By CONOR NICHOLL
Macksville’s Jennifer Gillespie is in her 24th season with Mustang volleyball. She has won more than 330 career matches. This season is special for Gillespie in several ways. First, Macksville is significantly experienced with multiple Mustangs who play club volleyball in nearby Pratt.
“We’d kind of seen this group coming up knowing that they could be something special,” Gillespie said. “They have put in a lot of work in the summer to get better. Every one of them is in the weights class and been in the weight room during the summer. So it’s just having your hands on a ball more than just the three months out of the year.”
Her daughter, Taylor Casper, is a 2017 Macksville graduate. Taylor, a local business owner, is a first-year assistant coach for her mother. As well, Taylor recently gave birth to Jennifer’s first grandchild, Chloe on Sept. 2.
“It’s fun seeing her come back,” Gillespie said. “Thank goodness we have got a good support system. We have great-grandmas that come and help out when her husband is unable to keep her. She’s been able to make it back to a couple matches already.”
Volleyball-wise, Taylor has helped her mother and players consistently find holes in the opposition’s defense.
“She is my eyes on the court,” Gillespie said.
Macksville, helped by the jump float serve, has 220 aces, already more than last season.
“Serving has been a big asset for us,” Gillespie said. “We have had a lot of teams that have had difficulty passing our serves, so that’s helped to keep them out of their offense.”
The changes have produced one of the state’s biggest volleyball turnarounds from 2021. Macksville was 17-16 last winter after a pair of sub-.500 seasons. The Mustangs have not won more than 17 matches in a year since before 2015.
Macksville is currently ranked fifth in Class 1A, Division I by the Kansas volleyball coaches.
The Mustangs have one all-time state appearance under Gillespie, a third place showing in ’03 behind 1A player of the year Katie Deighton. Gillespie’s former players are coaching at Kinsley and La Crosse. Deighton (now Blackwill) formerly coached at Quinter.
This season, Macksville is 16-3, including early season victories against Kiowa County, Otis-Bison and La Crosse, teams the Mustangs struggled with last season. Macksville was 16-1 after it won the Pawnee Heights tournament last weekend. Macksville is at the Kiowa County tournament this weekend.
This week, SIK has its statistical leaders, top performers, Andale’s 20-match winning streak – along with several of Kansas’ best turnarounds.
Macksville has a new weight room. Gillespie said the girls are starting to see “some more gains” and “more commitment” with weights.
Macksville lists 10 varsity players with lone senior Lupita Galan, a 5-foot-11 middle hitter/right side. Macksville has key players with Logan Sanders, Mayce Russell, Kambry Adams and libero Roxanne Carrillo. Rylee Palser and Isabela Ortiz are at setter, while Ortiz also plays on the right side.
Macksville returned just over 80 percent of its kills from 2021, including the top-three hitters. Russell by far paced the Mustangs with 252 kills and earned second team all-conference.
She was the lone Macksville returning player with all-league recognition and has delivered strong play in basketball. Russell was top-six in all classes in steals and played for well-known Wheat State Elite in summer basketball. Adams had 92 kills, and Sanders delivered 89 kills.
Macksville finished with 213 aces (13.3 percent) against 175 errors. That was a ratio of 1.21/1. Russell led with 47 aces, while Carrillo was second at 41, and Palser had 33 aces. Macksville returned 87 percent of its digs.
Palser and Ortiz were the top-two setters as freshman with 355 and 73 assists, respectively. However, Palser did not play in the Central Prairie League tournament in mid-October because of her grandmother’s sudden passing because of a boating accident. Macksville finished 1-3 at league, including a three-set loss to Otis-Bison, a team it had defeated twice earlier in the year.
“We were so young at the setting position,” Gillespie said.
This year, Adams has 116 kills, Russell with 110 and Sanders with 60. Adams leads Macksville with a .242 hitting percentage. Russell is on the outside. Adams is at outside/opposite hitter. Sanders and Galan are in the middle.
“She has really started off on a tear for us,” Gillespie said of Adams.
The top-five servers all have between 37 to 42 aces: Adams, Sanders, Carrillo, Palser and Russell. Macksville is up to 1.83 to 1 aces/service errors.
“You don’t need the best six players on the team,” Gillespie said. “You need the right six players on the team.”
