High-SchoolVolleyball: State championships

By Walter Villa

For some, the state championship won Tuesday by Xavier Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) wasn’t just historic, it was profound and far-reaching.

Xavier defeated Fountain Hills (Ariz.) 5-0 at Victory Lanes Sports Park in Glendale, Ariz., capping the first high school season of sand volleyball in U.S. history.

“It was so cool to be a part of this whole season,” said Xavier’s Natalie Braun, who teamed with Mallory Miller to win their title match. “It was life-changing.”

When asked why she would consider her life altered by this first season of sand volleyball, Braun said she had previously wanted to play the indoor version of the sport in college.

Now she wants to play sand volleyball.

“There is such a great atmosphere playing outdoors,” said Braun, a 5-foot-7 freshman. “It’s just way different. With just two players, you have to build an all-around skill set. In indoor, you mostly focus on one. I want to be one of those all-around players.”

Braun said several -- but not all -- of her teammates told her that they, too, have switched their focus to sand volleyball. That includes elite prospect Abby Hornacek, who had originally committed to play indoor at Kansas before switching to a sand volleyball scholarship at Southern Cal.

Hornacek teamed with Mia Teilborg as Xavier Prep went 8-0 this season, sweeping every team except Scottsdale Prep (Ariz.), which they defeated 4-1.

Xavier’s other duos on Tuesday were Kelly Andrew and Sarah Mackey, Alex Parron and Molly Scheel, and Dani Westfall and Chaney Hart.

Those five duos were more than good enough to beat Fountain Hills, which finished its season at 6-2.

“It was 90 degrees and just a great day to play,” Xavier coach Matt Rogers said of the title match. “Fountain Hills wanted redemption because we had beaten them earlier in the season. But we really wanted this first state title, and we went after it.”

Wednesday morning, Hornacek wore her volleyball jersey and spoke to the entire school after her team’s accomplishment.

“I felt comfortable doing it,” said Hornacek, a senior. “I just explained that we represented our school and a new sport. After I spoke, about 50 people came up to me to say congratulations.”

Hornacek said she’s proud of her team.

“Winning the title gave us a great feeling,” she said. “I hope it can be an inspiration to other girls to try the sport. … I think a lot of girls will make the switch once they see how much fun it is to play.

“All I know is that when I’m older, I’m going to look back at the picture of us winning state and be really happy.”
By Walter Villa

Nia ReedCourtesy of JoMoree ReedNia Reed (left) has the skills, brains and genetics to be the best volleyball player in New Jersey history, her coach Maria Nolan says.

Sophomore Nia Reed, the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey and a Penn State recruit, missed eight matches last season after breaking her left wrist.

When the 6-foot-2 middle blocker returned -- just in time for the playoffs -- she wore a piece of foam with tape to protect it. But rival coaches were apparently upset that the star from Immaculate Heart Academy (Washington Township, N.J.) was back on the court so soon.

“They were angry and confused,” Reed said. “I took it as a compliment. Usually when an opposing coach doesn’t want you to play it’s because you are a threat to them.”

She certainly was a threat, leading IHA to a fifth straight state title and a fourth Tournament of Champions victory, leaving little doubt that the Blue Eagles (32-1) were again the best team in Jersey.

Maria Nolan, IHA’s co-coach, said she had to laugh when rival coaches tried to have the referees keep Reed from competing in the playoffs.

“All of a sudden, these coaches from other teams became experts on Nia’s wrist,” Nolan said. “They were so worried about her left hand. They should have worried instead about her right hand -- that’s the one she spikes with.”

Indeed, Reed’s spikes usually hit the floor. She had a .637 kill percentage in the regular season and improved that to .688 in six playoff matches.

Part of Reed’s success can be explained by genetics.

Her late paternal grandmother, Vivian Brown, was a track star who won two gold medals in the 200 meters and the 400-meter relay at the 1963 Pan American Games and competed in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. She also set a world record in the 400-meter relay in 1961, competing with the legendary Wilma Rudolph along with Willye White and Ernestine Pollards.

