By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
This week, SIK takes a look at the new KSHSAA classes, especially with undefeated teams Heritage Christian and Smith Center, along with big statistical difference for Hutchinson, nationally ranked squads and other top standouts. Plus, St. Thomas Aquinas had another D1 commit.
KSHSAA releases new classes highlights big changes in past week, especially for undefeated Heritage Christian Academy and Smith Center
On Thursday, the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association released its latest state rankings. Generally, at most one or two – and sometimes zero – squads finish a year undefeated. At basically the midpoint, most classes currently have at least one.
In Class 6A, nationally ranked Washburn Rural and big surprise Wichita Northwest are each perfect. In 3A, Eureka is 16-0 and has set to drop a set. In Class 2A, Olathe Heritage Christian Academy and Smith Center have been 1-2 respectively all year.
Last year, SC had zero seniors on varsity and took 2A state runner-up to Heritage Christian. SC is loaded with hitters Tallon Rentschler and Ashlyn Long, who have committed to Fort Hays and Hutchinson CC, respectively. Plus, SC has senior libero Maggie Peterson, key junior Maile Hrabe and a big sophomore class with standout setter Camryn Hutchinson, and Dakota Kattenberg and Gracie Kirchhoff.
Rentschler recently broke Smith Center’s all-time career kills mark.
HCA did graduate Katrina Davis, the state’s best statistical server, 2A Player of the Year and a Virginia Commonwealth signing but returned nearly everyone else. That includes standout hitters Rachel Van Gorp and Cy Rae Campbell, part of the U17 national development team.
HCA and Smith Center have been undefeated all year. Meade-Fowler has also been perfect in 2A and is ranked seventh. In Class 1A, Division I, Victoria remains perfect and vaulted from sixth to second in the rankings. Attica is undefeated in Class 1A, Division II.
HCA believed it could possibly move to 3A when the new classifications came out last week.
That proved the case. Heritage Christian bumped to 3A when the latest KSHSAA classes were released. They are the smallest 3A school. This is a major change and opens the door for Smith Center – which has never won a state volleyball title – as a prohibitive favorite.
Heritage Christian will now contend with a group that includes Smoky Valley, the defending state runner-up with 3A Player of the Year Abby Rose, Cheney, Hiawatha, Riverton, Nemaha Central, Eureka, Beloit, Thomas More Prep-Marian, Silver Lake and Goodland.
HCA is 19-0 and 40-3 in sets won. They have wins over much large schools De Soto, Ottawa, Paola, Wellsville and Topeka.
Smith Center captured the Hoisington tournament Saturday. SC is 18-0 and has won 36 of 39 sets.
Nickerson also moved down to 3A from 4A. Nickerson has been ranked No. 8 in 4A.
Nickerson volleyball finished 4-2 and took fifth at the Newton tournament. Overall, Nickerson is 18-7 with first-year coach Payton Scheer. Junior Ava Jones, an Arizona State basketball commit, paces with 127 kills and carries a .306 average. Senior Kieryn Ontjes has 85 kills. Jones leads with 28 blocks, one more than sophomore Kalyse Abernathy. Jones also paces with 152 digs, while sophomore Kadence Newman has 127, and Ontjes stands at 124.
At the Newton tournament, Ava Jones made first team all-tournament, and Josie McLean was second team all-tournament. McLean is one of Kansas’ top setters with 352 assists. The 5-foot-7 junior is now at 862 assists in the last two years.
Nickerson travels to Pratt on Tuesday for league games against Lyons and Pratt.
Jackson Heights bumped from 1A to 2A. JH is 11-2. Last year, the Cobras were 21-8, though couldn’t finish the year because of COVID-19. Two years ago, Jackson Heights was 37-4. This fall, Jackson Heights has three impressive hitters: junior Kanyon Olberding, 5-10 junior Kaylee Thompson, and senior middle Kenzie McMahon. Olberding was a state triple jump champion in the spring. The trio has between 78 and 95 kills. Olberding carries a .290 average.
St. Thomas Aquinas and Washburn Rural nationally ranked; Martin clears 1,000 career kills
St. Thomas Aquinas and Washburn Rural have been a top-25 national team. In the most recent USA Today rankings, Aquinas is ninth in the country. In Kansas, Aquinas is first in 5A, and Rural is first in 6A.
Aquinas is currently 17-1 and has won eight in a row. Last season, Aquinas went 29-2 and finished the year on a 21-match winning streak.
