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Tawa’s HS Volleyball Dots: Rock star teams, players and … a rock star coach

Kristen Pontes-Christian gets posterized for Pitman in what she thought was her last match as coach. Nope!

This is “Dots,”’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:

• Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Utah (in the smaller classifications) and Maine.

Those were the states scheduled to finish their fall seasons last week.

The mass shooting in Maine caused the Maine Principal’s Association to push back their finals for a few days.

The Class C final was staged yesterday, with Narraguagus, led by superstar senior Autumn Peterson, defeating Calais for the third time this season to win its first title. The Knights (16-1) were state runners up a year ago.

The Class A and B finals will be played today, with top-seeded Gorham taking on No. 3 Scarborough in Class A and No. 1 Washington Academy and No. 2 Yarmouth battling in Class B. Washington Academy won the Class C title in 2022. Yarmouth is the four-time defending Class B champions.

Fayetteville embraces the unexpected 6A title in Arkansas

• In Arkansas, the story, as it had been the prior three years, was Fayetteville, though for a different reason in 2023.

For three years, the Bulldogs had been loaded with talent. Winning state in Class 6A came easily. But Jessica Phelan’s team graduated 14 off of last year’s roster, including her daughter, Kenna, who has 458 assists for Florida State this fall. There were serious questions whether this team would even have a winning season, let alone contend for another title.

This Fayetteville team, however, was interested in leaving its own legacy. Facing Conway in the finals, the Bulldogs (25-8) were pushed to a fifth set, and then into extra points in that fifth set, before prevailing, 16-14, on kills from Regan Harp and Isabella Street.

Harp, the lone returning starter off of last year’s championship team, was named MVP after registering 29 kills. Quincy Schaffer contributed 45 assists and 16 digs.

“I could not be prouder of how these kids leaned into the legacy of Fayetteville Volleyball,” said Coach Phelan. “We graduated 14 seniors last season but, for this team, it was not just about who we lost, but who we are. They were a great team; played with total trust and passion, winning 16-14 in the fifth to secure the fourth title in a row. It was sweet to see them never stop believing in what they could accomplish together.”

Conway (31-5), seeking its first title in five years, was paced by 19 Kim Quinit digs and 14 kills from Emily Zimmerman.


Benton trailed Greenwood two sets to one in the 5A final before rallying to repeat as champions. Isabella Lagemann, who was named state tournament MVP, had the kill that put the Panthers (30-5) on top to stay, 11-10, in Game 5. She finished with 18 kills, 20 assists, 19 digs and three blocks. Parker Stearns and Khenedi Guest added 25 kills and 10 blocks, combined, while Drew Hudspeth contributed 32 assists.

Myia McCoy had 18 kills and 18 digs to lead Greenwood (23-11), which was playing its best ball late in the season.


Brookland won Class 4A for the second straight year, sweeping Shiloh Christian between a combined 25 kills from Evan Polsgrove and Maddie SmithRylee Walker was named tournament MVP after amassing 28 digs and three aces in the championship match for the senior-laden Bearcats, who finished the year 37-4-1.

Sophomore Chloe Blessing had 14 kills and 18 digs for Shiloh Christian (29-7).


Baptist Prep won two deuce sets in its sweep of Hackett in Class 3A. The Eagles (37-2-1) won state for the second consecutive year. Abby Renshaw was named MVP after contributing 26 kills and six digs to the winning side.

Mackenzie Freeman led Hackett (38-2-2) with 21 kills and 10 digs. Hackett, which lost in the finals for the third straight year, scored only 10 fewer points than the victors.


Mansfield (34-2) won its fourth straight 2A crown, 25-23, 26-24, 25-12, over Conway Christian. The win avenged a regular-season loss to the Eagles, who came into the championship match with a perfect 25-0 record.

The Tigers, who have won all four of their titles in sweeps, trailed in every set Saturday before rallying. MVP Allyson Edwards had 10 kills in the first set and finished with 20 kills along with nine digs. Kaylee Ward added 14 kills, five digs and three blocks.