“She died when I was 2, so I never really got to know her,” Reed said. “But I’ve seen pictures of her in her track outfit.”

Reed’s mother, JoMoree Reed, was also an impressive athlete. The 6-foot forward made second-team All-Big Eight as a senior at Kansas State, averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds.

Reed’s dad, Raymon Reed, ran track at Morehouse and at Bowling Green.

Able to touch an impressive 10-5, it is obvious Reed inherited much of her family’s athleticism.

“She not only jumps high, she seems to hang in the air,” Nolan said. “And she has long arms and long hands.”

Blessed with those physical as well as mental attributes -- she loves math and has a 3.41 grade-point average -- Reed has been inundated by offers from college volleyball powers.

Reed, though, has only now put an end to any conjecture of where she might go to college.

“I committed to Penn State after my freshman year,” she said. “But I’ve kind of kept it a secret until now.”

Reed plans to join a Nittany Lions’ roster that already includes former IHA star Ariel Scott, a 6-4 middle blocker who recently completed her sophomore season at Penn State.

Scott was twice named New Jersey’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Nolan, who has won 21 state titles and 733 matches in her coaching career, struggled to say whether Reed or Scott was the better player at the same stage of development. But she didn’t hide her enthusiasm for Reed’s future.

“Nia is on target,” Nolan said, “to be the best player in New Jersey history.”

Personality-wise, Nolan said, the difference is much more apparent between Reed and Scott.

“Nia is always smiling,” Nolan said. “That’s something you notice about her right away.”

About the only thing that has been able to keep Reed from smiling was the wrist injury, suffered during a collision with her setter.

“I don’t know what exactly happened because I kind of blanked out,” said Reed, who is back at 100 percent and playing for her DIGS 17 Red club team. “I thought it was just a sprain, so I kept playing the whole tournament.

“But it still hurt the next day, so I got it checked out. When I found out it was broken and I would have to sit out, I cried all day and all night.”

Mike DeCastro, the IHA co-coach along with Nolan, is impressed with Reed on many levels.

“The most striking thing about Nia is her natural athleticism,” he said. “The way she moves -- she’s light on her feet. She also has that nice vertical leap and a great reach.

“But that’s just the exterior part of Nia. She has so much poise and character. When those coaches were yelling, trying to keep her from playing in the state playoffs, she was right there and handled herself so well.”

Asked how good Reed can get before her prep career ends in two years, DeCastro laughed.

“Who knows? (Nolan) and I can’t believe what she can do already,” he said. “We’ll watch her in practice and shake our heads.

“She’s already a pretty good hitter. There’s lots of room to grow to develop on the back row and become an all-around player. That’s our hope. It’s going to be exciting for her, for our team and for volleyball fans in New Jersey.”

It should be exciting for everyone -- except, perhaps, for rival coaches.
By Walter Villa

Iowa City West volleyballPress-Citizen/Dan Williamson (team); Courtesy of Tom Ward (Caroline Found)West players dedicated their second straight title to Found (right), who was the team's spiritual leader both on and off the court.
Caroline Found was more than just a volleyball star. She was a compassionate classmate who wouldn’t let a shy kid eat lunch alone. She was a mischievous student who once ordered pizza while serving detention for a minor infraction. She was a gregarious girl who made friends -- even of opposing players -- everywhere she went.

“Half the time, I couldn’t find her for pregame warm-ups because she was talking with the girls on the other team,” said Iowa City West High volleyball coach Kathy Bresnahan. “She was irreverent, funny and spontaneous. She was in with the popular crowd, and yet she embraced everyone.”

A 5-foot-10 setter, Found led West to its first state title in 2010 and was eager to repeat as a senior in 2011. But around 9:40 p.m. on Aug. 11, the 17-year-old was riding her moped home from a church youth meeting when she struck a curb and lost control. Found, who was not wearing a helmet, crashed into a tree and was killed upon impact, police said. “It still doesn’t seem real,” said Hannah Infelt, a senior middle blocker at West. “I’m still waiting for her to pop out and say it was a prank.”