Macksville has vaulted its ace percentage to 22.1 percent. Macksville has often used a jump float serve that Gillespie called “really tough for opponents.” Kelley Maydew is the longtime leader of the Impact volleyball club in Pratt. The jump serve is a trademark of Impact. Carrillo has already made the Impact 17-under club team for next year. Ortiz and Adams have played for Impact, too.
“That’s their big signature serve,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie’s goal is to serve at 90 percent or better. Macksville is currently at 88 percent, though Gillespie has been fine with the percentage.
“Markedly more aggressive with our serves than what we were last year,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie was highly complimentary of Palser and Ortiz at setter. Ortiz normally wins tight balls at the net. Palser has 252 assists, while Ortiz has 68 assists.
“I told the girls, ‘I said, ‘You guys are going to be your worst enemy,’” Gillespie said. “As long as you play as a team, and you set a goal everyday in practice to get better at something and we are working toward that, then we can go deep into the playoffs, and that’s our goal.”
Andale big win against Circle; bumps win streak to 20
On Tuesday, Andale won at Towanda-Circle, 25-20, 25-23. Andale is the defending 4A state champions and ranked No. 1 in the classification. Circle is ranked third and the last team to beat Andale. Andale ended the match on a long rally from senior McKenzie Fairchild, the state’s top female athlete.
Fairchild is the reigning 4A Player of the Year in volleyball and headed to Texas A&M Track. Senior 5-11 outside Maddie Schrandt has committed to Division I Missouri State beach volleyball. Andale is 18-0 and has not dropped a set this season. The Indians have won 20 straight matches behind highly decorated coach Kaylie Bergkamp. Andale’s last loss came against Circle at state pool play last fall. Andale has won 20 straight contests.
In addition to Fairchild and Schrandt, Andale has seniors Emery May (5-11), Jenna Kuepker, setter Camryn Winter, Kyri Kerschen, Jaycee Cates, Claire Haines and Faith Molitor. Freshman Hayden Grimes has been a standout. Andale has more than 95 percent of its kills from seniors.
Fairchild has 142 kills and .322 hitting, Schrandt has 116 kills and a .344 mark. May has 70 kills. All three have been highly consistent with 46.1 to 46.7 kill rate percentage. Grimes continues to pace Andale with 21 assists, 123 digs and 136 serve-receptions. May has 20 blocks. Winter and Kerschen pace the team with 184 and 178 assists, respectively.
Andale won the Valley Center championship earlier this fall.
Olathe West, St. Marys and Greeley County among sizable turnarounds
Olathe West has been significantly featured on SIK this fall. Setter Amber Allen is second in Kansas in assists with 472. Junior Brynn Stowell has 118 kills on a .424 hitting percentage for 36 blocks. OW is 19-3 and headed for the best season in school history. The Owls were 14-20 last year.
Senior Ava Testrake, a Creighton commit, has 177 kills and a .390 average. Junior Brynn Stowell has 125 kills and a .426 average. Junior Riley Ourth has 160 digs. OW had bumped from tenth to eighth to fifth in the 6A rankings. West is now up to second in 6A in the rankings released Thursday morning.
St. Marys is 10-3 after a 9-26 season. Longtime coach Jan Lueger has generally enjoyed great success with the Bears. St. Marys has 339 of 352 kills from non-seniors. Junior Brenna Smith has enjoyed another big year with 148 kills. Junior Sarah Lett has 129 kills. St. Marys rose from ninth to eighth in the latest 2A rankings.
Greeley County has an 11-4 record and is ranked for the first time in school history. The Jackrabbits, under coach Jordan Stewart, have seven players: freshmen Jadence Stewart, Hailey Nolan, and Maggie Votruba, sophomores Taittum Bain and Jadyn Mangan, and juniors Iliany Yanez and Ana Trejo. Greeley improved from not ranked to tenth to sixth in the Class 1A, Division II rankings.
Hoxie captured the Dighton tournament for the first time in eight years. The Indians finished 15-16 last fall and is off to 14-4 start this year. Hoxie has won three straight games. Junior Kinley Rogers leads with 57 kills, sophomore Emily Bainter has 48 and junior Genesis Harvey has delivered 28. Bainter leads with 17 aces. Senior libero Tori Bainter has 97 digs, while Rogers has 79. Bainter easily paced Hoxie with 251 digs. Hoxie’s top-five leaders in digs in ’21 were all non-seniors.
