Indiana Wesleyan wins NAIA national volleyball championship
December 6, 2023
October 17, 2023
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:
• It has begun.
State championship season is upon us. It started with a trickle last weekend, when the two smallest Oklahoma classes crowned champions; continues this week with the larger classes and all of Tennessee; and soon will turn into a torrent — at least a dozen states will determine champions the first week of November.
Before the month is up, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas and Maine will join Oklahoma and Tennessee in completing their fall campaigns.
So many teams have made winning titles in 2023 a primary goal. Will their hopes and aspirations be realized? Only a select few teams will be able to hang state championship banners when all is said and done.
• Let the official record reflect that Christian Heritage Academy and Community Christian are the first two state champions of this fall season.
CHA, of Del City, won the Oklahoma 3A title for the first time since winning four in a row from 2014-2017.
Community Christian, of Norman, won state for the third time in four seasons and fifth overall, but first as a 4A school.
Christian Heritage’s run to the title is particularly fascinating. The Crusaders were just 18-17 going into the playoffs before reeling off five straight wins to take the title. CHA, the fourth seed at state, took the championship by defeating top-seeded Southwest Covenant in a sweep. Southwest Covenant is coached by Heath Kufahl, who was the coach at Christian Heritage for its previous four titles. Kufahl’s daughter and two nieces played AGAINST him in the final. Reese Kufahl, his sophomore daughter who plays on the right for CHA, had 10 kills and two blocks in the match.
Hannah Joy Nuthman led the way in victory with 15 kills and 16 digs.
Christian Heritage rallied from a 22-21 deficit with four straight points to close Game 1; otherwise, the result might have been very different.
Christian Heritage is very young, with only one senior on the roster. Look for the Crusaders to contend again in 2024.
Community Christian (41-2) won 4A in four sets over Bethany. The Royals had a chance to sweep, but dropped the third set, 29-27, before winning going away in the fourth, 25-16.
The win capped a career that included three titles in four years for senior hitters Landry Braziel and Victoria Gray and setter Stella Gorton.
Braziel was a dominant player in this match. The UTEP recruit, arguably the best senior in Oklahoma regardless of school classification, had 19 kills in her last high school match. She finished the fall with 427 kills, the third straight season she has gone over 400 kills in a season.
Gray added 15 kills, including the clincher.
Bethany (33-7) finished second after not qualifying for the state tournament a year ago.
• There are eight teams still alive for the Oklahoma 5A and 6A titles. Bracket play runs Thursday through Saturday.
Both defending champions, Edmond Memorial (6A) and Mount St. Mary (5A) remain in contention, but both are in 6A this year. Mount St. Mary was elevated from 5A after winning consecutive titles at that level.
Mount St. Mary (37-3) is the third overall seed but might be the favorite despite two in-state losses to second-seeded Jenks. MSM is led by pins Ally Fees and Gia McGrew and setter Livia Ward and own a win this year over the top seed in 5A, Bishop McGuinness and two over 4A champion Community Christian.
Deer Creek, the top overall seed in 6A, has benefited greatly from the move-in of OH Emma Converse. The Buffalo recruit had more than 200 kills and 200 digs last year for Fossil Ridge in Colorado before moving one state to the east (the Oklahoma panhandle counts!).
McGuinness, last year’s 5A runner-up, is a heavy favorite to win this year. The Fighting Irish, who are led by libero Taylor Vann, setter Claire Kieri and OH Charlotte Nelson, have lost in-state only to Mount St. Mary’s and Community Christian.
• Five titles are up for grabs as Tennessee’s state tournament opens today in Murfreesboro. Play continues through Thursday.
Cleveland (AAA), Creek Wood (AA) Summertown (1A), Briarcrest Christian (Div. II –AA) and Battle Ground Academy (Div. II-A) won titles in 2022
Cleveland and Creek Wood are back, looking to add a second title to the first they captured a year ago. Cleveland is led by superstar junior hitter Lauren Hurst and senior setter Kinslee McGowan. Creek Wood is back to defend despite having only one senior on the roster and only one player taller than 5-9.
A young Briarcrest Christian team is chasing its fifth title over the past six years.
Both Summertown (22-18) and Battle Ground Academy (17-11) failed to qualify for Murfreesboro.
• California is a strange animal. Because the state is so large, it is divided into sections and those sections wield enormous power. This is one reason why, in some parts, section titles are considered as valuable or more so than the state title itself.
That is especially true in the massive Southern Section, which runs from Orange County to the Inland Empire north to Santa Barbara.
On Sunday, pairings were released for the NINE Southern Section tournaments, with particular focus on Div. 1, because that’s where four teams ranked among the nation’s top 25 will compete.
For the second year, the Southern Section will differentiate between Div. 1 and all other divisions. The other divisions will play in brackets – Redondo Union and JSerra are favorites in Div. 2; Beckman and Campbell Hall head up Div. 3, etc. Div. 1 takes the top eight teams in Divisions 1-2 at the start of the season and sorts them into two, four-team pools. The pool winners will play for the title.