Current and former players struggled with their emotions in the wake of the tragedy. West graduate Alli O’Deen, a freshman outside hitter for the University of Iowa, said she “fell to the ground and lost it” when she heard the news about her former teammate.

Two players called Bresnahan at 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 12 to break the news, and the coach says her phone rang nonstop for the next several hours. By 7 a.m., the team had gathered for practice -- only to find several hundred West students sobbing on the court in a darkened gym. Bresnahan invited them to share their favorite memories of their friend. Then they wrote letters to Found, which Bresnahan has kept in a sealed box.

“I just wrote ‘I love you’ over and over,” Infelt said. Later that morning, 100 of Found's friends walked hand-in-hand to the crash site. They hung a No. 9 jersey -- Found's now-retired number -- in the tree she struck, laid flowers and prayed. At the next day’s practice, the girls couldn’t jog more than half a lap before falling to the floor in tears. “The little time we practiced was spent ball-handling and not on any in-system plays,” Bresnahan said. “We didn’t want more reminders that we didn’t have our setter running the show.”

Caroline Found
Press-Citizen/Dan Williamson (team)/ESPNHSFound (9), who averaged 10.0 assists per game for West's 2010 Class 4A state-championship squad, earned honorable-mention all-state honors.
Four days after the accident, thousands attended the visitation for Found inside the West High gym, including several rival teams and the entire University of Iowa volleyball squad. Tragedy struck again when Ellyn Found -- Caroline’s mother -- died on Aug. 23. Ellyn, who had been suffering from pancreatic cancer since April, was 55. She was survived by her husband, Ernie, son Gregg, 25, and daughter Catharine, 22.

Infelt said she and her teammates tried to support the Found family as best they could. “But it was like they were giving us support,” Infelt said.

Ernie Found, whose voice still breaks when he speaks about Caroline and Ellyn, said he was happy to help because “running away from the situation wasn’t going to do any good.” He notes that Caroline shared many of her best qualities with her mother. “She was able to inspire people and bring them together,” said Ernie.

The West players were touched by the love shown by rival teams. Opponents wore bracelets or shirts that read “Live Like Line,” a nod to Found's nickname. A ritual developed in which the West players placed Found's shoes under an otherwise empty chair.

Senior Kelley Fliehler was made the setter. Three days before the crash, Found had moved into Fliehler's house so she could be closer to the hospital where her mother was being treated. “I was prepared to be strong for her when her mom passed away,” Fliehler said. “But I never expected anything to happen to Caroline.”

Then again, little of what happened this past season was expected. Despite missing their star setter and spiritual leader, the Women of Troy battled all the way to the state final on Nov. 12, where they faced another significant challenge in rival Iowa City High.

West lost the first two sets of the title match and faced another seemingly insurmountable deficit. “I was just hoping not to lose 3-0,” Bresnahan said. But the West players battled back to force a fifth set. Four times Iowa City took one-point leads -- including match point at 14-13 -- but missed a serve each time, reinforcing the notion that fate had intervened on West’s behalf. West had two failed match points of its own before senior Shelly Stumpff’s kill clinched the championship.

At the trophy ceremony, West players held up a portrait of Found. Fittingly, the song that played over the loudspeaker was “Sweet Caroline.”

“That was the perfect way to end the season, because she loved that song,” Fliehler said. “Winning state a second straight year made her dream come true. We did it for her. We felt like she was still with us.”
By Walter Villa

Wisconsin volleyballCourtesy of Molly ShebeneckAfter an outstanding junior season for Burlington (Wis.), Texas A&M recruit Kaysie Shebeneck is shifting her attention to the Milwaukee Sting.

Kaysie Shebeneck’s junior volleyball season ended with a state title, Gatorade State Player of the Year honors and the admiration of her coaches and teammates.

