By CONOR NICHOLL
HAYS – Olathe West senior setter Amber Allen grew up with “really lax” kneecaps, or loose knee ligaments. It’s often a cause of chronic body pain. Allen’s kneecaps kept dislocating when she was younger.
“They went in, and they cut off the top of my tibia,” Allen said. “And moved it over. I had two screws in here, and then they attached a cadaver ligament, putting my quad in place.”
Allen has continued to battle the knee problems and suffered injury during her first three high school seasons.
In 2021, Olathe West captured the season-opening Maroon and Gold tournament at Hays High with a 4-1 mark. Allen delivered 92 assists in the matches. However, Allen was hurt at the tournament. Her season ended on Sept. 9. Allen said she was in “so much pain.” More infection occurred. She has undergone multiple surgeries and has a scar down the left knee.
“It hurt too bad to keep going,” Allen said.
Olathe West struggled the rest of the year and finished 14-20.
“It was really difficult but knowing that I was able to support my teammates,” Allen said. “I knew that was my role, and that’s what I needed to do, and push and help them. It was hard on me, but in the end, it was so worth it, because I love to watch them grow and play.”
Allen was cleared in November and participated in the club volleyball season. She has committed to Benedictine, her dad’s alma mater, as a right side hitter. Because of Allen’s injuries, Benedictine’s college coach had never seen her set as of Aug. 27.
Through the first two weeks of the high school season, a healthy Allen paced Kansas in assists with 207 and has helped orchestrate a big turnaround for Olathe West.
The Owls are 8-2 with losses to national powers Papillion-LaVista South (Neb.) and St. James Academy. OW pushed SJA to three sets. Also on Monday, OW defeated Olathe Heritage Christian Academy in three sets. HCA won 2A state two years ago and 3A last season.
The Chargers have Rachel Van Gorp and Cy Rae Campbell, who have committed to Iowa State and Wake Forest, respectively. Allen recorded 26 assists and zero ball handling errors against Heritage Christian.
Coach Amy Hoffsommer has coached Olathe West since it opened in 2017. The Owls have posted marks of 3-32, 10-25, 23-14, 11-13 and 14-20. This team could be one of the best in school history, especially with a healthy Allen.
“Having Amber would be fantastic for the rest of this season,” Hoffsommer said.
On Aug. 27, Olathe West went 5-0 and again won the Maroon and Gold tournament at Hays High. That included two wins versus highly talented Maize South, ranked fourth in 5A in the preseason. Olathe West was unranked in 6A in the preseason.
“I am so happy I had the chance to come back with my team again,” Allen said.
Maize South had two players named all-tournament: 6-foot-2 junior setter Camdyn Stucky and 6-foot-3 middle Avery Lowe, a Nebraska-Kearney basketball commit. Stucky has committed to Tennessee volleyball. Maize South’s Gracie Morrow is a four-star recruit. Jillian Gregory is the nation’s No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2025.
Maize South stands at 6-2 and has not lost to a non-Olathe West team yet this season. The Mavericks swept league foes Derby and Maize on Tuesday. Morrow and Gregory pace with 44 and 43 kills, respectively. Lowe is hitting .378, and Stucky has 116 assists.
“Maize South is a very good team,” Hoffsommer said. “Their setter is an excellent setter. They fight hard. That’s a team that can compete, and I fully believe they will have an exceptional season, and so I think it’s great for us to see that right from the get go, and see what we are capable of.”
Hoffsommer labeled Allen “a great setter.”
“She is the leader on our team,” Hoffsommer said. “She is a vocal leader.”
Olathe West has three seniors: 6-foot-4 outside hitter Ava Testrake, outside hitter Greta Treff and Allen. Last year, Testrake and Treff finished 1-2 in kills. Testrake has committed to Creighton.
Allen wore a big smile throughout the day and showed consistent enthusiasm.
“The other two seniors are like my best friends ever,” Allen said. “And to go out and like win that with them is amazing. I am just so proud of us, because we have come so far as a team.”
Testrake and Beloit sophomore Addison Budke earned co-Most Outstanding Player honors. Budke led Kansas in kills as a freshman and currently paces the state in kills per set in 2022.
OW’s Emma Sales, 6-foot-2 junior Brynn Stowell and junior libero Riley Ourth collected all-tournament team and the top defensive player honor, too. Allen didn’t earn recognition on the squad but was highly instrumental in the success.