Emerson Rice led Conway Christian with 14 kills.

• While Arkansas had repeat winners in every classification, it was a very different story in Kansas, which saw several teams break through to win titles over traditional powers.

In 6A, Mill Valley won its first title, defeating top-seeded Blue Valley North, 25-23, 25-19 (yes, they play best of three in the state championships). Kaitlyn Burke (eight kills, four digs, two blocks) and Saida Jacobs (five kills and five blocks) led the way. Both made the All-Tournament team along with junior middle Ashlyn Blazer.


In 5A, St. Thomas Aquinas was favored to repeat as champions and claim its fourth title in five years, but the Saints fell short to first-time champion Seaman, 25-19, 25-22. Junior MB Reagan McGivern was a force in the win for the Vikings (38-6). Senior middle Brooklyn Gormley and junior OH Maegan Mills also made the All-Tournament team for the victors.


Bishop Miege dominated McPherson, 25-12, 25-14, in 4A. The Stags (23-18) came to state as the last seed and went 2-1 in pool play on Friday, but they were at their best on day later and won their second straight championship and third over the past four seasons.

Senior libero Gabby Williams was a catalyst, both in the back row and from the service line. Miege also got nice work from juniors Triniti Stevens, Kriston Verhulst and Lauren Lopez as well as senior setter Ava Martin.

McPherson, which was led by sophomore OH/MB Brooke Doile, will return all but one starter.


Heritage Christian won its fourth title, and third in a row in 3A, defeating Smoky Valley in the championship match. The four-peat was not without adversity, however, as the Chargers dropped a pool play match to Beloit, their first state tournament loss after 25 consecutive wins dating to 2016.

Senior OH Rachel Van Gorp, an Iowa State recruit; led the way for the champions, which also got strong work from senior setter Anna Schenk, senior OH Grace Schmedding and senior middle Cy Rae Campbell.


Hillsboro repeated as champions in 2A, sweeping Hoxie in the final, just as it had in four previous state-tournament matches. Seniors Savannah Shahan, Zaylee Werth and Anslee Brewer led the way. Freshman libero Amayah Werth also shined in the win.


Little River also repeated as champions in Class 1A – Div. I. Led by its five seniors, Alain Eck, Aubrey Olander, Ashley Stephenson, Kami Grasser and Kathleen Elwood, Little River (42-2) suffered a Game 2 hiccup to South Gray before recovering to win the deciding set in convincing fashion, 25-7.


Lebo avenged a pool play loss to Hanover by defeating the Wildcats in straight sets one day later to claim a second consecutive Class 1A Div. II title. Saige Hadley had the title-clinching kill for Lebo, which also put junior setter Abi Jones and senior hitter Audrey Peek on the All-Tournament team.

Hanover, which won state in 2020 and 2021, has now lost two straight years in the finals.

• The state of Idaho had some familiar names repeat as champions.

In 5A, Madison, in its first year with Whitney Howard as head coach, repeated as state champions by defeating Eagle twice in two days in the double elimination format. Eagle won the first set of the championship final and led 22-19 in the second before Madison rallied.


Skyview senior middles Emylie Gwyn and Josie Uhlenhoff were significant threats, sophomore OH Bellamie Buess was her usual potent self and libero Melissa Eyer and Alex Bower took care of the first two contacts as the Hawks swept to their fourth straight title, winning 4A over Bonneville.

Skyview was undefeated in Idaho this season.


Fruitland won its first title since 2014, sweeping Snake River in 3A for its third title in program history. The Grizzlies needed to rally from down two sets to one in the semifinal versus Kimberly to make the final, then won two close sets versus Snake River before pulling away for the sweep.


Melba is the toast of 2A again after defeating Malad for its second title in a row. Tariah Carter had 23 kills and freshman Joelle Kelly added 13 for the Mustangs, who graduated seven from last year’s championship team.


