**Player of the Year**
School Doherty (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Quick stat Two-time Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year racked up a state-best 589 kills.
School Winter Park (Fla.)
Quick stat The Florida Dairy Farmers 2013 Miss Volleyball notched 451 kills for Class 8A state-champion Winter Park.
School The Woodlands (Texas)
Quick stat Helped lead squad to a 45-0 mark and the Class 5A state title where she was named state-tournament MVP.
School Assumption (Louisville, Ky.)
Quick stat This two-time state-tournament MVP recorded 1,248 assists and 334 digs in helping Assumption win another state championship.
School Richmond-Burton (Richmond, Ill.)
Quick stat The Penn State recruit posted 603 kills en route to earning Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year accolades.
School Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Quick stat The 2013 Interscholastic League of Honolulu Player of the Year helped lead her team to the Division I state championship.
School Los Alamitos (Calif.)
Quick stat The Orange County Register Player of the Year registered 607 kills and hit .342 for CIF Division I runners-up.
School Menomonee Falls (Wis.)
Quick stat Lee finished with 660 kills and played a big role in Menomonee Falls winning the Division I state title.
School Eagan (Minn.)
Quick stat Posted 563 kills and hit .502 for Class AAA-champion Eagan.
School Granite Bay (Calif.)
Quick stat Nelson helped Granite Bay to a 45-0 mark and the CIF Division I state title.
School St. James (Lenexa, Kan.)
Quick stat The Kansas Class 5A Player of the Year helped lead St. James to a 46-0 record.
School Immaculate Heart Academy (Washington Township, N.J.)
Quick stat Reed, a Penn State recruit, finished with 510 kills for an IHA team that won its seventh Non-Public Group state title in a row.
6'2" | Opp. | Sr. | La Costa Canyon (Calif.)
5'11" | Opp. | Sr. | Mt. Notre Dame (Cincinnati, Ohio)
5'6" | S | Sr. | Bayside Academy (Daphne, Ala.)
6'4" | MB | So. | St. James (Lenexa, Kan.)
6'1" | OH | Sr. | New Castle (Ind.)
5'11" | OH | Sr. | Lakeville North (Lakeville, Minn.)
6'2" | OH | So. | Xavier (Phoenix, Ariz.)
5'7" | L | Sr. | Carroll (Southlake, Texas)
6'0" | Opp. | Sr. | Reagan (San Antonio, Texas)
6'2" | OH | Sr. | Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma, Wash.)
6'0" | S | Sr. | New Trier (Winnetka, Ill.)
5'3" | L | Sr. | The Woodlands (Texas)
Stephanie Aiple 6'1" | S | Sr. | Round Rock (Texas)
Olivia Boender 6'2" | OH | Sr. | Waverly (Neb.)
Reily Buechler 6'1" | OH | Sr. | Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.)
Sidney Brown 5'10" | OH | Sr. | Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
Claudia Coco 5'4" | L | Sr. | Chattahoochee (Johns Creek, Ga.)
Courtney Crable 6'0" | OH | Sr. | Mercy Academy (Louisville, Ky.)
Danielle Cuttino 6'4" | MB | Sr. | Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Maggie DeJong 6'0" | MB | Sr. | Roosevelt (Sioux City, S.D.)
Lydia Dimke 6'2" | S/Opp. | Sr. | Blaine (Minn.)
Kali Eaken 5'9" | S | Sr. | Bishop Miege (Roeland Park, Kan.)
Mikaela Foecke 6'3" | MB | Sr. | Holy Trinity (Fort Madison, Iowa)
Maddie Haggerty 6'2" | OH | Sr. | St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.)
Marion Hazelwood 6'3" | MB | Sr. | Barbers Hill (Mont Belvieu, Texas)
Lily Johnson 5'11" | OH | Sr. | Lafayette (Wildwood, Mo.)
Beth Nordhorn 6'6" | MB | Sr. | Winter Park (Fla.)
Danielle Rampart 5'10" | OH/S | Sr. | Westosha Central (Salem, Wis.)
Macy Reece 6'3" | MB | Sr. | Goodpasture Christian (Madison, Tenn.)
Luisa Schirmer 6'2" | OH | Sr. | Pittsford Sutherland (Pittsford, N.Y.)
Gabby Simpson 6'4" | S | Sr. | Doherty (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Ashten Gooden-Smith 6'2" | OH | Sr. | Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)
Carli Snyder 6'1" | OH | Sr. | Dakota (Macomb, Mich.)
Haley Templeton 6'1" | S | Sr. | Chattahoochee (Johns Creek, Ga.)
Sydney Townsend 5'8" | OH | Sr. | Pius X (Lincoln, Neb.)