It started with a terrifying car crash.

Last September, the 6-foot-1 setter/right-side hitter for Burlington (Wis.) was in the passenger seat of her mom’s car, which was stopped at a red light. Two other cars collided, and they came hurtling at the Shebenecks at a high rate of speed.

“I saw the whole thing -- it was as if it were happening in slow motion,” said Shebeneck, who added that she and her mom were wearing their seatbelts. “It was scary.”

Shebeneck missed four matches due to her injuries – “a slight concussion and whiplash.” Her mother, Jane, suffered shoulder and back injuries. Their car was totaled.

“Like any good mother, she reached over to try to protect me,” Shebeneck said.

Shebeneck said it wasn’t until the state finals that she felt fully recovered.

If that’s true, then Shebeneck at full strength must be frightening. She finished the season with 754 assists, 154 kills, 104 digs, 49 blocks and 23 service aces while posting a kill percentage of .474.

She was also named the 2011 Division I State Tournament MVP after connecting on 23 assists with 16 kills and 12 digs in a three-set title-clinching win over Fond du Lac (Wis.).

It was Burlington’s first state title of any kind since the softball team won in 1984.

“It was amazing,” said Shebeneck, who has a 4.01 GPA on a 4.33 scale. “We had a lot of obstacles to get through. We showed how strong we are and how well we get along.”

Shebeneck is now playing club ball for Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold.

In June of her sophomore year, she committed to Texas A&M, where she wants to study education. She’s interested in becoming a middle-school teacher and, potentially, a coach.

Next up on Shebeneck’s to-do list is a big season in club ball. She is one of three players on the Sting’s 17 Gold roster who has already picked a college, joining junior middle blocker Katie Stadick (Illinois) and junior outside hitter Olivia Akin (Loyola Chicago).

The Sting have two major road trips on their 2012 schedule: the JVA World Challenge in Houston March 30-April 1 and the AAU Championships In Orlando June 24-27.

“Kaysie’s a special player,” said Ted Schulte, one of the Sting’s coaches. “She’s complete -- a wickedly good blocker and an adroit hitter and setter.”

High on Hughes
Jon Aharoni, the coordinator of Beach Coaching and Development for USA Beach Volleyball, is convinced Sara Hughes is his next big star.

Hughes, a 5-11 junior at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), has a 4.2 grade-point average and recently committed to Southern Cal on a sand volleyball scholarship.

“She is this skinny little blonde girl who is the most ferocious beast I’ve ever seen in the sand,” Aharoni said. “She hasn’t lost a tournament in four or five years.

“She goes full speed every point with a smile on her face. She’s just one of those kids who instantly makes your program better because everyone around her is inspired to work harder.”
Papillion La Vista SouthKirstin Olsen/ESPNHSThe Papillion-La Vista South volleyball team celebrates its second consecutive POWERADE FAB 50 national championship.
By Kirstin Olsen

MORE: Photo gallery of trophy presentation

PAPILLION, Neb. -- In front of a roaring crowd of 1,500 students and faculty, the Papillion-La Vista South girls' volleyball team was awarded the POWERADE FAB 50 National Championship trophy at an all-sports pep rally in Titan Arena on Tuesday.

The Titans, who have won back-to-back national championships and back-to-back state titles, proudly hung their second banner from ESPNHS and POWERADE along with their state championship banners in the Titan Arena rafters. They finished their season with a perfect 41-0 record and have won 82 consecutive matches. They went wire-to-wire atop the FAB 50 rankings.

“Of course it feels great, like winning anything would," junior Amber Rolfzen said. "But it's just nice to look up in the banners at school and see not one, but two, national championships twice in a row.”

Former Cornhusker outside hitter Dani Mancuso, who won a national championship with Nebraska in 2006, was present to speak to the student body and help congratulate the team on the prestigious award.

“Eighty-two consecutive wins are a lot," she said. "It is a huge accomplishment what these girls and coaching staff have done this season, and I hope everyone recognizes that.”

