This is “Dots,” VolleyballMag.com’s weekly look at 10 things in high school volleyball, past or present, that interest me and hopefully will interest you. Look for Dots every Tuesday until the last high school state championship in November:
• Volleypalooza, the 68-team behemoth in Texas near Austin, featured most of the best of the Lone Star State as well as California powers Cathedral Catholic and Mater Dei. The top four teams still standing on Saturday afternoon were the top four seeds to open the three-day tournament.
Boy did they put on a show!
Top-seeded Prestonwood Christian Academy, featuring OHs Cari Spears and Jadyn Livings, edged Grand Oaks, the top large public school in Texas, in three sets to make the final.
On the other side of the bracket, Mater Dei, the 2021 champion, ended 2022 national champion Cathedral Catholic’s 50-match winning streak, 28-26, 25-23.
Grand Oaks, which features standouts Jaela Auguste and Samara Coleman, then knocked off Jenna Hanes and Cathedral Catholic, 25-23 in the third, to claim third place overall.
That left Prestonwood to battle undefeated Mater Dei for the title.
Coach Dan O’Dell said that Mater Dei played its best match of the tournament in the final, winning 25-21, 25-18.
The Monarchs passed a 2.61 for the match, led by libero Malyssa Cawa, who was unreal in serve-receive (2.75) and had 16 digs. Pins Layli Ostovar, Isabel Clark and Cymarah Gordon combined for 24 kills, most on sweet sets from Julia Kakkis, in the win.
“Our ability to side out consistently got us early leads and made Prestonwood have to play from behind,” O’Dell said. “They made some uncharacteristic mistakes as a result. I was really proud of the team; we mixed and matched lineups a lot to overcome several injuries and whoever was on the court truly stepped up each time. It was just a great experience and weekend for us.”
• The win improved Mater Dei’s record to 12-0 on the year heading into today’s showdown versus Mira Costa, the current No. 1 team in California.
“We’ve kind of had this season circled for a while since we were starting four sophomores two years ago the season we lost to Marymount in the CIF Finals,” O’Dell explained. “I know the talent is there to be great this year. With five D1 commits, plus a star sophomore in Layli Ostovar, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to come together and maximize the pieces to the best of our abilities.”
• The state of Illinois, especially in the greater Chicago area, is teeming with talent this year. The top three teams at the beginning of the season, according to Illprepvb.com, were defending 4A champion Mother McAuley, Benet Academy and Marist, in that order.
That order may have to change after the weekend.
Mother McAuley, the “Mighty Macs,” are doing their part at 7-0 behind hitter Ellie White, middle Ellery Rees and libero Samantha Falk, but the next two spots might need reversing.
Marist (6-0) won the 32-team Crimson Classic this weekend, defeating Oak Park-River Forest, pre-season No. 5, for the title.
Junior OH Bella Bullington was named MVP of the tournament. In bracket play on Saturday, she totaled 42 kills, 35 digs, 10 blocks and six aces. Impressive!
Teammates Elayna Davidson, a sophomore libero; and senior RS Jessica Kurpeikis joined Bullington on the All-Tournament team.
Meanwhile, at the Wheaton North Tournament, Benet (4-1) fell to No. 8 Glenbard West, 14-25, 25-15, 25-17, in the championship match. Penelope Vilkama and Marin Johnson were named to the All-Tournament team for West.
• Shout out to the US U21 Women’s National Team for going 4-4 and placing sixth at the FIVB U21 World Championships in Mexico this past week. The team consisted entirely of 16- and 17-year-old athletes, as college players had already started their seasons. Five of the team members were on the U19 team that won gold at the U19 World Championships two weeks before.
Here was the full U21 roster, by position:
S: Izzy Starck, 6-1 senior
S: Campbel Flynn, 6-3 junior
OH: Kaci DeMaria, 6-4 junior
OH: Kelly Kinney, 6-2 junior
OH: Skylar Pierce, 6-2 senior
OH: Abby Vander Wal, 6-3 junior
OH: Emerson Sellman, 6-4 senior
MB: Taylor Harvey, 6-3 junior
MB: Lizzy Andrew, 6-5 senior
MB: Alec Rothe, 6-3 senior
RS: Abigail Mullen, 6-3 junior
Libero: Ava Falduto, 5-7 senior
• For kicks, let’s see how these players’ high school have started their seasons without their National Team standouts.
Viera (FL), a school we wrote about last week, remains 0-1 in Starck’s absence.
Flynn’s school, Mercy (MI), is 7-3-1.
