t frown a whole lot on 4-1, but you can be happy about the growth that you did make in a day.”
Allen returned to Olathe West and gritted out Saturday with 92 assists. She helped the Owls hit .296.
“She is playing in a lot of pain today, and she is going to the doctor on Monday, but she has just got great ball control,” Hoffsommer said. “She is a great leader more than anything else. She pulls the girls along with her, and she just places a nice ball. You can’t deny that.”
OW’s Riley Ourth, Salina South’s Baylee Brin, Scott City’s Ella Rumford, Wheatland-Grinnell’s Livia Schultz, Oakley’s Liberty Booker, Colby’s Brooklynn Jones and Hays High’s Lauryn Miller filled out the rest of the all-tournament team.
Ourth, a 5-7 sophomore libero, played in 46 of a possible 65 sets last year and averaged 3.3 digs a set. In the weekend, she delivered 43 digs, or 3.3 a set.
“This was a growing tournament for her,” Hoffsommer said. “You could obviously tell. She’s a really good player. She just needs to learn how to handle the pressure of that position, so I look to her to really step up and really grow through this season.”
Jones has committed to Division II Metro State (Colo.) basketball. Schultz is a returning Class 1A, Division II first team all-state selection. Wheatland-Grinnell, which annually tests itself at Hays High against bigger schools, is ranked sixth in Division II.
Miller was a transfer from cross-town TMP and had to play JV last season because of transfer rules. Hays High opened 3-2 with a host of seniors, including Miller, Aleyia Ruder, Kamree Leiker, Kenzie Flax, Ashlynn Flax, Ella Voth and junior Carly Lang.
It marked the debut for Hays High highly touted freshman Molly Martin, one of state’s top basketball prospects in the Class of 2025. The 5-foot-11 Ruder, like Allen, was highly impressive in volleyball and basketball earlier in her career. She is back from an injury that kept her out of the majority of basketball season.
In pool play, TMP beat Olathe West, 25-20, 14-25, 25-19. Then, OW bounced back to defeat Wheatland-Grinnell to complete pool play. The Owls beat Salina South in the finals before the win versus Scott City. SC was featured Monday on SIK as the American Implement Team of the Week.
“They have confidence,” Dreher said of Scott City. “They have some good height, good length on the floor, so they are able to cover a good amount of floor. Very competitive, and I appreciate that about them. It was a good learning experience for us.”
Senior Kassidi Yost is a returning first team all-setter for the Monarchs, a 3A state tournament qualifier. Both Lane and Yost are on the preseason All-American Phenom Watch List from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). TMP featured sophomore libero Keira Wagstaff, seniors Kali Hagans and Sophia Balthazor. Dreher said Wagstaff, who plays a lot of volleyball in the summer, has “pretty good court vision” and scrappiness.
“She will give everything to a ball for the play, for her teammates and that’s what we need in that (libero) uniform,” Dreher said.
In the last six seasons, the Monarchs have won a state title and at least 30 wins five times. Dreher has played freshmen in key roles. This fall, she has two: Shyanne Yost and Brooke Koeningsman.
“They are really competitive, and that’s kind of the group we wanted to focus on, is we wanted to create a really competitive group,” Dreher said. “And those two (freshmen) are really competitive. They contribute in that aspect obviously a lot, and they are really continuing to grow, so they are a valuable part of our team as well.”
After the Monarch loss, Hoffsommer said the team “talked a lot about confidence” because of its youth in primary positions.
“It was kind of more about, ‘Hey, they are good,’” Hoffsommer said. “We want them to be. We talk about competition. It means that both teams bring their absolute best, and that’s what we want all the time, so we were thankful to TMP for bringing their absolute best and showing us what we needed to work on, which was better serving, better ball control, and we improved that in the next match.”
Four Olathe West hitters had at least 21 kills: TeStrake (42), senior Avery Rahe (26), freshman Maliyah Warren (23) and junior Greta Treff (21). Rahe has played on varsity all four years and moved from middle hitter to right side.
“She really came through for us a lot with big swings,” Hoffsommer said.
Warren plays for the high-level 16-under DeMarini Aces as a middle infielder. She is ranked No. 30 nationally by Extra Innings, a recruiting leader. Warren was not expected to do volleyball before she changed her mind. Hoffsommer was highly excited to have Warren, who paced the team with 19 blocks.
“She is springy, and she is competitive,” Hoffsommer said. “I like how she pops the ball.”
TeStrake had just three errors and hit .443, by far the team’s highest percentage.
“Ava has made a big difference,” Hoffsommer said. “You can’t deny. She is a one in a I don’t know how many player. You just don’t get somebody like her, because not only is she tall, but she has just great ball control, great court sense. She just puts the ball where it’s supposed to go, and you don’t normally see a 6-4 player that can play defense the way she does. It’s not just her offense.”
In the third set against Scott, TeStrake whistled an attack from the back row that went down for a kill just inside the back line. The angle and precision was high level. She delivered 23 digs in the tournament.
“She has amazing ball control,” Hoffsommer said. “…Ability to hit shots, and honestly it does help that your reach and your touch point is way up at the 9-6, 9-7 on a competitive jump, and so, yeah, you can get an angle a lot better.”
Class 2A No. 2-ranked Smith Center off to strong start
Last year, Smith Center was one of Kansas’ top volleyball stories. Coach Nick Linn, fourth all-time in state history in wins, led the Lady Red to a Class 2A state runner-up showing to Olathe Heritage Christian. SC started multiple freshmen and 6-foot middle blocker Tallon Rentschler. Linn was Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association 2A Coach of the Year, and Rentschler was a first team all-state pick. Smith Center had zero seniors on varsity.