In pool play, Olathe West required a three-set comeback to beat Maize South. In the finals, OW cruised to a 25-15, 25-20 victory versus Maize South. Allen’s setting was a difference maker in the two Maize South matches.
“Between that first match against Maize South and the second match – it was such a smooth game that our offense was hardly out of sync,” Hoffsommer said. “Of course, the passing plays a huge role in that. Our passing was getting it to (Allen), but she was running an offense that was getting breaks constantly. We were in a 1-on-1 block constantly.”
Last year, Olathe West hit .167 as a team and averaged kills on 33.7 percent of swings. Testrake and Treff combined for 387 kills. Maliyah Warren finished with 100 kills last season as a freshman, though elected to focus on softball and is not playing volleyball this fall.
“I couldn’t imagine life without them,” Allen said of the seniors. “So it just transfers over on the court.”
Through the first 10 matches in ’22, OW carries a .289 average and kills on 41.3 percent of swings, a huge improvement. Testrake has 74 kills. Brynn Stowell has delivered 55 kills, Treff with 50.
“The great about Greta is, she worked her tail off in the weight room,” Hoffsommer said. “She is so much stronger and jumps so much higher. That girl is strong, and so you can see it pays off. She is making bigger plays this year, touching higher this year, so some of her swings are just phenomenal, just simply because of that, but it’s more that can handle the toll of the outside. Her body is just ready for it.”
Sales, a sophomore, has 37 kills and Ella Stowell has delivered 25 in her freshman year. Testrake has 748 career kills and will have a shot to reach 1,000 career kills.
“She loves her teammates, she loves her school, she plays hard for her school,” Hoffsommer said.
Brynn Stowell currently ranks second in Kansas with a .442 hitting percentage. The Stowell’s dad, Mike, has coached for more than 20 years with well-known KC Power Volleyball.
Ourth has delivered 3.4 digs per set and 78 total. Last year, she was at 242 digs, 3.1 per set. Junior Carly Hain is a key defensive player, too. Hoffsommer noted Ourth is a lot stronger. Allen said Ourth was “out for awhile” in ’21 and missed a couple of matches. OW dealt with some COVID last year.
“It started with me, and then went downhill from there,” Allen said of last fall’s obstacles.
As well, Hoffsommer has made two adjustments. Olathe West has dealt with multiple back issues. Several times in the tournament, including between matches, OW used foam rollers to work out problems.
“We didn’t do it as much last year, but she was like, ‘We need to do a better job at it this year,’” Allen said. “Then, we bring our rollers to practice. We roll out before practice, and then during practice if we feel tight. And honestly, it’s one of the best things that I think she could have made us do, because I think it’s helping a lot, keeping people loose.”
“You can be flexible, and you can be strong, but if you get a knot, you have got to roll it out,” Hoffsommer added.
In the semifinals, Maize South went through a taxing three-set match versus Beloit. Olathe West had a sizable lead against Salina South and rested Testrake through multiple rotations.
“It really was a great day,” Hoffsommer said. “Not only did we mesh pretty well, but we had a really nice bench today that gave us the rest we needed to have the legs at the end of the day, so it was a full team effort for sure.”
Beloit’s Brown recovering from injury for 7-1 Trojans
Beloit volleyball has enjoyed consistent success with tenth-year coach Brandy Paul. Beloit is currently ranked fourth in 3A. The Trojans had never made state before 2015. Since then, Beloit has five state appearances, including state runner-up in ’19 and final four last year. Beloit had Addison Budke and Mylie Brown, who delivered 679 and 503 kills, respectively. As a freshman, Budke by far set the school record and led Kansas in kills.
“We relied on them just 95 percent of the time last year,” Paul said. “We have other hitters now this year. We can go anywhere, so we are going to have other weapons, and they are young.”
Beloit graduated setter Makenzie Travis, now playing significant time for Pratt Community College. In late summer, Brown rolled her ankle at a Nebraska-Kearney camp. She jump served and came down on a ball.
“Probably the worst sprained ankle I have ever seen,” Paul said. “I thought it was broke. It was bad.”
Beloit has opened 7-1 with the only defeat a three-set loss to Maize South at the Hays tournament. Paul said Brown was “slowly” returning to playing the front row. Brown didn’t start working back into practice until the week before the season started.
At the Hays High tournament, Brown had eight attacks in five matches. Beloit didn’t want her to jump.
“Get her built back up and mentally get her jumping and landing right,” Paul said.