DeMaria is not playing for Palos Verdes (CA) this season, but the Sea Kings have moved into the state top 25 and are 5-2 on the year.
King’s Academy (FL) is 3-1 without Kinney.
Olathe Northwest (KS) lost its opener to always-tough St. Thomas Aquinas on Saturday without Pierce.
Timothy Christian (IL) has started 3-1 without Vander Wal.
Sellman’s school, The Academy of the Holy Cross (MD), does not start its season until September.
Bountiful (UT) is 0-2 without Harvey in the lin eup.
Ridgefield (WA), Andrews’ school, known as the “Spudders,” doesn’t start until next Tuesday
Rothe who? Dublin Scioto (OH) has started 5-0 without its superstar, who is rated the No. 1 player in all of Ohio.
Liberty (MO), Mullen’s school, has yet to play.
Finally, Falduto’s school, IC Catholic Prep (IL), is 1-1 to begin the school year.
• Being reminded that Ridgefield HS is the Spudders has gotten me thinking about other fun or edgy high school nicknames I’ve come across during my 24 years covering high school volleyball nationwide.
The first that comes to mind is the “Dirty Dozen” of Alabama’s McGill-Toolen. They have won 15 state titles in their history. I used to know why they’re the Dirty Dozen when the official school nickname is “Yellowjackets,” but it’s one fact that seems to be lost to time. Perhaps I need Prevagen…
Others I find amusing include the Effingham (IL) Flaming Hearts, the Golden Goblins of Harrison (AR), the Camas (WA) Papermakers, the Freeburg (IL) Midgets, the Hesston (KS) Swathers (what’s a Swather?), the New Braunfels (TX) Unicorns, the Speedway (IN) Sparkplugs, the Teutopolis (IL) Wooden Shoes and the Frankfort (IN) Hot Dogs.
There are many more, of course. What are some of your favorites?
• On Saturday, Kameron Stover, a 5-9 junior OH from Highland High in Ohio, slammed home 48 kills in a five-set win over Jonathan Alder. Not only did this set a new school record for the Fighting Scots, it tied the second highest total in a match in Ohio history and tied for seventh all-time nationally according to the NFHS record book.
The top single match kill total ever was 61, set by former U.S. Women’s National Team member Katie Wilkins back in 1999 while playing high school ball in San Diego.
• Defending North Carolina 4A champion Millbrook lost for the first time in 2023 on Thursday. The Wildcats fell, on the road, in four sets to Middle Creek, the state’s second-ranked team. Middle Creek won thanks to 34 kills, nine digs and four blocks from 6-3 senior OH Sally Perez, a UCLA beach volleyball recruit.
• A plethora of California high school tournaments happened over the weekend.
Oaks Christian won its own event behind MVP libero Hannah Brady.
Senior OH Taylor Boyce is averaging 5.5 kills per set so far for Windsor, which won the Marin Academy Tournament.
Archbishop Mitty roared unbeaten through Milpitas Spikefest I behind the trio of Maya Baker, Katelyn Cook and Makenna Crosson.
Branson, the defending California Div. I champions, stayed unbeaten by taking the top division at the Stockton Pre-season Classic.
James Logan captured the Hillsdale Lady Knights Varsity Challenge. Sophomore OH McKenzie Anderson had a huge effort for the Colts.
A balanced attack featuring Kalani Soares, Sarah Hook and Lyric Garcia propelled Clovis West to the title at the Clovis Volleyball Challenge.
Chaparral stayed unbeaten by dominating the IE Classic behind Mauriana Rayford and Madison Johnson.
• The latest Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association poll, out today, has Assumption (5-0) No. 1, followed in order by Louisville Sacred Heart, Dunbar and Notre Dame Academy.
Now, I can see not ranking the defending state champion Notre Dame No. 1 in the pre-season given the graduation of superstars Sydney Nolan and Kamren Schrand, but the Pandas are off to a 6-0 start, including a 3-2 win over Sacred Heart last Thursday at Sacred Heart. A move to No. 2 behind Assumption, or even No. 1, would seem more appropriate.
• It’s the start of the 2023 season, which makes it appropriate to remind everyone that Alabama’s Bayside Academy is on a current run of TWENTY-ONE consecutive state titles. Yes, the Admirals started out by dominating at the lower levels, but success has pushed this team higher and higher. Bayside won in 6A last fall, one classification from the highest in the state.
Bayside, which is young this year, with only four seniors on the roster, has started 2023 with an 8-1 record. Its lone loss came on Saturday to undefeated 7A school Bob Jones at a tournament. The Admirals get a shot at revenge when they meet again this Friday in a best-of-five contest.
Until next time …