By CONOR NICHOLL
Each year, two midseason announcements that volleyball teams have limited to no control over reshape the sport’s state contenders and power structure.
The first occurred late last week when KSHSAA announced the new classifications for the 2022-23 school year in all sports except football.
Last year, there was a huge change in volleyball. Olathe Heritage Christian Academy had defeated Smith Center for the 2020 Class 2A title. Both teams were loaded and ranked in the top-two.
The re-classifications bumped HCA to the smallest 3A school. Heritage Christian won 3A, Smith Center captured the 2A crown.
Last week, the biggest classification change came with Garden Plain and Hillsboro staying in 2A. GP and Hillsboro are tied for the top 2A enrollment with 173 students. Heritage Christian remained in 3A with the classification’s eighth-smallest enrollment.
The second announcement will likely come in the next few days regarding the sub-state assignments for 3A, 2A, Class 1A, Division I and Class 1A, Division II.
Well-publicized, 4A to 6A is based on record and seeding. The smallest four classes are divvied up, generally based on geography.
Hillsboro and Garden Plain staying in 2A presents a question: How do you fairly split up the best 2A teams?
This is not a new question and happens every sports season.
However, it’s especially paramount this fall in 2A volleyball where statistically six of the top seven teams are all within 90 minutes of each other – and many of those squads are within 30 minutes.
Those are Hillsboro, Sedgwick, Inman, Ellinwood, Berean Academy and Garden Plain.
The onus – and balance of power – is on KSHSAA and the Kansas volleyball coaches to make sure the top teams have the best access to the state tournament; access based on performance and not geography.
In the latest 2A rankings, Hillsboro (21-1) is ranked first, Sedgwick (26-0) second, Ellinwood (20-3) third, Inman (18-4) fourth and Garden Plain (13-5) sixth.
At state last season, Hillsboro finished second, Garden Plain third and Ellinwood fourth.
In 2021, Sedgwick, Hillsboro and Inman all went at least 26-10 in the regular season and were ranked by the coaches in the top-8 entering sub-state.
All three are within 45 miles of each other.
All three were in the same sub-state.
That could happen this season, which would likely significantly affect the state tournament and leave at least one, likely more, of the best teams unable to reach state.
Per MaxPreps statistical rankings, which are viewed by multiple volleyball coaches and account for strength of schedule, Hillsboro, Sedgwick and Inman are the top-3 best 2A teams.
Hillsboro is ranked as the tenth best team for all Kansas classes. Sedgwick is Kansas’ last undefeated squad. The Cardinals are currently ranked No. 16 for all classes.
On Tuesday, Sedgwick beat Inman in a pair of close three-set matches: 25-19, 18-25, 25-12 and 25-16, 22-25, 25-16. Inman has freshman Suttyn Harris, the state leader in kills. The Teutons are 18-4, and 0-3 against Sedgwick. Inman is ranked No. 33 for all classes.
If these squads were in 4A-6A, the trio would all be siloed into its own sub-state because of its record. Instead, they could all be together in the same sub-state.
Ellinwood is 18-3 and ranked No. 42 in Kansas. Coach Greg Maxwell has led the Eagles to a 119-21 record in the last four seasons.
Ellinwood has sometimes went west for sub-states and could end up with Smith Center. After Tuesday, SC closed out a perfect regular season in Mid-Continent League play and are 19-2. SC has won 85 percent of its matches in the last six years.
Berean Academy is 13-6. BA is located 30 minutes from Sedgwick and Hillsboro.
Garden Plain is 13-5 with legendary coach Gina Clark. The Owls are ranked No. 63 for all classes. GP has made state four straight years.
Smith Center, Ellinwood, Berean Academy and Garden Plain stand fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh in the MaxPreps 2A rankings.
In 2018 and ’19, Sedgwick lost to Garden Plain in sub-state. In ’20, Hillsboro, Inman and Sedgwick were all in the same sub-state. They entered with a combined record of 78-15. Hillsboro won and took fourth at state.
After last week’s classification release, the question is: How many of the best 2A volleyball teams end up in the same sub-state(s)? The second question, should there be a better process?
Those answers could start to reveal themselves in the next few days.
Class 4A No. 1 Andale, featured on SIK several times this year, moved to 24-0 after it won the Newton tournament for the fourth straight fall. Andale, the defending state champions, has captured 26 straight matches.
Hillsboro has won 13 straight matches, including a 5-0 mark at the Douglass tournament last week. Junior Zaylee Werth is an elite player with 249 kills (5.3 per set) and a .324 average. Senior libero Kori Arnold has enjoyed a big season with 47 aces and 204 digs. Senior Ella Suderman has 457 assists.
