By CONOR NICHOLL
ANDOVER – Andover Central junior libero Willow Deckinger couldn’t play the last two years because of a back injury. In 2021, Deckinger served as an assistant to head coach Kayla Weidert. The Jaguars finished 26-15. All but two of the Jaguars’ defeats came against squads that made the state tournament.
“We felt under ranked and overlooked a lot of that season, and I believe we probably should have been at state, and we could have beat those teams,” Weidert said.
Andover Central graduated 41 percent of its kills and 59 percent of its assists. Standout setter Ellie Stearns graduated after a prolific career in volleyball and basketball, including first team all-league. She is currently playing basketball at Fort Hays. As well, AC lost 79 percent of digs and 85 percent of serve-receptions. Jenna Lambertz collected honorable mention all-league.
The 5-foot-3 Deckinger was cleared in April and played for Shockwave, a longtime well-known club program in the Wichita area. Known on her team as the “Flying Squirrel,” Deckinger brings extra energy and is the team’s sparkplug. She has flown into bleachers multiple times for balls.
“We know that she is going to give 110 percent every time she’s on the court, and the girls around her kind of feed of her energy, too,” Weidert said.
Deckinger’s return is one of multiple personnel changes for Andover Central, which already has elevated from its preseason ranking. On Sept. 8, Andover Central jumped from No. 10 in preseason 5A to eighth. The Jaguars have opened 14-1 after winning the Ark City tournament last Saturday. Last season, AC started 9-6.
This week, SIK looks at multiple times off to strong starts that have already climbed in the rankings and/or have delivered a big turnaround from last fall. Plus, SIK has its weekly stats and the list of the American Volleyball Coaches Association national phenoms from Kansas.
Andover Central has adopted the motto of “just us.”
“Their willingness to focus on the team and put the team first,” Weidert said. “We have girls that could stand out and be stars on a lot of varsity teams, but we have made a couple lineup changes that maybe don’t allow them to shine as bright, because that is what the team needs.”
The Jaguars returned three players with all-league recognition. Senior outside Maddie Amekporfor is one of the state’s top basketball players. She has helped Andover Central earn 2020 Forever Four, ’21 5A state runner-up and 5A final four the last three winters. Amekporfor and 6-foot-2 senior Allie Paulsen were both first team all-league players. Junior Hayden Snodgrass was honorable mention all-league and recently named to the AVCA Phenom national list.
Snodgrass is coming back from an injured foot and is switching from the outside.
Paulsen has switched from middle to outside and is a superb all-around player. Weidert said Paulsen is the team’s top statistical server, a top-three back row passer and could play any position for AC except setter. She can jump and touch 10 feet, 3 inches.
“Is going to be a high-level recruit, probably a top volleyball player in the state,” Weidert said.
Weidert was a ’05 McPherson graduate who set school records and won a state 3,200-meter title. She competed for Wichita State in both volleyball and track. One of her WSU teammates and longtime friends is highly successful Cheney coach Sara Walkup.
Last season, AC had 10.7 kills per set, 34.8 kill rate and a .184 average. This year, the Jaguars are at 11.5 kills per set, 37.4 kill rate and a .200 average. Assists have ticked up to 10.7 per set and digs have remained consistent.
“We focus on us, and we do everything for each other, and I think that’s the biggest thing,” Weidert said. “It’s not one person that makes the team in volleyball. It’s got to be six people plus the bench to be successful.”
Andover Central has excellent infrastructure. AC longtime girls’ basketball coach Stana Jefferson and Weidert have helped with summer strength and conditioning. This marks Weidert’s second year leading the varsity after a couple of years at the middle school.
“I think that you have got to give all the credit to Stana, and the coaches of all sports are supporting each other,” Weidert said.
Weidert noted every single day AC had at least 75 girls from sixth to twelfth grade from all sports in summer strength and conditioning. All the girls warm up together, and then split into three groups. Weidert noted one day the Jaguars running stadium stairs in 100-plus degrees and the girls cheering each other on.
“The girls grind it out for each other,” Weidert said. “You look at programs like Andale. I am starting to get the Andale feel here.”
Deckinger has made a big impact, especially in first contact. She has twice earned the team’s player of the match award.
In the season opener, Andover Central defeated Emporia in three sets. EHS qualified for state last year. Deckinger delivered 12 digs, along with 12 receptions against one error. The Spartans are 12-2 since.
“We love being around Willow, we love being in the gym with her,” Weidert said.
Last year, AC had receiving errors on 8.1 percent of serve-receptions. This year, it’s at 6.2 percent. Deckinger has been statistically excellent with just eight reception errors, a 94.8 success rate. Deckinger easily paces AC with 3.1 digs per set.