Horseshoe Bend is the 1A -Div. II champion for the third straight year after the Mustangs (28-1) swept Council behind 20 kills and 20 digs from senior Annelie Wilson.


Troy won 1A-Div. I for the third year in a row. The Trojans edged Grace in five sets thanks to nice work from setter Olivia Tyler, OH Dericka Morgan and RS Tessa Stoner.

• The smallest four classifications in Utah concluded their seasons last week.

Orem won 4A in a sweep over Green Canyon, ending a 42-run without a championship. The Tigers served 13 aces in the championship match, led by four from libero Scarlett Page, who also anchored the defense. Orem won the first two sets easily, but needed a big Game 3 from senior Sami Blackett (seven kills, two aces and a block) to put Green Canyon away.

42 years between state titles for Orem

“We knew that in order to win the match against Green Canyon in the finals, we had to be aggressive from the service line,” said coach Bill Sefita. “Our hitters also had to be creative in scoring points and that was a game changer.”


Emery won its first title in 27 years by downing perennial contender Morgan in five sets in 3A. Abby Morris led the way for the champions with 23 kills, including the title clincher with the score 14-12 in the last set.


Parowan completed an undefeated season with a second straight 2A title. The Rams defeated Kanab in four sets, the fourth time defeating the Cowboys in as many tries this year, in what was a repeat of last year’s championship final. Junior Paige Felder had 22 kills and four aces for the victors (29-0).


Panguitch dominated familiar foe Rich to win the 1A title, avenging a loss in the finals a year ago. The Bobcats won their first title since 2019 by relying on a deep roster and tough serving from Tabetha Henrie.

• In Illinois, four schools, Lemont, Altamont, Belleville East and St. Teresa, were all denied the chance to compete for state titles by being disqualified from regional play by the Illinois High School Association because they played more than the 35-match limit.

Lemont’s exclusion caused the most uproar because the team was poised to make a deep run after going 27-9 during the regular season, including 13-0 without a dropped set in the South Suburban Conference.

“The season limitation by-law exists in every IHSA sport in order to provide competitive equity among the schools as they enter into competition in the IHSA State Series,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a prepared statement. “As unfortunate as the result may be, these teams received a competitive advantage that no other team in the tournament received, and there is over 40 years of precedence dictating that violating this rule excludes a team from State Series participation. Neither myself, the IHSA staff, nor the IHSA Board of Directors derive any joy in delivering this decision, but we are tasked with upholding the rules our member schools put into place.”

• In Missouri, Houston High was initially forced to forfeit a district final win over Licking due to using three ineligible players, the Missouri State High School Activities Association ruled.

Those players participated in the Salem Memorial Hospital Mammography Volley for a Cure coed tournament on October 21, violating an MSHSAA rule forbidding players to participate in an organized non-school competition involving the same sport during the same season.

A judge ruled that the MSHSAA went too far in mandating a forfeit and the state association subsequently rescinded the forfeit. Houston lost its next match to Stover.

• Courtney Kvitle, who was “Courtney Thomas” when she played for Wisconsin between 2011 and 2014, was subjected to harassment by two parents of players following Quincy Notre Dame’s playoff loss to Macomb in a regional final on Thursday.

The parents claimed that Kvitle, who has coached the Raiders for six seasons, quit on her team. They entered the locker room after the match to tell her so and continued berating Kvitle outside the locker room afterwards.

“I felt threatened, and I felt violated,” Kvitle told local media. “I felt I wasn’t protected as a coach.”

Quincy Notre Dame finished the season 32-5 and had beaten Macomb in an earlier match. The Raiders are 175-24, with five straight 30-win seasons, during Kvitle’s tenure.