Bryanna Weiskircher 6'1" | S | Sr. | Boylan Catholic (Rockford, Ill.)
Player of the Year:
Taking It to the Next Level
Doherty High School’s Haleigh Washington is a proven game changer
Doherty High School senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington can flat-out dominate a game. But it wasn’t the physical aspect of volleyball that propelled Washington to new heights this season.
“Anybody can work to be stronger and faster, but you have to be mentally prepared,” she said. “This year I definitely improved my mental game in terms of how I prepared for games and how to be a good leader in more diverse situations. The mental side is important in any sport. Knowing your opponent and knowing your team takes a lot more work and is a lot harder to accomplish.”
Combine this Colorado Springs, Colo., player’s outstanding physical skills and her improved mental game, and you have a memorable 2013 season – one where she led the state by a wide margin in total kills (589) and set a state record for single-match kills with 48. Washington’s efforts this season have resulted in her being named the 2013 Volleyball Girls’ High School Player of the Year.
“Haleigh is definitely a game changer,” Doherty coach Tara Hittle said. “She is incredibly tough to stop. It doesn’t matter where the block is; she goes over it anyway. She can hit whenever she wants and almost wherever she wants. The angles she hits at are almost straight down. She’s very hard to defend against.”
The 6'4" Washington, a member of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team, can touch 10'9" with a one-foot slide approach and would like to touch 11'0" before her career is over. She’s able to dunk a basketball, but isn’t a fan of how it hurts her hand. That athletic ability has led to many headaches for opposing teams.
“At the high school level, people knew I was probably getting the ball, which means you can’t run the same set over and over,” said Washington, who helped lead Doherty to a berth in the Colorado Class 5A state tournament this year and helped the team win the 5A state title in 2012. “This year I worked on changing it up. For most of my career the ball was set [to me] and I hit it hard. This year I worked on being two steps ahead, being faster, and changing things up with my shots.”
Washington’s athletic prowess, though, isn’t the only piece in her success story. She’s an equally exemplary leader and role model.
“She’s extremely humble,” Hittle said. “She’s so genuine and down to earth. She makes everybody feel like they know her.”
Doherty junior defensive specialist Kassie Sherman noted that even though Washington put up monster numbers, Washington’s main concern was about the well-being of the team.
“Haleigh has a great sense of team,” Sherman said. “She’s always encouraging other people to be the best. She’s a person who wears her heart on her sleeve.”
Hittle is impressed by Washington’s constant thirst for improvement.
“She knows she’s good, but she knows she can be better and she strives to keep getting better,” said Hittle. “She’s always in the gym getting reps.”
Sherman added, “She works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Washington, who took up the sport in seventh grade after investigating playing football, has been hard at work on her blocking.
“I know I have to improve my blocking,” she said. “I know at the club and collegiate level I have to be fast, stay balanced, and adjust to any kind of set. My blocking has only gotten a little stronger, but that’s OK. It gives me something to strive for.”
Hittle said that elite work ethic will come in handy next season at Penn State where Washington will continue her career.
“I definitely think she can play well at the next level with that willingness to work,” Hittle said. “Haleigh is going to get to play against a lot of great athletes and will do a good job there. Haleigh is a great player and an even greater kid.”
Team of the Year:
All for One
And one for all, at St. James Academy
In team sports, talent only takes you so far. St. James Academy girls’ coach Nancy Dorsey knows what put her Lenexa, Kan., team over the top this season.
“We had a very talented team, but everybody got along so well,” she said. “Everybody was good friends, and they all enjoyed each other’s company. They would always say they didn’t want the season to end because of this bond they formed. This is a group that would have been happy regardless. They enjoyed each other so much on a daily basis.”
And along the way, St. James did a lot of winning. The Thunder finished a perfect 46-0 season and did not lose a set until the second set of the Class 5A state-title match against rival St. Thomas Aquinas. St. James’ storybook season has earned it the honor of being named the 2013 Volleyball Girls’ High School Team of the Year.
With the state title win this year, St. James claimed its sixth in a row. The team has accrued a 215-10 mark over the last five years.
“Team chemistry is very important,” said St. James sophomore 6'4" middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris. “When you are facing difficulty or playing in a challenging match, you have to be able to count on the people around you. We were able to count on each other. We got along so well on and off the court. We were able to help each other get better.”
Fitzmorris was one of a host of talented performers on the Thunder roster. She finished with 392 kills and hit .592. Senior outside Arianna Person had 376 kills and hit .448 while senior outside Brianna Lewis had 323 kills. Senior Audrey Wenski finished with 145 kills and senior right side Bristol Lewis had 119 kills. That group gave sophomore setter Jenna Gray plenty of options at the net.