Freshman Dakota Gray, who would normally be on the right side, played in Brown’s stead on the front.
Paul was highly pleased with her team’s play.
“I have watched them all summer,” Paul said. “We have played a lot of volleyball all summer, so I knew we were going to be good. But you never know how they are going to react.”
Additionally, Beloit has just one senior, Haley Channell. Sophomores Cassandra Thompson, Brecken Boudreaux and twins Kailyn and Jaidyn Follis have all emerged. Jaidyn has taken over for Travis at setter and has 141 assists in the 5-1 offense. Kailyn has a team-best 51 digs. Jaidyn has fought through some hip problems.
“She battled through it all day long, and was unreal,” Paul said. “And then her sister the libero is just amazing. My back row, and I tell you what, that I think is what has impressed me.”
On Sept. 1, Beloit swept two matches from Ellinwood and Ellsworth. Brown continues to gain health. She delivered 13 kills and just two errors on 33 swings. Budke has 78 kills and a .354 hitting percentage.
“It’s going to be a fun group,” Paul said.
Hays High returns Carly Lang, Martin back from illness, retools at other positions
Hays High captured the Western Athletic Conference title last fall. The Indians won their first league crown since 1994. HHS finished 18-19, though ended with four straight losses. Three of the top-four hitters graduated. Senior Carly Lang was second with 194 kills. Lang has been a multi-year starter in volleyball and basketball and is easily the team’s most experienced player.
The Indians went 3-2 at their home tournament. Lang, a four-year varsity volleyball player, is a natural leader. She earned all-tournament honors.
“We have got a bright future,” HHS coach Shannon Funk said. “I am proud of my girls. We saw things that we need to work on. We saw areas that we are going to get better in, and we competed against good teams today, and I was really proud.”
Then, HHS split a home triangular on Tuesday and stand at 4-3. HHS defeated Nickerson and lost to Smoky Valley, currently ranked No. 10 in 3A.
HHS has shown plenty of scrappy play in the early season.
Sophomore Molly Martin returned from illness. Martin played in just 20 sets as a freshman before mono sidelined her. Martin returned in basketball, where she and Lang collected honorable mention all-state honors.
“I love that she is young, and she has so much talent,” Funk said of Martin. “And so there’s areas that you see her go up and down a little bit, but man, she is solid. And to have a sophomore who didn’t get to play a lot last season, and then now she is coming in and just really showing how truly talented she is. And she is growing in her confidence, so we can rely on her a little bit, she is pretty consistent. She is doing good things.”
Junior Aubree Thomas returns as setter.
Senior Julia Zimmerman was a defensive specialist in ’21 and now the starting libero.
“The libero position is a leadership role,” Funk said. “And they have got to be somebody who plays consistently statistically as well. But oh my gosh, Julia showed her senior today. I mean, her leadership is outstanding. She is so coachable. I give her feedback and she says, ‘OK.’ Like she takes it well. She is a great mentor.”
In the middle, junior Lilian McGrath and sophomore Katie Linenberger have emerged. Neither saw varsity time last season, though both have experience on varsity in other sports. McGrath has a strong vertical; Funk believes she leads the Indians in attack height.
“That girl can jump no matter her height,” Funk said. “And they do such a good job in the middle for us.”
Other Top Performers/Milestones/New Coaches
Lindsay Zych-Franco had a stellar career at Bishop Miege. She took over at Lansing from legendary coach Julie Slater and led the Lions to state runner-up and a state championship. Zych-Franco, who dad is the longtime Miege boys’ basketball coach, has taken over the Stags’ volleyball program. She got married this summer, and her reception was in the Miege gym. Miege is 2-2 with a season-opening three-set win against St. Teresa’s Academy in the Spectrum Slam on Aug. 27. On Tuesday, Miege defeated Shawnee Mission East in four sets.
The top-four in kills feature senior Ali Olson (35) and three sophomores: Lauren Lopez (40), Kirston Verhulst (21) and Trinniti Stevens (19).
Inman, with coach Megan Heckel, finished 27-11 last year. The Teutons has opened 8-1 with only a loss against Sedgwick on August 27. That same day, Inman defeated four squads by 2-0 margins, Remington, Conway Springs, Moundridge and Chaparral.