Aquinas recently defeated Nebraska powerhouse Skutt Catholic, and won the difficult Mo/Kan tournament with victories against Liberty North and Liberty, both Missouri powers. Overall, Aquinas finished 5-1 at the tournament, held at Lee’s Summit West.
Ava Martin, junior libero Reagan Anderson, sophomore Sophia Bond and sophomore Kelsey Schenck have been among the key players. Martin, a senior, has committed to Creighton University. Anderson has committed to Wichita State volleyball.
Martin has 205 kills (4.8 per set) with a .356 average. She recently went over 1,000 career kills and has 1,107.
Schenk has delivered 274 assists, and Bond has 227.
Anderson has 161 digs, good for 3.7 per set. In her career, she has 552 service-receptions and 421 digs.
This weekend, Aquinas, the defending 5A state champions, went 5-0 at the Olathe East Invitational. Last week, Betsy Goodenow committed to play volleyball at Yale. A junior, she has 100 kills and a .349 average.
At the collegiate level, Aquinas’ Caroline Bien was the 5A Player of the Year last year and signed with KU. Bien has already earned back-to-back Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors. On Sept. 21, Aquinas beat Blue Valley North in three sets (22-25, 25-11, 25-20).
As well, on Saturday, Aquinas defeated reigning 6A state champion Blue Valley West in a comeback win: 22-25, 25-17, 25-22. BVW is ranked fourth in 6A.
On Sept. 8, Aquinas defeated longtime rival St. James Academy in five sets after it lost the first two sets. SJA is second in 5A.
In the latest USA Today rankings, Rural is No. 11. Rural has 6-foot-2 junior Brooklyn DeLeye, who has committed to Kentucky, the defending Division I national champions. On Saturday, Rural went 4-0 at the Washburn Rural Invitational with two set wins against Gardner-Edgerton, Lawrence Free State, Kapaun Mt. Carmel and Blue Valley. Only one of the eight sets was closer than five months in a dominant performance.
Rural has played a highly challenging schedule and is 12-0. The Junior Blues have won 25 of a possible 27 sets. WR is second and third the last two years. Coach Kevin Bordewick has cleared 900 wins, won seven volleyball titles and was named the national volleyball coach of the year in January. WR has defeated Liberty North, St. James Academy and Bishop Miege, among others.
Hutchinson improves to 17-1 with impressive statistical defensive turnaround
Hutchinson is 17-1 and has won 35 of a possible 40 sets this season. The only loss is a three-set defeat to Derby on Sept. 18, though Hutchinson also beat Derby on Sept. 14. The Salthawks have won three in a row. Junior Maliyah Johnson leads with 141 kills, and junior Mya Thompson has 101 kills. Sophomore Rachel Tomac has 80 kills. Hutchinson has delivered 2.8 aces per set, including 27 from Johnson and 24 for Thompson.
Tomac has 34 blocks, and freshman Aliyah Green has 20.
Hutchinson has 16 digs per set. Senior Kaitlin Yoder has 119 digs, freshman Grace Posch has 116, and Johnson has delivered 105. Green and Posch have substantially played, and Posch is the starting libero as a freshman.
Yoder leads with 335 assists. The Salthawks are ranked eighth in Class 6A.
Hutchinson has several milestone wins, including a two-set victory versus Maize on Sept. 18. Hutchinson lost to Maize last season and was 6-23 in the last 29 series meetings. Plus, Hutchinson won in two sets versus Great Bend on Sept. 23 after back-to-back losses and three defeats in the last four meetings.
Keys came early against Maize South and McPherson on Aug. 29. The three-set victory against Maize South ended a seven-match losing streak in the series. Before the two-set win versus McPherson, Hutchinson had lost 11 of 12 in the series.
On Sept. 18, Hutchinson also beat Newton in two sets. Hutchinson was 2-27 in the previous 29 meetings in the series.
Hutchinson has won with defense, especially in many of the results that flipped from 2020.
Last year, Newton hit .236 and .452 against Hutchinson. This year, Hutchinson held Newton to a .145 average.
Maize hit .308 with a 42 percent kill rate in a win versus Hutchinson in ’20. This season, the Eagles had 21 percent and hit .016.
Great Bend hit .209 in 2020 and .091 this year versus Hutchinson.
Unranked West Elk rolling; ends long losing skid versus Flinthills
West Elk is 12-7 and has won eight in a row, including Saturday wins against Cherryvale and Uniontown. On Sept. 18, West Elk picked up a three-set win versus Class 3A Columbus. In the team’s latest statistical release, West Elk had plenty of offensive balance.
