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2017 high school girls volleyball preview

By: Warren Mayes


The big question going into the high school girls volleyball season is whether Lafayette win another state championship.

The Lancers captured their six consecutive state crown last fall. In the Class 4 state final, Lafayette dropped the first set of the best-of-three match and trailed 23-20 in the second set before rallying for a 20-25, 27-25, 25-21 victory over Francis Howell to win it all once again.

Lafayette (33-6-1) lost only once in its final 24 matches.

The sixth consecutive state championship broke a record the Lancers shared with Incarnate Word Academy, which won five state titles in a row from 1983-87.

Lafayette coach Zach Young has 10 returning varsity players including two players who have verbally committed to play Division I volleyball.

The St. Joseph’s Academy Angels have five starters back from the 2016 team that went 26-3 and reached the Class 4 quarterfinals. Coach Katie Richardson has four players already verbally committed to play in college.

Lafayette and St. Joseph’s will meet each other in their traditional season opener at 5:30 p.m. Monday (Aug. 28) at Lafayette.

There are three new coaches for teams this fall.

Longtime assistant Susan Anderson takes over at Parkway West. Susan Dean retired last fall after 31 years of coaching volleyball. Her daughter, Molly, is now an assistant on Anderson’s staff. Molly had been the head coach at Webster Groves.

Samantha Walch is entering first year as head coach at Barat Academy. This will be her third season coaching within a high school and 11th season coaching girls overall. Has been coaching for the St. Louis club Show Me Volleyball Academy for the past five years.

Abby Allard is the new coach at MICDS. She has seven players back from last year’s 12-10-1 Rams.

Here is a look at the teams that responded to requests for information in alphabetical order:

Barat Academy Eagles
2016 record: 0-9. Lost to Chamois 25-10, 25-8 in district opener.
Coach: Samantha Walch. Entering first year as head coach. This will be her third season coaching within a high school and 11th season coaching girls overall. Has been coaching for the St. Louis club Show Me Volleyball Academy for the past five years.
Assistant coaches: None.
Returning number of starters: 4 in juniors Katie Clark, Emily Albers, Mia Davis, and Lizzie O’Dowd.
Players on team to watch for this fall: Senior Alayna Parson, who comes over from Barat’s tennis team.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Emily Buenrig and Kristin Adams. Both transfer students that join the team for the first time this year.
Captains: Katie Clark, Mia Davis.
Players committed to college: None at this time.
Goals: This year we are all getting back to the basics. Have a very inexperienced team that is ready to work hard and really learn the game of volleyball. After coming off of a disappointing season with no wins last year these girls are ready to come out swinging and really show off all the hard work they are putting in.
Conference: Independent.
First match: 6 p.m. Sept. 5 versus Wright City.
Quote: “I am so very excited to be working with these athletes for the first time,” Walsh said. “Even though most have little volleyball experience, each of these girls come into the gym everyday ready to have fun and work hard; they have stepped out of the gym a better volleyball player than they came in that morning.”

Eureka Wildcats
2016 record: 32-3-2. Finished second at 8-2 in Suburban West Conference. Lost 25-20, 25-12 to Lafayette in Class 4 District 3 championship game.
Coach: Carlo Atienza. Entering third year as head coach at Eureka.
Assistant coaches: Rachael Travis, Julie Varriano, and Rachel Bernhardt.
Returning number of starters: 4 starters.
Players on team to watch for this fall: Senior OH Emma Lattimore, senior OH Kylee Kinnett, junior MB Regan Inglis, junior Libero Andrea Zeiser, senior MB/RS Zoe Jennings.
Captains: Seniors Kylee Kinnet, Hailey Hicks, Macy Highfill.
Players committed to college: Emma Lattimore to Western Kentucky University. Kylee Kinnett to McKendree University, Zoe Jennings to Central Methodist University.
Team strengths: Experience. Have four returning starters this year. We’re also going to have a solid backrow.
Goals: Become district champs.
Suburban West Conference teams: Eureka, Fox, Lafayette, Lindbergh, Marquette, Mehlville, Northwest, Oakville, Parkway South, Seckman.
Favorites to win the conference: Example: Eureka, Lafayette, Marquette.
Class 4 District 3 teams: Eureka, Lafayette, Northwest, Parkway South, Rockwood Summit, Washington.
First match: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 23) at Summit.
Quote: “We’re very excited for this season,” Atienza said. “Our seniors from last year left some big shoes to fill but the all the players are ready to fill them in. We are going to be as skilled and as scrappy as any team out there.”