On August 30, Inman swept Centre-Lost Springs and Canton-Galva by 2-0 margins. On Sept. 6, Inman beat Bennington in a pair of two set matches. Against Bennington, freshman Suttyn Harris continued her standout season. She finished with 27 kills on 44 swings, along with seven blocks and 10 digs in the four sets. Junior Chloe Schmidt finished with 24 kills on 44 attacks and six blocks. Kambrey Woods delivered 55 assists. Maci Neufeld was 26 for 26 on serving with four aces.
Against Centre and Canton-Galva, Harris delivered 23 kills on 44 swings, along with 11 blocks and six digs. Schmidt delivered seven kills on 19 attacks with four blocks. Woods was 30 for 31 on serves with 36 assists.
“She is very talented,” Inman coach Megan Heckel said of Harris. “She sees the court well, listens to me as a coach. When she is in the back row she talks to my other middle Chloe Schmidt on what is open so she knows where to hit.”
Harris, Kenna and Kambrey Woods, Neufeld, Kandence Welch and Madelyn Brunk are the starters. Schmidt, Brylee Mannebach and Alyssa Johnson. Inman played Sedgwick close to start and was tied 10-10. Coach Heckel called the loss a “a good learning experience.”
Smoky Valley has finished state runner-up and third place the last two years. The Vikings are 10-1. More than 96 percent of kills are from non-seniors. Hope Duncan, one of the state’s top juniors, has 93 kills (4.9 per set) with a .305 average. Sophomore Katja Blanchat has 82 kills and a .258 average. Junior setter Adrian Hazelwood has cleared 1,000 career assists. Last season, Duncan finished with 333 digs and 265 kills.
Skyler Pierce is the nation’s top junior recruit and has committed to Nebraska. Olathe Northwest is ranked No. 16 nationally and No. 1 in 6A. ONW has opened 1-2 with three matches against elite teams. In the season-opening Spectrum Slam on Aug. 27, Northwest lost to Liberty (Mo.) in three sets. On Aug. 30, ONW lost in five sets to Blue Valley North. On Sept. 1, Northwest defeated Bishop Miege in four sets.
BV North is ranked second in 6A and the defending state champion and has started 6-0, and Miege stands second in 4A. Northwest has no seniors. Pierce leads with 61 kills (5.1 per set) and carries a .295 average. Junior Jillian Huckabey has been a key player since her freshman year and has 39 kills. Junior Addisen Horn and Huckabey run a 6-2 offense.
Last year, Hutchinson went to state for the first time in four years and the fifth time in 23 falls. The Salthawks are ranked No. 10 in 6A and have new setter Josie McLean, formerly at nearby Nickerson. Josie’s dad, Jon, became Hutchinson High School’s athletic director. McLean had more than 1,000 career assists at Nickerson.
Hutchinson is 8-1 with a lone loss to Andale, ranked No. 1 in 4A and the defending 4A champions, on Aug. 27. The Salthawks have five seniors, including McLean, Matilynn Montandon, Rebecca Lewton, Maliyah Johnson and Mya Thompson, the team leader with 54 kills and a .333 average. Junior Rachel Tomac has 31 kills and a .339 average, while sophomore Aliyah Green has delivered 25 kills and a .222 percentage. Johnson leads with 40 digs, one more than McLean and Posch.
Blue Valley’s Ryan McAleer has committed to Purdue and is the nation’s top libero for the Class of 2024. BV is 4-0. McAleer by far paces BV with 56 digs. The rest of the team has combined for 70. In the last two seasons, McAleer has 23 aces and 460 digs (5.6 digs per set). Blue Valley is ranked sixth in 6A.
In three wins, two against Olathe East and one versus Basehor-Linwood, Blue Valley’s defense held the opponents to a collective minus-.081 hitting and kills on just 22 percent of swings.
Washburn Rural is ranked third in 6A. WR features Brooklyn Deleye, a Kentucky commit and the state’s reigning Gatorade Player of the Year. Setter Zoe Canfield recently picked up a Kansas basketball offer. Rural defeated 5A No 1 St. Thomas Aquinas, lost to St. James Academy in three, and beat Shawnee Mission East in two sets.
St. James Academy is 6-0 and ranked second in 5A. The longtime power has dropped two sets all season. Junior libero Mya Bolton is a top player.
Baldwin junior Fisoya Afonja has committed to Ivy League Brown University. She has 54 kills and a .392 percentage. Senior Chaney Barth has 75 kills and a .401 hitting mark. Baldwin is 7-0 and ranked fourth in 4A.