Papillion-La Vista superintendent Dr. Rick Black was also present to award the team with its second Super Bowl-like POWERADE FAB 50 trophy.

The road to the celebration wasn't always easy for the Titans. They were challenged but prevailed in tough matches against No. 4 St. James (Lenexa, Kan.), No. 33 Pius X (Lincoln, Neb.), No. 47 Marian (Omaha, Neb.) and then went on to defeat Burke (Omaha, Neb.) in the Class A state final.

Coach Gwen Egbert thanked the students for their participation and encouraged them to continue to support the team.

When asked about the amazing 82-0 streak, Egbert attributed hard work.

“I think it came through becoming a great team, playing for each other, playing for our school, and through hard work and fundamentals and getting better every day,” she said.

She shouldn't forget the talent.

Kadie Rolfzen finished the season with 402 kills and 382 digs, and twin sister Amber had 312 kills and 289 digs.

Kadie, in particular, seemed to have a knack for stepping up in big matches.

“Egbert is always pushing us in practice, so it’s not just me stepping up my game, it’s the person next to me as well,” she said.

Amber, Kadie and junior setter and Kelly Hunter, all Nebraska commits, were flooded by local reporters with questions, which they handled in stride similar to the way they handled their season.

When asked about the possibility of winning a third consecutive state and national championship, the Rolfzens, Hunter and Egbert were all in agreement.

“The plan is to try and get better and probably try and do it again,” Egbert said. “I hope we can. It's pretty fun.”
By Kirstin Olsen

PresentationKirstin Olsen/ESPNHSIt was anything but easy, but Presentation won its first ever volleyball state title.

The final two games of the 2011 season were both decided in dramatic five-set fashion. Before closing the book on the season, these two classics deserve a second look.

What: Division II California Interscholastic Federation final

Who: No. 15 Presentation (San Jose) vs. No. 42 La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad)

Score: Presentation 3, La Costa Canyon 2

Game 1 highlights: With a plethora of offensive weapons, including six players over 6-feet, La Costa Canyon came out swinging. Cosy Burnett came up with key kills, and although the Mavericks struggled a bit on defense and with their passing, they took the first game 25-20.

Game 2 highlights: Presentation played great defense and libero Kathleen Bozzo served tough and got LCC in passing trouble, but the Mavericks still prevailed 25-20 to take a 2-0 lead. “We were kind of a deer in the headlights," coach Sue Dvorak said.

Game 3 highlights: With their backs against the wall, the Panthers fought for every ball and didn’t give up, even surviving a match point. Junior outside hitter Alex Sheredy and setter Veronica Blither stepped up their games, and momentum shifted with a 26-24 Presentation win. "As soon as we calmed down and figured out we could play with them, we got a little more confidence," Dvorak said. "Their shoulders relaxed a little it and they started digging balls better and blocking better, and it was a fun match.”

Game 4 highlights: With ninja-like defense and steady all-around play, Presentation dominated the fourth game and won 25-15. Setter/hitter Madison Cooper was a key contributor with her left-handed craftiness and great court sense.

Game 5 highlights: The Panthers got on a roll and never looked back. Cooper served tough, and Emily Sklar closed out the match with one of her 22 kills as Presentation prevailed 15-9.

They said it: “For me it just meant that I could end my high school career on a good note and finish with no regrets. We made school history as the first team to ever win state, and MVP is pretty good.” -- Sklar

Notes: The win marked the first CIF state championship for Presentation. ... The Panthers finish with a 39-2 record.

What: Division I California Interscholastic Federation final

Who: No. 9 Palo Alto vs. No. 12 Marymount (Los Angeles)

Score: Palo Alto 3, Marymount 2

Game 1 highlights: Melanie Wade was a threat in the front and back rows for Palo Alto, and the Vikings cruised to a routine opening-game win, 25-17.