“They all made my job a lot easier,” Gray said. “I basically could set anyone and trust that they would put the ball down.”
Dorsey noted that while the team excelled offensively, it also was exceptional on the defensive end.
“Our serve receive was very solid and almost always spot-on, and we were an excellent side-out team,” she said. “We were keeping teams to 6 percent with siding out. That number is kind of silly. We were siding out a lot of first balls, which is a huge advantage in volleyball.”
Person, who has played on the varsity team since her freshman year and now has four state titles to her credit (those four teams went a combined 176-6), said the team’s undefeated season is still hard to fathom.
“The thought of going undefeated in a season is crazy,” she said. “And to lose only one set – that’s unheard of. We had a lot of weight on our shoulders this year, but we trusted each other and worked hard to get to where we needed to be. We had good players and our personalities clicked so well.”
Dorsey, who has been the team’s coach since the school opened in 2005 and who played collegiately at Kansas, said the loss of the undefeated-sets record in the state-championship match provided a key teaching moment. Frequent foe Aquinas and St. James were tied at a set apiece, but Dorsey knew what to do. She encouraged players to stay focused and draw from their experience.
“Of all the times to lose it…There were some side speeches to the seniors, ‘You are not going to let this happen,’” she said. “This was not their first rodeo. They had been in these situations before and I had complete faith that they were going to go take care of things. It was like a light switch went on in that third set. It was all over then. The thing you have to remember is we got everybody’s 150 percent game this season. Every time we walked out on the court we had a target on our back. I’m so proud of how the girls handled it.”
Coach of the Year:
Building a Powerhouse
Leslie Madison serves as coach and role model to her solid squad of players
When Leslie Madison took over as head girls’ coach at The Woodlands High School in 2004, the Texas team hadn’t made the playoffs since 1998. These days, The Woodlands is a fixture in postseason Texas high school volleyball.
This year proved to be no exception. The Highlanders reached the top of the Texas volleyball mountain this season and did so in grand fashion. The Woodlands won the Class 5A state title with a perfect 45-0 record, becoming the 18th undefeated state-championship team since 1967.
“We went 36-3 last year and lost in the regionals, but returned nine players from that team,” said Madison, a former setter at Southern Methodist University.
But this wasn’t any old team with any old nine players returning. The Woodlands featured seven Division I recruits, including seniors Courtney Eckenrode (San Diego State), Kelly Quinn (LSU), Morgan Eason (Texas St.), Madison McDaniel (Arizona St.), and Maddie White (Louisiana-Lafayette). Junior Rachel Reed is headed to USC, and classmate Julia Pasch will also play for Louisiana-Lafayette. Eckenrode was named the state-tournament MVP.
“After the first couple practices when the varsity scrimmaged 6-on-6, I told the other coaches that I thought we could be pretty good this year,” said Madison, the 2013 Volleyball Girls’ High School Coach of the Year. “We had good players at key positions, and we had good team chemistry.”
It also didn’t hurt that The Woodlands had a coach who has built the program into a powerhouse. The team has qualified for the playoffs in each of Madison’s 10 seasons there and has won seven district titles, taking second in the state in 2010.
“She’s a coach on the court and off the court,” Eckenrode said. “She makes such a big impact on our lives. She’s an amazing role model. She played the game at a high level. She gets everything that goes on beyond volleyball. She understands what we go through as players. She evaluates the team well and knows how to coach to each player.”
Quinn labels Madison as a player’s coach.
“She knows how to get the best out of each player,” Quinn said. “She knows who needs more encouraging and who doesn’t and who can accept being yelled at. She knows her players well. She’s involved in our lives. We like playing for someone who cares about us and knows what she’s talking about.”
Quinn was appreciative of how Madison helped the team keep its dream season in perspective as the winning streak continued to grow larger.
“She kept telling us we were expected to win, but we should play every game prepared to win and not scared to lose,” she said. “That took a lot of pressure off us. She kept us focused and involved and brought us all together. She played a big role in what we did.”
Madison, who earned her 300th career win earlier in the season, tried to downplay her significance in this season’s success.
“I got the right six on the court and put them in the right spot,” she said with a laugh. “I tried to keep them calm. Going undefeated is tough. Everyone wanted to beat us. I told them they were the better team and to play like it. The big thing was working with them to fine-tune their games and focus on chemistry and working together on the court.”
Madison, who noted the entire program (varsity, JV, freshmen) had a combined 118-0 record this season, agreed her playing experience at various levels has come in handy over the years.
“I’ve played the sport most of my life,” she said. “Volleyball is a big part of these girls’ lives, and it’s important to have a good role model. I genuinely care for them and want to have a good, positive relationship with them and be a great role model. This was a great group to work with. It was a magical season.”
Originally published in February 2014