Beloit won the Belleville tournament and defeated Smith Center in the championship game. The Trojans are 20-3. Smith Center has finished second and first in 2A the last two falls. SC has won nine straight contests. Beloit has won two straight. In the victory, Beloit won 25-15, 23-25, 25-11.
Sophomore Addison Budke, the state leader in kills last year and this season, delivered 21 kills and hit .421. Sophomore Cassandra Thompson finished with seven kills and a .500 average, along with seven blocks. Sophomore Brecken Boudreaux had six kills with a .556 hitting percentage. Sophomore Jaidyn Follis has 60 assists. Beloit rose from seventh to third in 3A.
Inman continues its success under coach Megan Heckel with a 14-2 mark. On Tuesday, Inman defeated Berean Academy twice: 25-21, 21-25,25-17 in the first match, and 25-18, 25-17 in the second match. Standout freshman Suttyn Harris, second in all classes in kills, has 31 kills on 57 attacks, along with 24 digs and six blocks. Chloe Schmidt has 18 kills and 42 attacks, along with 14 blocks. Kambrey Woods delivered 54 assists. Inman is up from sixth to fourth in 2A.
St. Thomas Aquinas has won 16 straight matches and stands 16-1. Aquinas lost in two sets to Washburn Rural in the season opener. Since then, Aquinas has quality wins against Bishop Miege (3-0), St. Teresa’s (Mo.) Academy (3-0), St. Louis power Lafayette (3-0), a three-set win versus Bishop Miege and big wins last Saturday against KCMO’s Liberty North and Liberty.
On Tuesday, Aquinas swept St. James Academy and Blue Valley North. Aquinas has the rematch with Washburn Rural (8-1) on Thursday.
Aquinas senior Betsy Goodenow has 136 kills with a .376 average, while sophomore Alea Goolsby has 131 kills. Junior Tatum Grimes has 93 kills with a .391 average. Freshman Alayna Vaeth has 30 aces. Grimes, Goodenow and Goolsby are 1-2-3 in blocks. Senior Reagan Anderson paces with 126 digs.
Goodenow is headed to Yale volleyball. Aquinas was ranked second in 5A behind St. James in the Sept. 14 rankings. The Saints moved to first in the latest poll.
Andover Central, featured on SIK last week, is 18-1 and could face Andale this weekend. On Tuesday, AC swept Salina Central and Valley Center. Senior Maddie Amekporfor paces with 3.5 kills per set. Junior middle blocker Jordyn Washington has a .333 average. Senior Allie Paulsen leads with 34 blocks. Junior libero Willow Deckinger has 3.2 digs per set and 25 aces. AC bumped from eighth to fourth in the 5A poll.
St. Francis is 15-3 with four consecutive victories. The Indians were 31-6 last year. Four of the top-five hitters for SF last year graduated. Junior Jesslynn Houtman delivered 149 kills in ’21. St. Francis has five seniors: libero Elle Krien, middle hitters/blockers Rian Zimbal and Gracie Parsons, Houtman and setter/right side Molly Gilliland. Krien and Gilliland are the captains. St. Francis moved from eighth to fifth last week in the rankings is currently fifth.
Jackson Heights has run its winning streak to 12 matches after a three-set win against Valley Falls. JH is 12-1. Senior Kanyon Olberding has 117 kills with a .266 average. Senior Kaylee Thompson has 110 kills. Mallori Mulroy leads with 23 aces. Thompson has 178 digs. Junior Dawson Cochren has 141 assists. Last week, JH moved into the rankings at No. 10 in 2A after it was previously not ranked. Jackson Heights jumped three spots this week.
Thunder Ridge is 9-5. Senior Toree Slavik has 129 kills and a .267 average. Junior Kamryn Rietzke cleared 1,000 career assists earlier this season. Rietzke is a dynamic volleyball/basketball player with 1,124 assists. She has hit 450 digs and more than 100 aces. Rietzke has been a top-10 recruit for the Class of 2024. Rietzke averaged around 20 points a game in basketball last winter.
Olathe Northwest junior Sky Pierce, the state’s top recruit and Nebraska commit, reached 1,000 career kills. ONW is 10-4 and has won two straight matches. The Ravens have no seniors. Pierce is at 5.7 kills per set (136 total) with a .350 hitting percentage. Junior standout Jillian Huckabey has three kills per set with a .247 average. Northwest is ranked fifth in 6A.