Junior 5-11 Katy Beeman had 83 kills, and senior Hannah Whetstone delivered 72, while junior Lakin Wiseman at 71. Overall, five players have at least 35 kills.
Four players have at least 100 digs, including 142 from junior setter Karly Kill. Senior defensive specialist Natatlie Harshman has delivered 111, and Wiseman has 131.
Whetstone, Harshman, Kill and senior defensive specialist Lydia Woods are the team captains. Kill is the lone setter with 270 digs.
The winning streak also includes a three-set win versus Flinthills on Sept. 21. That ended a stretch of 13 straight losses in the series that dated back to Oct. 9, 2010. West Elk won 25-20, 22-25, 25-22.
West Elk picked up a two-set victory versus Chetopa on Sept. 18. West Elk lost to Chetopa last year and was 1-3 in the last four meetings in the series.
Basehor-Linwood with nice turnaround
Basehor-Linwood went 4-1 for a third-place performance at the Louisburg tournament. The Bobcats finished 14-5 overall and have a sizable improvement over last year’s 8-19 record.
Junior outside hitter/defensive specialist Mila Seaton paces the offense with 138 kills in the team’s latest release. Senior Jordan Knipp has 72 kills. Senior Emma Horton has 63 kills.
Five players have between 66 and 96 digs: sophomore Harley Baker, Knipp, senior Audrey Spellman, junior Taylor Cruse and Seaton. Cruse leads with 345 assists. B-L had 74 percent of its kills from non-seniors last year.
Paola captures tournament
Paola, ranked ninth in 4A, won the West Franklin tournament with wins against Anderson County, Bishop Ward, Maranatha Christian Academy, Osage City, Osawatomie, Perry-Lecompton and West Franklin. Paola is 9-4.
The Panthers have six seniors listed on their roster: Mikayla White, Gracie Richmond, Emersyn Smith, Brooklyn Harmon, Mackenzie Kuehl, and Emma Bishop. Plus, Paola has five juniors: Maddie Pitzer, Kate Smith, Maggie Kauk, Grace Kinaman, and Ava Kehl.
Cheney wins tournament, continues success; Wewe clears career milestones
Cheney won the Red and Blue Classic final over Trinity Academy, 26-24, 25-13.
On Sept. 16, Cheney also picked up two big wins against Rose Hill (25-19, 25-19) and rival Garden Plain (25-17, 17-25, 25-22). Cheney is 17-1 and has won 14 in a row. The lone loss came in a two-set defeat to Nickerson on Sept 2. Coach Sara Walkup recently surpassed 400 career wins and is among the active state leaders in winning percentage. She reached 400 wins in less than 500 career matches.
Senior Olivia Albers has enjoyed a nice season with 92 kills and a .276 average. Junior Anna Martin has 69 kills with a .265 average. Cheney has its usual steady play with errors on just 12 percent of attempts.
Five-foot-10 senior Lacy Luehrs paces in blocks with 22, and senior Brooklyn Wewe is one of Kansas’ best setters, regardless of class. She has 222 assists, for 8.2 per set. She crossed the 100-ace and 500 dig milestone earlier this year. Overall, Wewe has 1,257 assists, 560 digs, 158 kills and 107 aces in her career.
Labette County and Augusta wins tournaments
Labette County captured the 31st annual Sharon Wadman Charger Classic volleyball tournament on Saturday. On Thursday, LC defeated Frontenac in straight sets. Labette is 13-2 overall and has won seven in a row. Senior Anna Dean has easily led her team with 111 kills and a .260 average. She and junior Shelbi Wilson are tied for the team lead with 25 blocks.
Augusta finished 5-0 and won the Douglass tournament Saturday. Augusta stands at 9-3 overall.
Eureka stays perfect in sets
Eureka is up to 18-0 and has captured all 36 sets it has played this fall. The Tornadoes have had historical breakthroughs in recent years, including boys’ wrestling, girls’ basketball and track. Eureka is sixth in 3A.
Volleyball has been a consistent winner the last several years with 27-9, 30-7, 21-12, 24-10 and 24-7 marks before the dominance this year. Last year’s team graduated three key seniors.
However, Eureka carries eight varsity players, all who contribute. The Tornadoes have five seniors: London Hilton, Mia Miller, libero Gracie Walden, 5-9 Abby Singahateh and 5-11 Brooklyn Ptacek. Plus, sophomore Ashley Singahateh and three juniors: Taylor Palmer, Cady Ptacek and Kennedy Mead are key players.