Here are the pools:
National No. 1 Mater Dei
Matches take place Wednesday, next Tuesday and next Saturday. While Mater Dei and Mira Costa, which is No. 2 or No. 4 nationally depending on which ranking service you like best, are favorites to emerge to play for the title, all eight teams are good enough to win matches and make a bid for their pool. It should be very exciting!
• Benet Academy won the Glenbard East Autumnfest over the weekend. The Redwings defeated defending Illinois 4A champion MotherMcAuley, 25-22, 25-22, in the championship match. MB Lynney Tarnow and libero Aniya Warren were All-Tournament picks for Benet, with Warren picking up her third tournament MVP award of the season.
Benet, McAuley and Marist remain the clear top three teams in Illinois for the playoffs that start on Monday. Benet has lost just twice on the year. The Redwings have split with Marist and are 2-1 versus Glenbard West, the fourth best 4A team.
• The only regular-season undefeated team in Ohio’s Div. 2? Tippecanoe (not Tyler, too!), which swept Butler on the road last Wednesday to finish up 22-0 and win the Miami Valley League championship outright. Soph. OH Savannah Clawson led the way with 10 kills, 19 digs, six aces and 2.6 passing for the Red Devils.
Despite being the only undefeated team, Tippecanoe is ranked just No. 17 in the most recent Ohio Div. 2 rankings according to a survey of coaches. Bishop Hartley (16-6) has been ranked No. 1 all season long.
• Reigning Kansas 6A champion Washburn Rural won the Centennial League for the third straight year and recently celebrated some milestones:
OH Jada Ingram went over 1,000 career kills and Zoe Canfield, a four-year starter at setter, went over 2,500 career assists. That’s quite a feat since she recovered from ACL surgery during basketball season and come back in peak form in very short order.
Other milestones to celebrate:
— Middleburg (FL) OH Connor Rahn – 1,000 career kills
— Heritage (IL) setter Mary Roland – 2,000 career assists (previous school record had been 1,492)
— Oconee County (GA) setter Isabel Miller – 2,000 career assists (Miller also named Region 8AAA POY for the second straight year AND committed to Emmanuel College for both indoor and beach
— Savannah Arts Academy (GA) coach Lauren Lord – 200 career wins
— Crete (NE) junior OH Sierra Crist and senior setter Reagan Bessler – 1,000 career kills for Crist; 2,000 career assists for Bessler
• At Dots, we’re on the lookout for players who put up outrageous single-match stat lines. We are asking coaches on our list to let us know if any of their players achieved any of these benchmarks:
55 assists in a match
35 kills in a match
35 digs in a match
10 blocks in a match
15 aces in a match
We only have one new addition to the list this week. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a coach wanting to add someone.
55 assists or more in a match
58 – Reagan Bessler, 5-8 Sr. S, Crete (Nebraska) – Oct. 5 v. Columbus Lakeview
56– Sophie Mies, 5-8 Jr. S, Palo Alto (California) – Aug. 29 v. Mercy (Burlingame)
56 – Lindsay Hopkins, 5-10 Jr. S, Creekside (St. Johns, Florida) – Sept. 21 v. Christi’s Church Academy
35 or more kills in a match
48 – Kameron Stover, 5-9 Jr., Highland (Marengo, Ohio) – Aug. 26 v. Jonathan Alder
40 – Julia Hunt, 6-2 Sr. MB, Holy Cross (Covington, Kentucky) – Sept. 5 v. Scott
39 – Charlotte Vinson, 6-2 Jr. OH, Yorktown (Indiana) – Sept. 23 v. Noblesville
35 – Charlotte Vinson, 6-2 Jr. OH, Yorktown (Indiana) – Sept. 23 v. Carroll
35 or more digs in a match
48 – Sydney Little, 5-4 Sr. libero, Ridgeview (Orange Park, Florida) – Oct. 5 v. Trinity Christian
36 — Erin Dailey, 5-4 Sr. libero, Mandarin (Jacksonville, Florida) – Oct. 11 v. Atlantic Coast
• Finally, let’s take a quick look at the national season-long leaders based on stats input into MaxPreps.
Leading the nation in kills is 5-10 junior OH Aizlyn Dewberry from Wink in Texas. Dewberry has 717 kills for the 30-9 Wildcats, or 6.7 kills per set. The next best on her team has almost 500 fewer kills!
Topping the charts in aces is sophomore setter Samantha Donlucas of Lincoln HS of San Diego. She has 205, or 2.4 aces per set, for the 24-4 Hornets.
No. 1 in assists? Rice University recruit Savannah Skopal, who has 1,238 helpers (10.8 per set) for Rouse of Texas. Skopal also has 131 kills and 307 digs. It’s no wonder that she’s on the Texas Player of the Year Watch List, which you can find this week as a separate article right here on VolleyballMag.com!
The nation’s blocks leader is 5-11 junior Helen Guajardo of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. She has 240 for the 23-14 Shamrocks.
Finally, because this one’s always sketchy, as digs are notoriously over counted, La Porte of Texas’ junior libero Sophie Sandel is listed as having 1,006 digs THIS YEAR, an average of 11.6 digs per set. According to MaxPreps, her team, which is 18-18, has a collective total of 2,672 digs. Also according to MaxPreps, the team has a collective 268 service receptions…
Until next time …