• Two weeks ago, we released our ION list, which is our state-by-state Player of the Year Watch list. Last week in Dots, we listed players,  nominated by folks whose opinion we trust, who also were given consideration from Alabama through Missouri. This week, we finish the “also-considered” list by listing players from Montana through Wyoming:

Kirra Ban, 5-3 Sr. libero, Huntley Project
Karsen Breeding, 6-0 Sr. OH, Gallatin
Piper Jette
, 5-10 Sr. OH, Billings Senior
Harlie Murphy
, 5-6 Sr. MB, Huntley Project
Malorie Boesiger, 5-10 Fr. S, Norris
Mattie Dalton, 5-9 Jr. OH, Fremont
Paighton Erb, 5-11  Soph. MB, Columbus
Shay Heaney, 6-2 Jr. OH, Elkhorn North
Anna Jelinek, 5-9 Jr. OH, Norris
Lyric Judson, 5-10 Fr. MB, Papillion- La Vista South
Faith Venable, 6-1 Jr. MB, Pius X
Nora Wurtz, 6-4 Sr. MB, Douglas County West
Angelina Guerrero, 5-8 Sr. OH, Durango
Hannah Pemberton, 5-7 Sr. S, Coronado
Addison Schreurs
, 5-10 Sr. S, Spanish Springs
Kate Blinn, Jr. MB, Concord
Emilia Cavicchi, Sr. S/RS, Oyster River
Sya McKay
, 6-1 Jr. MB, Somerworth
Kiera Moynihan, Soph. MB, Inter-Lakes
Maia Schneider, 5-5 Sr. libero, Hollis Brookline
Anabelle Svenson, 6-3 Sr. MB, Oyster River
Kalena Stavish, 5-7 Sr. S, Immaculate Heart Academy (Washington Township)
Sophia Tapia
, Sr. MB, Tenafly
Emma Eden, 6-1 Sr. OH. Albuquerque Academy
Ella Pockman, 5-10 Sr. OH, Bosque
Lillian Bentley, 6-1 Sr. MB, Portville
April Jakubowski, 
5-7 Sr. S, Lancaster
Sabrina Kinkaid
, 6-2 Sr. MB, Shenendehowa
Kinnady Booth, 6-1 Soph. OH, East Forsyth
Bailey Rowe
, 5-9 Sr. OH, North Henderson
Jordan Smart
, 5-8 Sr. S, Reagan
Maddie Smith
, 6-1 Sr.  OH, University Christian
Cora Badding, 6-0 Sr. MB, Langdon-Edmore-Munich
Josie Jensen, 6-3 Sr. MB, Northern Cass
Sydney Schwabe
, 5-4 Sr. S Thompson
Keely Culler, 5-11 Jr. OH, Archbold (Ohio)
Sophie Davis, 5-11 Jr. RS/OH, Bellbrook (Ohio)
Abbey Emch, 6-3 Jr. MB/OH, Crestview (Columbiana, Ohio)
Gretchen Sigman, 6-0 Sr. RS, Springfield (Ohio)
Sara Snowbarger, 6-0 Soph. OH, Wooster (Ohio)
Katie Sowko, 6-0 Sr. OH, Lake Catholic
Sydney Sprada
, 5-10 Soph. OH, Brookville (Ohio)
Kam Stover, 5-9 Jr. OH, Highland
Emsley Venard
, 6-0 Jr.. S, St. Ursula (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Mya White, 6-0 Sr. OH, Lebanon
Abby Yoder, 5-9 Sr. S, King’s