This year, SC returners include junior outside hitter Maile Hrabe, senior libero Maggie Peterson, senior outside hitter Ashlyn Long, and sophomores Dakota Kattenberg, Gracie Kirchhoff and Camryn Hutchinson, among others.
Rentschler is a Fort Hays volleyball commit with more than 1,000 career kills. She will likely become the Lady Red all-time kill leader. Rentschler is along the elite Kansas returners and is on the AVCA national phenom list. The 5-foot-10 Long has committed to Hutchinson Community College volleyball after a second team all-state season.
Smith Center hosts a summer volleyball league with nine to 10 schools, including Phillipsburg and Norton.
“We took a step forward,” Linn said. “We were really happy with the fact that first of all were able to get into the gym unlike last year (from COVID).”
Linn believed the team “got better” in that competition. Plus, the varsity goes to Abilene with a big mid-summer tournament with 14 teams. SC won the tournament.
“I was really happy with the fact that we didn’t get complacent, get lazy,” Linn said.
Linn noticed the same demeanor when camp opened this fall.
“Going into practices, we were not at all cocky, nothing like that,” Linn said. “We have got young kids still…I have good leadership from the upperclassmen, and they know what we have to work on to better ourselves.”
Smith Center is preseason ranked second behind Heritage Christian, which might not stay at 2A when the new classifications come out in the next few weeks. On Tuesday, the Lady Red opened the year with wins against Mid-Continent League’s Oakley and Hill City.
Smith Center is 24-2 against Hill City since ’07, with 10 straight wins versus the Ringnecks, all in two sets. SC is now 18-0 versus Oakley since ’14.
Other top tournament showings
Smoky Valley is ranked first in 3A after a state runner-up showing to Sabetha, the best finish in school history. SV returns Abby Rose, the reigning 3A Player of the Year. Central Kansas League foe Nickerson is ranked ninth in 4A. SV has opened 5-1.
In the opening CKL tournament, the Vikings lost to Nickerson, 2-0 (25-22, 25-15), and then came back to beat Nickerson in the championship match, 25-17, 25-22. Rose led with 43 kills and hit .296. Sophomore Hope Duncan delivered 31 kills, and senior Madi Tolle delivered 26 kills. Tolle, Rose and freshman Katja Blanchat paced with 19, 12 and 11 blocks, respectively.
Wabaunsee is ranked fourth in 2A and has senior Lauren Schutter, a Division I Illinois State commit. Wabaunsee won its home Amy Schutter tournament with a 5-0 mark. This is the third consecutive year winning the tournament and ninth consecutive with first or second. The Chargers won 10 of 13 sets. Wabaunsee is second, first and final four in the last three years in 2A.
Derby won a Tuesday triangular with Salina Central and Goddard.
McPherson beat Andale in a three-setter on Tuesday. Andale is ranked second, McPherson third in 4A.
On Tuesday, Girard defeated Erie (25-18, 25-13) and Uniontown (25-13, 25-11).
Cheney beat Goddard-Eisenhower in two sets on Tuesday.
Golden Plains is ranked fourth in Class 1A, Division II. On Saturday, GP won the Healy tournament for the third straight year. Golden Plains finished 5-0 with two-set wins against Deerfield, Tribune-Greeley County (twice), Syracuse and Western Plains/Healy.
On Tuesday, GP defeated Logan, 25-19, 23-25, 25-16, and Ness City, 25-22, 24-26, 25-20.
Nemaha Central, ranked fifth in 3A, won the Marysville tournament.
Maize South’s Avery Lowe helps Mavericks; part of AVCA List
Class 5A power Maize South has opened 5-2, including wins against 5A Newton and 6A perennial contender Garden City on Tuesday. Maize South junior Avery Lowe has made the AVCA 2021 Phenom List. Maize South is ranked fifth in 5A. Maize South also has standout sophomores Gracie Morrow and Jillian Gregory.
The other Kansas players on the nationwide Phenom List:
Andale’s Annabeth Baalmann and Maddie Schrandt – Andale is ranked second in 4A
Bishop Carroll’s Kenzie Dugan – BC is seventh in 5A
Blue Valley West’s Ashlyn Berning, Morgan Colangelo, Brooke Leiker and Taylor Stockman – BVW is the defending state champion and ranked first in 6A
Cheney’s Brooklyn Wewe – Cheney is second in 3A
Gardner-Edgerton’s Jaylyne Bell and Ava Bojanski
Hesston’s Harley Ferralez
Lansing’s Caitlin Bishop, Iyannah Jackson, Olivia Van Der Werff, and McKenzie Moburg – Lansing is ranked third in 5A.
Little River’s Lily Boughfman – LR is fifth in Class 1A, Division I
Louisburg’s Davis Guetterman, Chase Kallevig and Corinna McMullen – Louisburg is sixth in 4A
Maize’s Cameron Cleary
McPherson’s Brette Doile and Rhian Swanson; Swanson has committed to Kansas
Mill Valley’s Brylee Peterson – MV is sixth in 5A
Olathe East’s Erika Hanke
Olathe North’s Kristin Kaufman
Olathe Northwest’s Emily Slightom – ONW is second in 6A
Olathe South’s Ella Rademaker
Shawnee Mission East’s Ella Bunde
Smith Center’s Tallon Rentschler – SC is second in 2A
Spring Hill’s Kate Franks
St. Thomas Aquinas’ Ava Martin and Sarah Pyle – Aquinas is first in 5A
TMP’s Emilee Lane and Kassidi Yost – TMP is third in 3A
Washburn Rural’s Katelynn Brogan – Rural is third in 6A