Smith Center finished 11-0 in MCL play. The Lady Red swept Phillipsburg and Thomas More Prep-Marian in its annual triangular Tuesday. Smith Center has its loaded lineup with senior Maile Hrabe, juniors Dakota Kattenberg, Gracie Kirchhoff and Camryn Hutchinson. Last weekend, SC won the Hoisington tournament.
Labette County’s Shelbi Wilson cleared 2,000 career assists.
Riverton’s Jacy Thomasson has surpassed 1,600 career kills. She will likely cross the 1,700-kill threshold and move into the top-10 all-time in Kansas history for kills. Riverton is ranked sixth in 3A. Riverton is 16-1-1.
Neodesha’s Kristen Stover went over 1,000 career kills, swept Cherryvale and Fredonia and moved to 22-2.
Ellsworth junior Kylan Turnispeed reached 1,000 career assists.
Humboldt junior Kenisyn Hottenstein has reached 1,300 career assists. Humboldt is 20-3.
South Gray posted a 5-0 mark, won the Kiowa County Invitational and stand at 19-4 overall after Tuesday. SG is ranked sixth in Class 1A, Division I. Sophomore Allie Reed is an up and coming star and has led the Rebels in kills. Senior Halli Meairs, junior VI Helm, and senior Kendall Rielly are among the top players.
Bucklin’s Hailie Feikert reached 1,000 career assists. The Red Aces stand at 11-10.
Sylvan-Lucas’ Keeli Knobbe recorded 1,000 career kills on game point against Beloit St. John’s/Tipton. The Mustangs are ranked ninth in Class 1A, Division I.
Cheney won the Red and Blue Classic last weekend. The Cardinals are ranked fourth in 3A.
Statistical Leaders (via MaxPreps or email [email protected])
Harris, Inman, 302
Budke, Beloit, 288
White, Baxter Springs, 270
Davidson, Minneapolis, 257
Werth, Hillsboro, 249
Stark, Osage City, 238
Lujan, Belle Plaine, 232
Keebaugh, Ottawa, 231
Senecaut, Girard, 218
Duncan, Smoky Valley, 217
Thomasson, Riverton, 213
Knobbe, Sylvan-Lucas, 210
Perine, Rossville, 209
Pyle, Frontenac, 206
Miller, Eureka, 205
Blanchat, Smoky Valley 201
Follis, Beloit, 531
Peterson, Blue Valley, 516
Allen, Olathe West, 500
McLean, Hutchinson, 494
Ko, Pleasant Ridge, 490
Woods, Inman, 478
Hazelwood, Smoky Valley, 470
Suderman, Hillsboro, 457
Creason, SM Northwest, 453
Gardner, Spring Hill, 450
Bergan, Baldwin, 439
Delaney, Hiawatha, 426
Edmondson, Baxter Springs, 423
Peck, Minneapolis, 413
Weller, Clay Center, 402
Scanlon, Lansing, 384
Koontz, Newton, 377
Atkins, Hanover, 303
Munson, Arkansas City, 271
Cisneros, Liberal, 260
Hett, Marion, 251
Fraser-Slothower, Maize, 251
Anderes, Salina South, 249
Cline, Sylvan-Lucas, 249
Adolph, Cheney, 245
Troike, Girard, 245
Nordhus, Nemaha Central, 239
Pearson, Blue Valley Northwest, 237
Wright, Clay Center, 233
Kremeier, Herington, 232
Bainter, Hoxie, 231
Coughlin, Olpe, 96
Briggs, Quinter, 89
Hawkinson, Elyria Christian, 73
Countryman, Quinter, 72
Afonja, Baldwin, 71
Wurtz, Clifton-Clyde, 63
Gerety, Nemaha Central, 61
Respress, Eisenhower, 60
Lohman, Iola, 56
Holle, Hanover, 54
Rucker, Eureka, 53
Weber, Spring Hill, 53
Selensky, Quinter, 52
Dameron, Eisenhower, 51
Schmidt, Inman, 51
Pasquerelli, Erie, 50
Sutton, Marmaton Valley, 60
Cisneros, Liberal, 57
Wiles, SJTC, 57
Girty, Flinthills, 54
Rodriguez, Sumner Academy, 51
Wight, Flinthills, 50
Alvarez, Kiowa County, 50
Randall, Flinhills, 49
Arnold, Hillsboro, 47
Hett, Marion, 47
Hallman, Liberal, 45
Alvord, Flinthills, 45
Walker, Basehor-Linwood, 45
Goree, Collegiate, 44
Adams, Macksville, 44
Sanders, Macksville, 44