Incarnate Word Academy Red Knights
2016 record: 15-20. Finished fifth at 1-4 in MWAA. Lost to St. Francis Borgia in Class 3 sectional.
Coach: Whitney Small. Entering second year as head coach.
Assistant coaches: Luke Allen.
Returning number of starters: 6 from starting lineup.
Players on team to watch for this spring: Senior Ally Reichart, junior Tori Stuart, junior Emma Dunn, sophomore Anna Wilkison, sophomore Abbie Schnell, sophomore Hanna Jones.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Senior Rachel McIntyre.
Captains: Not picked yet.
Players committed to college: None at this time.
Team strengths: Expect to be tough from the service line and a better passing team than last year.
Goals: Get better every day. Have fun together.
MWAA teams: Cor Jesu, Incarnate Word Academy, Nerinx Hall, St. Joseph’s Academy, Ursuline Academy, Visitation Academy.
Favorites to win the MWAA: St. Joseph’s, Nerinx Hall.
Class 3 District 6 teams: Duchesne, Incarnate Word Academy, Jennings, McCluer South-Berkeley, Orchard Farm, St. Charles.
First match: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 23) at Westminster Christian Academy.
Quote: “We are very excited to start this season with the girls,” Small said. “They have already shown great energy in the gym and major strides of improvement from this time last year. Most of our returners gained a lot of varsity experience last season, and they worked extremely hard in the off (club) season. With a tough schedule ahead of us, we look forward to training hard and playing competitively every time we step onto the court.”

Lafayette Lancers
2016 record: 33-6-1. Finished 9-0 to win Suburban West Conference. Defeated Francis Howell 20-25, 27-25, 25-21 to win Class 4 state championship.
Coach: Zach Young. Entering sixth year as head coach at Lafayette.
Assistant coaches: Sue Tillery, Steve Burkard, Kim Aschoff.
Returning number of starters: 10 returning varsity players.
Players on team to watch for this spring: Senior MB Lily Cooper, senior OH Merry Gebel, senior L Kailey Kantouth, senior DS Lexi LaVanchy, senior MB/OPP Kathryn Wesolich, junior OH Staciana Stock.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Senior OH/OPP Zoe Brunk, junior MB Karagan Coggin, senior OPP Katlyn Fastenau, senior OPP Maddie Kraemer, junior OH Natalie Lenoard, sophomore S Shannon McLain, junior S/DS Ava Mitchell, senior S Sofia Orlando.
Captains: Lily Cooper, Merry Gebel, Kailey Kantouth.
Players committed to college: Lily Cooper to Duke. Merry Gebel to Western Carolina University.
Team strengths: Team chemistry and depth in several positions.
Goals: To have constant improvement throughout the season and be playing our best volleyball in October.
Suburban West Conference teams: Eureka, Fox, Lafayette, Lindbergh, Marquette, Mehlville, Northwest, Oakville, Parkway South, Seckman.
Favorites to win the conference: With so many good teams and coaches in our league, it’s difficult to pick a favorite.
Class 4 District 3 teams: Eureka, Lafayette, Northwest, Parkway South, Rockwood Summit, Washington.
First match: 5:30 p.m. Monday (Aug. 28) versus St. Joseph’s Academy.
Quote: “We are extremely excited about the potential of our team this year,” Young said. “We are very deep, and think we’ve got a lot of talent and a team full of hard workers and leaders that will strive to improve everyday.”

Marquette Mustangs
2016 record: 19-13-3. Finished third at 7-2 in Suburban West Conference. Lost to Parkway West in Class 4 District 6 championship game.
Coach: Jared Kreienkamp. Entering seventh year as head coach.
Assistant coaches: Felicia Durt, Tammy Becker, Kacey McBride, Tim Boeddeker.
Returning number of starters: 3 starters.
Players on team to watch for this fall: Junior setter Kenzie Meador, junior OH Colleen Flynn, junior OH Keeley Alexander, senior libero Morgan Hanley.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Sophomore MB Maddy Jensen, junior defensive specialist Caitlin Keuhn.
Captains: Kenzie Meador, Morgan Hanley.
Players committed to college: None at this time.
Team strengths: Will run a very balanced offense that should force teams to respect all of our options. Squad is young this year but very athletic at multiple positions.
Goals: Play good defense and have a balanced attack. We want to challenge for a conference and district championship.
Suburban West Conference teams: Eureka, Fox, Lafayette, Lindbergh, Marquette, Mehlville, Northwest, Oakville, Parkway South, Seckman.
Favorites to win the conference: Example: Lafayette, Eureka.
Class 4 District 6 teams: Francis Howell North, Marquette, Parkway Central, Parkway North, Parkway West, Pattonville, Westminster Christian Academy.
First match: 6 p.m. Monday (Aug. 21) at Francis Howell.
Quote: “We graduated the majority of our starters from last year but (we) are excited to see how this team develops,” Kreienkamp said. “Our juniors will have to step up in big ways but have the talent to do so.”