Victoria Gray, 5-9 Sr. OH, Community Christian
Hannah Joy Nuthman
, Jr. OH, Christian Heritage
Caroline Wood, 5-5 Sr. libero, Jenks
Ava Ainsworth, 6-1 Jr. S, Marshfield
Addy Azavedo
, 5-4 Jr. libero, Jesuit
Hannah Brown, 5-9 Sr. S. Sherwood
Gracelyn Myhre, 5-11 Sr. OH, Sisters
Gracie Peach
, 5-6 Sr. libero, Marshfield
Annabelle Peterson
, 5-9 Sr. MB, Cascade
Dani Street
, 5-6 Sr. libero, Crescent Valley
Emma Williams
, 6-0 Sr. OH, Jesuit
Raven Albrecht, 5-7 Jr. S, Upper Merion
Avery Butcher
, 5-6 Sr. libero, North Allegheny
Sofia Morse
, 5-6 Sr. S, Pine-Richland
Bria Stepp
, 5-9 Sr. S, Seneca Valley
Alexis Cole, 5-6 Sr. S, Chariho
Annie Draper, 5-9 Sr. RS, North Kingstown
Katja Nelson, Sr. MB, Chariho
Abigail Spadoni, Sr. OH, Coventry
Sierra Thompson, Sr. MB, South Kingstown
Ramsey Chastain, 5-11 Soph. S, Dorman
Clara Cloninger
, 5-10 Soph. OH, North Myrtle Beach
Sydney Fischer
, 5-10 Jr. S, Lexington

Taylor Byl, 6-3 Sr. MB, Sioux Falls Christian
Makenzie Walsh
, 6-2 Soph.  RS, O’Gorman

Kayla Dunlap, 6-2 Jr.  RS/MB, Franklin (Brentwood, Tennessee)
Noelle Obi, 6-0 Jr. RS, Central Magnet
Bellamy Parker, 5-11 Sr. OH, Knoxville Catholic

Sydney Bryant, 6-3 Jr. OH, George Ranch
Zoe Gillen-Malveaux, 6-3 Jr. MB, Greenhill
Jessica Jones, 6-2 Sr. MB, Frisco Wakeland
Jaidyn Livings, 6-2 Sr.  OH, Prestonwood Christian
Kate Mansfield
, 6-2 Sr. MB, Plano West
Lauren Perry, 6-0 Sr. OH. Denton
Lainee Pyles, 6-3 Sr.  MB, Fossil Ridge

Paige Felder, 6-2 Jr. OH, Parowan
Abby Morris
, Sr. OH, Emery
Reese Gregory, 5-6 Soph. S, Essex
Gabby Sneddon
, 5-9 Sr. OH, Rice Memorial
Calli Anderson, 5-7 Jr. S, Hidden Valley
Isabelle Bardin
, 6-3 Jr. S/RS/OH, Flint Hill
Madison Bowser
, 6-0 Sr. MB, Bishop O’Connell
Jules Dooren, 5-7 Sr. S, First Colonial
Blakely Barnes
, 5-11 Sr. MB, Kellam
Keeley Heffelfinger, 5-6 Sr. OH, First Colonial
Evie Huang, 5-5 Soph. libero, Flint Hill
Mickhaila Murray, 5-10 Sr. OH, Flint Hill
Ela Shepard, 5-11 Soph. S/RS, Christiansburg
Kennedy Spaid, 5-10 Soph. OH, James Wood
Tea Bosanac, , 6-4 Sr. MB, Seattle Prep
Violet Burchak, 5-9 Sr. S/RS, Shorecrest
Rylie Dolven, 5-7 Sr. S, Kamiakin
Peyton Ensign, , 5-9 Sr. S, Curtis
Victoria Gao, 5-5 Jr. libero, Lakeside
Alyss Kelly, 5-5 Sr. libero, Lake Stevens
Alana Marrs, , 6-4 Jr. OH, Ellensburg
Halle Reiter, , 5-4 Sr. libero, Camas
Emma Sandberg, 5-9 Jr. libero, Gonzaga Prep
Abby Dillon, 5-4 Sr. S, Woodrow Wilson
Ava Dunnigan
, 5-5 Sr. libero, Musselman
Carli Raye
, 6-0 Soph. MB, Wyoming East
Ashlyn Six
, 5-8 Sr.  OH, Oak Glen
Alexis Stack, 5-9 Jr. OH, Greenbrier East
Kaitlyn Dohs, 5-8 Sr. OH, Oak Park
Jae Fitting
, 5-8 Sr. libero, Cedarburg
Sydnee Nelson, 5-10 Soph. OH, Oshkosh West
Reese Ptacek, 6-3 Sr. MB, Prescott (Wisconsin)
Natalie Surges, 6-1 Soph. OH, Brookfield East
Cora Webster, 5-4 Sr. libero, Waunakee

Gia Ireland, 5-10 Fr. S, Kelly Walsh
Rainy Powell, 5-10 Jr. OH, Cody
Payge Riedesel, 5-8 Sr. OH, Campbell County
Michon Sailors
, 6-2 Jr. MB, Laramie

To see the actual ION list, in its two parts, look here for Part 1 — and here for Part 2.