“She is literally not going to let the ball touch the floor,” Weidert said.
As a junior, Paulsen had two kills per set, hit .251 and had 4.5 attacks per set. This summer, Weidert put Paulsen on the outside “for fun.”
“She just kept obliterating the ball and putting it down,” Weidert said. “And the outside takes more swings than the middle does, and so we were like, ‘why not get her more swings?’ It’s been a big switch for her. Moving from middle to outside is a tough change of pace and a tough thing to make, but she is working her way through it.”
Now, AC’s lineups allows Paulsen to run in the middle a couple of times, on the right and on the left side a little bit. For the first time in her career, Paulsen is hitting bad balls and out of system attacks, which are significantly more frequent for outside hitters than middles. She has delivered 2.9 kills per set and carries a .163 average. However, her attacks per set has skyrocketed to 7.6.
“Having her on the outside, she will get over every block all day,” Weidert said.
Deckinger leads with 25 aces, while Paulsen is second at 18. Paulsen leads with 23 blocks. Paulsen is second with 84 digs.
“She’s just been under the radar for so long that I think this could be a breakout year,” Weidert said of Paulsen.
Amekporfor leads with 113 kills. Jordan Washington has emerged in the middle with 59 kills and a .310 average.
“She is going to be a star,” Weidert said.
Paulsen and junior Emma Geier played both the middle and outside. Junior Paighton Crumley is known for her serving with 16 aces. Junior Gretta Stover is a key right side. Snodgrass has worked up to 50 percent playing time. Last Thursday, for the first time, Snodgrass returned to action and earned the team’s player of the match award with 15 assists and six digs.
Senior Jaylee Jefferson has led the squad with 231 assists. Snodgrass is up to 73 assists. Starting this week, the plan is for Snodgrass to set, and Jefferson to play back row and hit.
“Learning how to set, but is an amazing athlete,” Weidert said of Snodgrass.
Andale winning streak, Hanover winning streak – neither has dropped a set
Andale is the defending 4A state champion, while Hanover is the back-to-back Class 1A, Division II state titlists. Both teams are ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications and on long winning streaks. Andale finished 40-3 last year and won its final two matches en route to its first state volleyball title in school annals. Andale is 14-0 and has won 28 straight sets. Overall, the Indians carry a 16-match winning streak.
Andale has nine seniors: reigning 4A Player of the Year McKenzie Fairchild, Maddie Schrandt, Emery May, Jenna Kuepker, Jaycee Cates, Faith Molitor, Camryn Winter, Claire Haines, and Kyri Kerschen. Fairchild has committed to Texas A&M track where her older sister, Katelyn, competes. Schrandt and Fairchild are both returning first team all-state selections.
Fairchild has 107 kills and a .320 average. Schrandt has delivered 77 kills and a .306 mark. May carries 53 kills and a .254 average. Freshman Hayden Grimes has stepped in and leads with 18 aces and 86 digs. May and Cates are 1-2 in blocks with 17 and 15.
Kerschen and Camryn Winter lead with 133 and 128 assists, respectively. Schrandt and Grimes are the primary serve receivers.
Hanover is 10-0 and has not dropped a set. The Wildcats have won 25 straight matches. Senior Massey Holle has 93 kills and a .429 average. Ceegan Atkins, the reigning player of the year, has 92 kills and a .358 average. Holle leads the Wildcats with 24 blocks. Seniors Taeben Stallbaumer and Reanna Rencin are key defensive players, too. Stallbaumer leads Hanover with 130 assists.
Three-way tie at the Haven Coleman Classic; Harris leading state in kills; Inman with school records
Inman, Garden Plain and Cheney all finished in a three-way tie for first at the Haven Coleman Classic. With the tiebreakers, Cheney took first, Garden Plain second, Inman third, Kingman fourth, Haven fifth and Hutch Trinity sixth. Ten players were selected to the all-tournament team. For Inman, freshman Suttyn Harris continued her big year with an all-tournament selection, along with Chloe Schmidt and Kambrey Woods. Inman coach Megan Heckel said Harris “had a phenomenal day.”
“The girls had a great tournament as they never gave up no matter what the score and fought hard in many matches to overcome point deficits,” Heckel said.
Harris finished with 96 kills in 12 sets, or eight per set. She delivered 11 blocks and 28 digs. Schmidt finished with 30 kills and 15 blocks. Woods was 49 of 49 on serving with 20 digs. Maci Neufeld and Madelyn Brunk finished with 27 digs, too.