Circle opened with an impressive triangular sweep of Mulvane and Augusta on Aug. 30. Both Circle and Augusta reached 4A state last season. The T-Birds beat Mulvane in three sets and Augusta in two. Junior Jacqueline Corcoran paces with 18 kills and a .333 hitting percentage. Junior Mia Fox has 13 kills and a .409 hitting percentage. Junior Reagan Smith leads with 45 assists. Augusta is ranked sixth in 4A. Circle was 35-7 and went 3-0 against Augusta last year.
Smith Center finished as 2A state runner-up two years ago and won 2A last season, the top-two showings in school history. Nick Linn has eclipsed 950 career wins. The Lady Red are 4-0. Tallon Rentschler graduated after 2A Player of the Year honors and several school records. But SC is loaded with experience, including two-time first team all-state junior setter Camryn Hutchinson, junior outside Gracie Kirchhoff, junior Dakota Kattenberg and senior Maile Hrabe. SC is ranked No. 1 in 2A.
Hanover is 5-0 after back-to-back Class 1A, Division II state championships. Standout senior Ceegan Atkins, the reigning player of the year, has 46 kills and a .402 hitting percentage. Senior Massey Holle has 37 kills and a .391 average. Hanover is ranked first in 1A, Division II.
Lakin has opened 6-0. Taegan Bachman has reached 1,000 career assists.
Rose Hill senior Mandi Heinz reached 1,000 career digs on her first game back this season after having surgery two weeks on her leg.
Thunder Ridge junior Kamryn Rietzke reached 1,000 career assists. The Longhorns have started 6-2.
Individual Statistics (per MaxPreps leader boards – top-15)
Hallman, Liberal, 83
Stark, Osage City, 82
Bryan, Royal Valley, 81,
Elofsson, Wichita Collegiate, 79
Budke, Beloit, 78
Holthaus, Nemaha Central, 76
Barth, Baldwin, 75
Young, Pretty Prairie, 74
Testrake, Olathe West, 74
Duncan, Smoky Valley, 73
Brueggen, Hesston, 72
Harris, Garden City, 70
Little, Kiowa County, 70
Blanchat, Smoky Valley, 66
Alysa, Royal Valley, 65
Allen, Olathe West, 207
LeForte, Royal Valley, 193
Heft, Kiowa County, 178
Humphreys, Hesston, 168
Bergan, Baldwin, 166
Jefferson, Andover Central, 151
Hazelwood, Smoky Valley, 151
Goree, Wichita Collegiate, 149
Follis, Beloit, 141
Noll, Maur Hill, 141
Killingsworth, Rock Creek, 135
McLean, Hutchinson, 135
Lane, Osage City, 134
Terrazas, Liberal, 134
Moyer, South Gray, 128
Coughlin, Olpe, 34
Hawkinson, Elyria Christian, 31
Afonja, Baldwin, 27
Gerety, Nemaha Central, 27
Respress, Eisenhower, 25
Copeland, Hesston, 24
Johnson, Arkansas City, 21
E. Stowell, Olathe West, 21
Dameron, Eisenhower, 19
Smith, Trinity Academy, 18
Dagget, Wichita North, 18
Klingenberg, Rock Creek, 18
Bailey, Olpe, 18
Childs, Nickerson, 18
Sales, Olathe West, 17
Honeyman, Nemaha Central, 17
Cisneros, Liberal, 134
Nordhus, Nemaha Central, 108
Kanaga, Mulvane, 103
Heredia, Pratt, 92
Koontz, Newton, 86
Larkin, Nemaha Central, 86
Verbeck, Eisenhower, 85
Holmes, Rock Creek, 83
Foster, Andover, 82
Humphreys, Hesston, 82
Terrazas, Liberal, 81
Renk, Maur Hill, 78
Ourth, Olathe West, 78
Alysa, Royal Valley, 73
Acree, Concordia, 71
Munson, Arkansas City, 71
Klingenberg, Rock Creek, .447
B. Stowell, Olathe West, .442
Alvarez, Kiowa County, .429
Young, Pretty Prairie, .411
Potter, Pleasant Ridge, .406
Barth, Baldwin, .401
Cure, Goodland, .395
Schrandt, Andale, .394
Afonja, Baldwin, .392
Sanders, Macksville, .381
Budke, Beloit, .354
Singhateh, Eureka, .338
Thompson, Hutchinson, .333
Amekporfor, Andover Central, .331
Testrake, Olathe West, .330