• We continue our review of players or coaches doing unique or unusual things outside of volleyball with a spotlight on coaches.

Did you know that San Francisco University high school coach Bob Hillman has a parallel career as a singer/songwriter? He has released seven albums and toured the U.S. and Europe, including prestigious venues like the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, and the Newport Folk Festival.

In his early 2000s “heyday,” he worked extensively as the opening act for Suzanne Vega and also supported folk-rock icons like Todd Snider and Dave Alvin. His next recording, a collaboration with legendary slide guitarist Greg Leisz, will be released on November 17, which is also the first day of the California state championships. The one after that leans toward power pop and is anchored by Elvis Costello & the Attractions drummer Pete Thomas.


Did you know that Oconee County (GA)  head coach Mark Oglesby was a lead actor in a movie? Oglesby starred as Buddy in “Deadly Love” back in 1987. Here’s the movie summary:

“Two love-sick teenagers named Buddy and Ann decide to elope, but Buddy is murdered. Twenty years later, Ann uses black magic to summon long-dead Buddy to her bedroom every night until local teenagers drive her to suicide. When Ann’s niece inherits the home, she’s plagued by violent teenagers, a homicidal maniac and a walking dead man – all the nightmares that come with the house.”


Did you know that Windsor (CA) head coach Christen Hamilton scoffs at running marathons. She recently completed an ultra-marathon, a 55 kilometer jog. That’s over 34 miles!!!

• We are adding an extra Dot to include other items that will get overlooked in the coming weeks with all the state championship events happening.

Abby Fender dented 1,000 career assists for Richardson High

In Texas, Abby Fender reached 1,000 career assists for Richardson High to set the school record. Fender accomplished the feat despite sitting out two-thirds of her junior year with a knee injury…


Ava Young knows that a career digs milestone never gets old

Ava Young reached 1,000 career digs for Hinsdale Central (IL), which recently won its first regional title since 2012.


Georgetown Day of D.C. saw players reach milestones in consecutive matches last week. First, senior setter Clara Yu, a Columbia University recruit, went over 1,000 career assists. Then, junior RS Jada Aksu, a Lafayette College pledge, eclipsed 500 career kills…


Last Wednesday, Oconee County traveled to Morgan County for an Elite 8 showdown against the team that defeated it in last year’s Georgia AAA state final in five sets. Oconee lost the first set, but came back to win 3-1, led by senior setter Isabel Miller (28 assists, team hitting percentage of .329, and 14 digs). Oconee then beat Region 8AAA rival Hart County on Saturday in four sets to secure a return trip to the State Finals.


After Pitman lost a second-round match to Folsom in the California Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs, the Pride thought their season was over and that the coaching career of Kristen Pontes-Christian was over, too. But the school received an email the next morning informing Pitman that it received an SJS At-Large bid to the state tournament. The Pride fight on!


Seacrest is ryan high (oops, riding high) heading into a match Tuesday for the final four in Florida

Florida’s Seacrest Country Day, the two-time defending FHSAA 2A champion, is 26-3 heading into today’s match to advance once again to the Final Four. Seacrest would set a school record for wins in a season should it prevail. The team is coached by first year head coach Jeff Motluck. Motluck has 22 years of experience coaching as an assistant at the D-II collegiate level but never became a head coach until this year.


Dorman senior OH Carly O’Brien has 992 career kills heading into tonight’s Upper State final versus Rock Hill.

Until next time …