Inman lost to Cheney in two sets, and then defeated Garden Plain (30-28, 25-22), beat Haven and Kingman in three sets, and Trinity Catholic in two.
Inman started 12-2. Inman was 0-4 against Garden Plain since 2018. Inman upped from No. 10 to sixth in 2A.
Harris tied the school record that Reagan Brake set for most kills in a game with 21. Woods set the new single match assist record with 37.
After Tuesday, Harris had 211 kills on 372 attempts with 46 blocks and 72 digs. Schmidt delivered 100 kills on 221 attacks, along with 27 blocks. Woods was 139 for 144 on serves with 239 assists.
Newton off to strong start
Newton is 5-3 and is the only team to beat Andover Central with a 30-28, 11-25, 27-25 victory on Sept. 8. Newton has seven seniors: Tegan Livesay, Emma Rains, Olivia Antonowich, Camryn Entz, Piper Seidl, Lana Mayfield and Brylee Budde. Livesay led Newton with nine kills in the win. She is the reigning 5A SIK Pitcher of the Year and has committed to Division I Southeast Missouri State softball.
Junior Abby Koontz is the starting libero and delivered 24 digs in the match. Rains and junior Elena Vanderweg are the setters in the 6-2 offense. Mayfield and Livesay play in the middle. The outsides are Antonowich and Rains. Entz and sophomore Ani Koontz play on the right side. Newton has losses to Andover Central, Maize South and Maize. Rains leads with 2.9 kills per set. Newton was 17-19 last year.
Milestone for Goessel
Goessel coach Crysta Guhr is one of the state’s top coaches. She recently picked up career win No. 500 with the Bluebirds. Most notably, Guhr led Goessel to final four in ’13, state runner-up in ’14, state championship in 2015, third in ’16 and state runner-up in ’17. Goessel is 4-5 this year.
Consistent power Wheatland-Grinnell is off to a 9-5 start and has won three in a row. W-G has one senior for veteran coach Shannon Foster. Junior Karoline Schroeder has enjoyed a huge start with 4.4 kills per set and a .200 average. She has 129 of her team’s 276 kills. Senior Kerri Heier paced with 132 assists.
Big turnaround for Quinter
Quinter was 8-27 last season and has opened 6-4. That included a 4-1 record at the Gove County tournament Saturday. Quinter defeated Wilson in two sets and earned three wins in three sets: Golden Plains, Oberlin and Weskan. Quinter lost to Cimarron in two sets.
Senior Anna Briggs grew up in Quinter, then briefly moved to Nebraska and is now back in Quinter. She has 40 kills and a .255 percentage. Briggs easily paces the team with 40 blocks. Senior Kaitlyn Countryman has 27 blocks. Sophomore Addie Hargitt has stepped up on the back row with 79 digs. Sophomore Bryn Gillespie has 68 digs.
Other Top Performances
Hillsboro is off to a 12-1 start and has won four straight. That includes two key wins last Saturday against Beloit and Smoky Valley. Junior Zaylee Werth is one of the state’s top volleyball and basketball players for the Class of 2024. Werth has 71 kills with a .263 percentage. Junior Savannah Shahan has 54 kills with a .283 percentage. Hillsboro bumped from No. 2 to No. 1 in 2A. Beloit is fourth in 3A, and Smoky Valley stands tenth in 3A.
Jackson Heights is 8-1 and has won eight straight matches. Senior Kaylee Thompson is at 78 kills with a .208 average, and senior Kanyon Olberding has 75 kills with a .274 average. Both have been multi-sport standouts for years. JH continues to be unranked.
Sedgwick is ranked second in 2A. The Cardinals are 15-0 under longtime coach Karen Stucky, who is coach Guhr’s twin sister. Sedgwick has lost one set all season. Sedgwick’s lineup includes senior 6-foot-1 middle Liana McGonigle, 5-10 junior Tayla Sampson, 5-9 outside senior Addie Fitch and two junior specialists Logan Stucky and Addie Rogers.
Royal Valley took a big jump in the rankings from unranked to sixth in 3A. RV is 14-1 and has won nine in a row. Senior Kennedy Bryan has 136 kills and just 36 errors. Senior Alysa Ladson has 92 kills. Senior Abbey LeForte has stepped in and currently leads Kansas with 308 assists.