Perry-Lecompton’s Ella Besler reached 1,000 career assists. Besler is a three-year varsity player after she moved from Maryland prior to her sophomore year.
Marion libero Grace Hett is among the state’s leaders in digs. Hett reached 1,000 career digs. Marion is 14-7 after 20-17 last season.
Blue Valley Northwest libero Alayna Pearson has committed to Texas A&M. Northwest is 10-5. Pearson paces her squad with 183 digs. Northwest is ranked seventh in 6A.
Ulysses senior Naomi Vagher reached 1,000 career assists
Ell-Saline won the Tescott tournament. E-S is 6-2 after a 13-10 mark last fall.
Lebo finished 5-0 and won the Erie tournament.
Tonganoxie junior Kasia Baldock exceeded 1,000 career assists for the Chieftains.
Cherryvale won the Indian classic in Oswego with a 5-0 mark and beat Oswego in the championship.
Silver Lake won the Rossville tournament.
Leaders – sent to Conor Nicholl ([email protected], Twitter: @cnichollHays) or from MaxPreps
Budke, Beloit, 270
Harris, Inman, 242
Perine, Rossville, 209
Lujan, Belle Plaine, 207
Miller, Eureka, 205
Duncan, Smoky Valley, 196
Senecaut, Girard, 194
Davidson, Minneapolis, 190
Blanchat, Smoky Valley, 180
White, Baxter Springs, 177
Testrake, Olathe West, 177
Atkins, Hanover, 173
Stark, Osage City, 173
Schroeder, Wheatland-Grinnell, 172
Young, Pretty Prairie, 163
Holle, Hanover, 160
Hitting Percentage (Kills-Errors)/Attacks)
Thomasson, Riverton, .466
B. Stowell, Olathe West, .426
Stover, Neodesha, .423
Randall, Flinthills, .420
Simpson, Ellinwood, .409
Stein, Ingalls, .406
Testrake, Olathe West, .390
Barnett, Central Christian, .387
Romer, KMC, .386
Denison, Minneola, .382
Goodenow, St. Thomas Aquinas, .381
Singhateh, Eureka, .375
Young, Pretty Prairie, .373
Grimes, St. Thomas Aquinas, .373
Budke, Beloit, .372
J. Follis, Beloit, 482
Allen, Olathe West, 472
Hazelwood, Smoky Valley, 423
Woods, Inman, 385
Ko, Pleasant Ridge, 378
Gardner, Spring Hill, 369
Weller, Clay Center, 363
Delaney, Hiawatha, 357
Bergan, Baldwin, 353
Burkholder, Marion, 350
Wedman, Blue Valley West, 336
Peck, Minneapolis, 330
Yanez, Greeley County, 322
Webb, Salina South, 314
LeForte, Royal Valley, 308
Turnispeed, Ellsworth, 303
Myers, Russell, 303
Koontz, Newton, 304
Hett, Marion, 282
Atkins, Hanover, 249
Cisneros, Liberal, 249
Kremeier, Herington, 232
Fraser-Slothower, Maize, 232
Anderes, Salina South, 227
Wright, Clay Center, 208
Munson, Arkansas City, 199
K. Follis, Beloit, 198
Williams, Udall, 196
Troike, Girard, 196
Nordhus, Nemaha Central, 195
Kanaga, Mulvane, 194
Cline, Sylvan-Lucas, 184
Duncan, Smoky Valley, 184
Cisneros, Liberal, 54
Sutton, Marmaton Valley, 48
Alvarez, Kiowa County, 47
Wiles, BSJ-Tipton, 47
Hallman, Liberal, 42
Holling, Thunder Ridge, 41
Adams, Macksville, 41
Hett, Marion, 40
Sanders, Macksville, 40
Girty, Flinthills, 39
Wight, Flinthills, 38
Carrillo, Macksville, 37
Palser, Macksville, 36
Granere, Marmaton Valley, 36
Coughlin, Olpe, 82
Briggs, Quinter, 81
Countryman, Quinter, 65
Afonja, Baldwin, 63
Hawkinson, Elyria Christian, 52
Respress, Eisenhower, 52
Wurtz, Clifton-Clyde, 51
Gerety, Nemaha Central, 50
Pasquarelli, Erie, 49
Rucker, Eureka, 48
E. Stowell, Olathe West, 48
Holle, Hanover, 46
Sales, Olathe West, 46