MICDS Rams
2016 record: 12-10-1. Finished fifth at 2-4 in Metro League. Lost in district semifinal to John Burroughs.
Coach: Abby Allard. Entering first year year as head coach at MICDS.
Assistant coaches: Sami Maurer.
Returning number of starters: 7 returners.
Players on team to watch for this fall: Junior setter Kate Trowbridge, junior hitter Kodi Hayes.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Freshman defensive specialist CeCe Nourie, sophomore hitter Asher Clarke, freshman hitter Sophia Boyd.
Captains: Not chosen yet.
Players committed to college: None at this time.
Team strengths: This season, the focus will be on defense. Have great players that are going to be added to the mix.
Goals: The goal this year is to win state. It will be a long road but with hard work and making sure we are staying disciplined on defense this goal can be achieved.
Metro League teams: John Burroughs, Lutheran North, Lutheran South, MICDS, Principia, Villa Duchesne, Westminster Christian Academy.
Favorites to win the Metro League: In the past, Lutheran South and Villa Duchesne have taken over the league. This year they have a new contender.
Class 3 District 5 teams: Clayton, John Burroughs, MICDS, Normandy, University City, Villa Duchesne, Visitation Academy.
First match: 5 p.m. Friday (Aug. 25) at Duchesne.
Quote: “I am very excited to kick off this 2017 volleyball season at MICDS,” Allard said. “We have great talent this year. I’m excited to see what these players can do. Our program vision this year is ‘Establishing Excellence’ and I plan to do just that.”

Parkway Central Colts
2016 record: 18-11-1. Finished third at 2-2 in Suburban Central-National Division. Lost to Parkway West in district semifinal.
Coach: Tom Schaefer. Entering 18th year year as head coach.
Assistant coaches: James Weishaar, Roman Balaban, Stephanie Seidel.
Returning number of starters: Bringing back all 9 starters from last season.
Players on team to watch for this spring: Senior OH Sophia Cristiani, senior MB Claire Whitehouse, junior setter Rylee Schertzer, junior MB Julia Hendricks, junior OH Middle Blocker, junior OH Felina Deck, junior OH Catheryne Sheridan, sophomore OH Lana Cristiani, sophomore setter Jill Stolte, sophomore libero Katelyn Matzdorf.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Junior MB Mackenzie Duvall, junior defensive specialist Julianna Bell.
Captains: Not yet selected.
Players committed to college: None yet, but Claire Whitehouse intends to go to play at Westminster and Sophia Cristiani should be playing somewhere.
Team strengths: Still are pretty young with only two seniors, but nine players are back that were starting at the end of last year, so that experience will help out a lot. They know each other well, and they know what is expected of them. Team still has a lot of work to do, but it is nice to hit the ground running.
Goals: Always like to rely on our defense and our serve-receive. Want to find a way to get a good pass on every ball and turn it into offense. Colts don’t over power teams very often, but we hope to just keep constant pressure on the other teams and wear them down if we can.
Suburban Central Conference-American Division teams: Affton, Clayton, Ladue, Parkway Central, Parkway West.
Favorites to win the American Division: Parkway West and Ladue were both very strong last year and are bringing back a lot of good players. Colts hope to be able to challenge each of them, but we know both match ups will be tough.
Class 4 District 6 teams: Francis Howell North, Marquette, Parkway Central, Parkway North, Parkway West, Pattonville, Westminster Christian Academy.
First match: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 23) versus Hazelwood West.
Quote: “I am very excited about the group of girls I have,” Schaefer said. “Being able to work with this wonderful group two years in a row really builds closeness and we hope to improve on what was a pretty successful season last year. They are great girls who have played a lot of select volleyball to improve their games and I believe it will pay off in games. ”

Parkway South Patriots
2016 record: 1-27-1. Finished 0-7 in Suburban West Conference. Lost to 25-10, 25-11 to Northwest in first round of district play.
Coach: Carrie Steele. Entering 13th year as head coach.
Assistant coaches: Keith Touzinsky, Ashley Sheets, Mary Kate Faust.
Returning number of starters: 7 starters. There were no seniors last year.
Players on team to watch for this fall: Senior MB Bri Whitener, junior OH Christa Lolley.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Freshman S/RS Morgan Sprague.
Captains: Haven’t been elected yet.
Players committed to college: None at this time.
Team strengths: Returning all our starters and the girls are a year older and playing with more confidence. They are making plays that varsity experienced players make which we haven’t had the last couple of years.
Goals: Compete in every match.
Suburban West Conference teams: Eureka, Fox, Lafayette, Lindbergh, Marquette, Mehlville, Northwest, Oakville, Parkway South, Seckman.
Favorites to win the conference: Lafayette, Eureka.
Class 4 District 3 teams: Eureka, Lafayette, Northwest, Parkway South, Rockwood Summit, Washington.
First match: 5:30 p.m. Monday (Aug. 21) at Kirkwood.
Quote: “I am looking forward to watching the girls on the court,” Steele said. “They are a great group of girls who enjoy playing together. In addition, they have fun off the court which I hope will translate over to the court.”