Baldwin is fourth in 4A. The Bulldogs lost in three sets to Olathe Heritage Christian Academy. HCA won 2A two years ago, and 3A last season. HCA earned a 25-20 third set victory. Senior Chaney Barth delivered 12 kills and hit .417. Baldwin’s Fisayo Afonja, a Ivy League Brown commit, delivered seven kills. Barth
AVCA Phenom List
More than 45 Kansas volleyball players earned selection on the national American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom Watch List of 2024 and 2025 graduates. Several have already been featured on SIK this fall. The list includes:
Hayden Snodgrass, Andover Central
Mylie Brown and Addison Budke, Beloit
Ava Martin and Trinniti Stevens, Bishop Miege
Janelle Green and Logan Parks, Blue Valley North
Lainie Douglas and Kaylee Tingey, Blue Valley Southwest
Ella Davidson, Brookelyn Hatton, Allison Heck, Lily Wedman, BV West
Bella Reid, Topeka Hayden
Cy Rae Campbell (Wake Forest commit) and Rachel Van Gorp (Iowa State commit), Olathe Heritage Christian
Jillian Gregory, Addison Hart, Gracie Morrow, Maize South
Ashlyn Blazer, Mill Valley
Abby Koontz, Newton
Chloe Tyrrell, Olathe East
Avery Baker, Olathe North
Caroline Clayton and Emma Sher, Olathe Northwest
Campbell Chabot, Reagan McGivern, Maegan Mills, Kinley Wilhelm, Topeka Seaman
Taylour Standifer, Shawnee Mission Northwest
Ella Bolan, Silver Lake
Hope Duncan, Smoky Valley
Mya Bolton, Heidi Devers, Julia Headley, St. James Academy
Sophia Bond, Alea Goolsby, Tatum Grimes, Kesley Schenck, St. Thomas Aquinas
Jo’Mhara Benning, Topeka High
Zoe Canfield, Jada Ingram, Washburn Rural
Kinzie Purdue, Arkansas City
Ava Wadley, Wichita Southeast
Kinnley Flower and Aleah Moore, Winfield
Top-15 Leaders (per MaxPreps or emailed to [email protected])
Harris, Inman, 211
Budke, Beloit, 164
Miller, Eureka, 152
Bryan, Royal Valley, 136
Barth, Baldwin, 134
Holthaus, Nemaha Central, 117
Stewart, Greeley County, 116
Schroeder, Wheatland-Grinnell, 114
Schmidt, Inman, 100
Stark, Osage City, 98
Afonja, Baldwin, 97
Frakes, Spring Hill, 96
Elofsson, Wichita Collegiate, 96
Little, Kiowa County, 95
Testrake, Olathe West, 95
Duncan, Smoky Valley, 93
LeForte, Royal Valley, 308
Bergan, Baldwin, 307
J. Follis, Beloit, 284
Allen, Olathe West, 255
Heft, Kiowa County, 245
Gardner, Spring Hill, 241
Woods, Inman, 239
Compton, Riverton, 225
Yanez, Greeley County, 225
Ko, Pleasant Ridge, 217
Kauffman, Central Christian, 211
Moyer, South Gray, 195
Turnipseed, Ellsworth, 186
Goree, Wichita Collegiate, 185
Hazelwood, Smoky Valley, 182
McLean, Hutchinson, 176
Nordhus, Nemaha Central, 154
Larkin, Nemaha Central 140
Cisneros, Liberal, 134
Kanaga, Mulvane, 132
Koontz, Newton, 131
Hett, Marion, 125
K. Follis, Beloit, 124
Acree, Concordia, 122
Shepherd, Eureka, 122
Holthaus, Nemaha Central, 122
Curtis, Winfield, 118
Ladson, Royal Valley, 112
Heredia, Pratt, 110
McAleer, Blue Valley, 108
Fraser-Slothower, Maize, 108
Coughlin, Olpe, 66
Afonja, Baldwin, 55
Harris, Inman, 46
Hawkinson, Elyria Christian, 43
Gerety, Nemaha Central, 43
Bailey, Olpe, 31
E. Stowell, Olathe West, 28
Honeyman, Nemaha Central, 28
Thomasson, Riverton, 27
Rucker, Eureka, 26
Holthaus, Nemaha Central, 26
Luna, Great Bend, 25
Respress, Eisenhower, 25
Weber, Spring Hill, 24
Martin, Atchison County, 24
E. Sales, Olathe West, 24
Copeland, Hesston, 24
Thomasson, Riverton, .466
Goodenow, Aquinas, .450
Klingenberg, Rock Creek, .447
Young, Pretty Prairie, .428
Denison, Minneola, .425
Stowell, Olathe West, .405
Atkins, Hanover, 402
Miller, Eureka, .394
Barnett, Hutchinson Central Christian, .391
Singhateh, Eureka, .387
Cure, Goodland, .386
Barth, Baldwin, .381
Bauerle, Atchison County, .374
Schrandt, Andale, .374
Afonja, Baldwin, .371