Miller leads with 118 kills and a .350 average. Ashley Singahateh has 64 kills with an incredible .602 efficiency. Brooklyn Ptacek has 60 blocks, and Walden easily paces with 171 digs. Hilton and Ashley Singahateh lead with 156 and 74 assists, respectively.
Other tournament winners
Kiowa County won their own tournament in the 12th annual Kiowa County Tournament in beating ranked Pratt Skyline during the day.
Andale picked up the Newton Invitational on Saturday.
Sedgwick High School with the Herington Tournament Championship. The Cardinals didn’t drop a set all day.
Wabaunsee volleyball wins the Olpe Tournament on Saturday, going 5-0 on the weekend.
Ellinwood had a solid weekend beating Lyons, Ellsworth in two sets then took Sterling to three sets to earn the #1 seed in bracket play. In the semifinals the Eagles knocked off ranked Little River and then defeated Sterling again in the championship. Ellinwood is 19-3 on the season and ranked #8 in 2A. After the weekend you should see them move way up in the rankings.
State Leaders, per MaxPreps unless otherwise noted (top-15)
Budke, Beloit, 279
Thomasson, Riverton, 257
White, Baxter Springs, 249
Harris, Atchison, 245
Martin, Aquinas, 205
Brown, Beloit, 199
Cullen, Girard, 197
Knobbe, Sylvan-Lucas, 183
Rains, Newton, 179
Rose, Smoky Valley, 178
Keebaugh, Ottawa, 176
Saunders, Hillsboro, 173
Yungeberg, Valley Heights, 172
Ronnebaum, Marysville, 171
Shanfelt, Wichita Classical, 171
Heinson, Kiowa County, .514
Thomasson, Riverton, .448
Harris, Atchison, .429
Rentschler, Smith Center, .416
Bruna, Hanover, .407
Ronnebaum, Marysville, .393
Madsen, Hiawatha, .390
Long, Smith Center, .386
Mackiewicz, SM Northwest, .384
Engel, SM Northwest, .374
Stover, Neodesha, .373
Lewis, Burlingame, .372
Holle, Hanover, .365
Mae Van De Werf, Lansing, .364
VanGorp, Heritage Christian Academy, .363
Creason, SM Northwest, 461
Rion, Baxter Springs, 427
Hazelwood, Smoky Valley, 424
Evans, Ottawa, 409
Horsch, Sterling, 403
Compton, Riverton, 402
Hazel, Heritage Christian Academy, 400
Unruh, Meade, 392
Suderman, Hillsboro, 376
Berlin, Clearwater, 375
Hottenstein, Humboldt, 360
Hamblin, Frontenac, 356
Young, Pretty Prairie, 348
Rader, Marysville, 346
Coughlin, Olpe, 87
Afonja, Baldwin, 83
Warren, Olathe West, 81
Gray, Sterling, 76
Hawkinson, Elyria Christian, 68
Tolle, Smoky Valley, 66
B. Ptacek, Eureka, 66
Schurle, Clay Center, 60
Mackiewicz, SM Northwest, 59
Hermreck, Olathe West, 58
Schutter, Wabaunsee, 56
Scheve, Olpe, 55
Alt, Herington, 54
Ab. Singahateh, Eureka, 53
Crook, Burlingame, 52
McMillian, Beloit, 294
Williams, Udall, 268
Koontz, Newton, 259
Hoffman, Udall, 258
Kieffer, SM Northwest, 254
Lane, Clay Center, 242
Foster, Derby, 241
Nitz, Atchison County, 237
Dean, Labette County, 231
Jones, Yates Center, 226
Wecker, Olpe, 223
Clemence, Abilene, 223
Rutschman, Herington, 221
Briar, Sterling, 211
Linden, Sterling, 209
Bruce, Atchison, 61
Thomasson, Riverton, 52
Harris, Atchison, 42
Garcia, Flinthills, 41
Hanna, Bishop Seabury, 41
Murrow, Humboldt, 41
Heglin, Syracuse, 40
Compton, Riverton, 39
Cook, Coffeyville, 39
White, Baxter Springs, 38
Giesel, Baxter Springs, 37
Berkhalter, Atchison, 37
Shaughnessy, Humboldt, 37
Dimitt, Ellinwood, 37
Martin, Meade, 37