Parkway West Longhorns
2016 record: 22-13-3. Won Suburban Central-National Division at 4-0. Lost to Francis Howell in Class 4 sectional.
Coach: Susan Anderson. Entering first year year as head coach.
Assistant coaches: Varsity: Molly Dean, JV: Kristin Judd, Freshmen: Rob Monroe.
Returning number of starters: 4 starters.
Players on team to watch for this spring: Senior OH Colleen Smith, senior RS Claire Goedde, junior MB Becca Reinecke, senior setter Caroline Shaw.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Senior transfer Caroline Shaw, freshmen MB Carly Kuehl.
Captains: Seniors Maggie Newberry, Colleen Smith, Claire Goedde.
Players committed to college: None as of now.
Team strengths: We have excellent leadership and amazing determination. Anticipate a strong offense with our seniors leading.
Goals: Carry on the tradition of excellence of Longhorn volleyball.
Suburban Central Conference-American Division teams: Affton, Clayton, Ladue, Parkway Central, Parkway West.
Class 4 District 6 teams: Francis Howell North, Marquette, Parkway Central, Parkway North, Parkway West, Pattonville, Westminster Christian Academy.
First match: Saturday in Lady Cougars Invitational at Lutheran St. Charles.
Quote: “I could not be more excited about my team and new staff members this year,” Anderson said. “We have true athletes who want to compete and are very talented on the volleyball court. We are preparing for and looking forward to a successful season.”

St. Joseph Academy Angels
2016 record: 26-3. Won MCAA championship at 4-0. Lost to Lafayette in Class 4 quarterfinals.
Coach: Katie Richardson. Entering third year as head coach.
Assistant coaches: Molly Wilson, Jacqui Zancanata.
Returning number of starters: 5 starters.
Players on team to watch for this spring: Senior setter Gabby Blossom, senior OH Madison Gresham, junior libero Tara Beilsmith, senior RS Morgan Smith, senior DS Claire Ochs.
Newcomers expected to contribute: Johni Bunkers and Amanda Meyer.
Players committed to college: All four seniors are committed—Gabby Blossom to Penn State, Claire Ochs to Southeast Missouri State, Morgan Smith to Truman State, Madison Gresham to Furman University.
Team strengths: Have more depth this year which will help team be able to run a fast offense with Blossom. Defensively, Beilsmith and Ochs can do some impressive things.
Goals: We always have the same goal, and we are working hard to get there.
MWAA teams: Cor Jesu, Incarnate Word Academy, Nerinx Hall, St. Joseph’s Academy, Ursuline Academy, Visitation Academy.
Class 4 District 4 teams: Gateway, Kirkwood, Ladue, Nerinx Hall, St. Joseph’s Academy, Ursuline Academy, Webster Groves.
First match: 5:30 p.m. Monday (Aug. 28) at Lafayette.
Quote: “We are definitely ready for the season to start,” Richardson said. “We have been working hard this summer and we will continue that throughout the season.”

Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats
2016 record: 14-14-3. Finished third at 4-2 in Metro League. Lost in district semifinal to Marquette.
Coach: Heather Cumbee. Entering 13th season at Westminster.
Assistant coaches: Tim Hall and John Powell.
Returning number of starters: 3.
Players on team to watch for this fall: S/RS Avery Englemeyer, S Jordan Hauser, MB Hilary Hightower.
Newcomers expected to contribute: There are three Sophomores joining varsity this season including Heidi Hightower (Hilary’s younger sister), along with Evie and Izzy Cunningham, who are 5-foot-11 twins.
Captains: To be determined.
Players committed to college: None at this time.
Metro League teams: John Burroughs, Lutheran North, Lutheran South, MICDS, Principia, Villa Duchesne, Westminster Christian Academy.
Favorites to win the Metro League: Lutheran South or Westminster.
Class 4 District 6 teams: Francis Howell North, Marquette, Parkway Central, Parkway North, Parkway West, Pattonville, Westminster Christian Academy.
First match: 5 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 22) at Ladue.
Quote: “The season started with some hiccups with some returners not able to return due to injuries and two other starters ineligible,” Cumbee said. “The team formed from Week One has a lot of potential. There are three sophomores that I am very excited to see them progress and grow. There are three seniors that I want to be sure have the best senior season ever. I am very excited for the potential of the group and see who emerges as a leader and game changer.”

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