Game 2 highlights: Marymount put up a good fight, but Palo Alto libero Shelby Knowles came up huge and had key digs forthe Vikings. Marymount's Lauren Greskovics-Fuller struggled a bit to connect with Kaitlyn Edwards on the slide, and the Palo Alto defense and passing proved to be too much. Palo Alto put itself on the brink of a repeat title with a 25-23 win.

Game 3 highlights: Greskovics-Fuller moved the ball around beautifully and got all her hitters involved. Ashlie Williams was unstoppable in the middle and Lanti Moye-McLaren was a threat in the front and back rows, hitting a variety of angles. It could have gone either way, but the Sailors rallied at key points to win the game 25-22 and keep their season alive.

Game 4 highlights: Marymount came out on fire, holding the lead almost the whole game. Greskovics-Fuller spread the ball around, and Renee Meyer-Whalley came in and served tough to close out the game 25-20 and force a fifth game.

Game 5 highlights: Outside hitter Manon Greskovics-Fuller got hot offensively for Marymount, and the Sailors would not let a ball drop. At 13-7, all signs were pointing to a Marymount win. But then the momentum shifted. Maddie Kuppe went back to serve. “When we sided out and I got back to the end line I was like 'Wait ... we can do this," Kuppe said. "It was like a second switch for me.” Palo Alto roared back, and at 12-13 the fans started to chant “I believe my team can win.” Wade answered with two of her 27 kills. After Marymount hit a ball out, Palo Alto found itself with a 17-15 win. “I am just super proud of our team, the way we came back,” Wade said.

They said it: “I am waiting for the ref to say, 'Oops we made a mistake. You guys actually lost. It’s going to take me a couple of days to figure out how the heck we did that. I’m proud that the seniors got this experience, though, because they worked their butts off all year. It would have been a big dud if we had a wipeout in the fifth set after being up 2-0. So I’m really happy that their efforts were rewarded with this." -- coach Dave Winn

Notes: Palo Alto (36-3) became the first team in school history to win back-to-back state titles. ... Wade, a senior, was named MVP.
By Kirstin Olsen

California playoffsKirstin Olsen/ESPNHSPalo Alto won back-to-back CIF state championships by staging a dramatic fifth-set rally to top Marymount (Los Angeles).

The final two state champions of the 2011 volleyball season were crowned Saturday night in California, and it very well might have been a case of saving the best games for last.

In the CIF Division II state championship, Presentation (San Jose, Calif.) rallied from two sets down and fought off a match point to win its first CIF state championship in volleyball.

Led by 20 kills from Duke commit Emily Sklar, undersized Presentation took down taller La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) 20-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-15, 15-9.

In the first two games, La Costa Canyon, ranked 42nd in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, was in system and had a bevy of hitters to feed, particularly middle Natalie Bausback and outside hitter Cosy Burnett.

But the No. 15 Panthers rallied in the third set with steady play and smart hitting. Veronica Bither and Madison Cooper started to get all their hitters involved and had a great total team effort, never looking out of system.

The Division I final was packed full of drama as well.

No. 9 Palo Alto rallied from a six-point deficit in the fifth game and claimed back-to-back CIF state championships with a 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 17-15 win over No. 12 Marymount (Los Angeles).

In the first two games, Palo Alto was in a great rhythm, utilizing 6-foot-5 middle blocker Melanie Wade, a Washington commit, and getting great passing and hitting from senior outside hitter Maddie Kuppe.

But the momentum took a sharp turn starting in the third game.

Marymount took over with amazing defense and good all-around play. Lanti Moye-McLaren was a key weapon in the front and back row, hitting a variety of angles, and Marymount setter Lauren Fuller did a great job moving the ball around to her hitters.

In the last game, Marymount was up 13-7, but Palo Alto steadied its play and fought its way back in to win the match 17-15.

Wade finished with 26 kills, and the Vikings became the first Palo Alto team to win two straight titles.
By Walter Villa

Texas playoffs1stPhotoTexas.com by Ryan JacksonNo. 2 Lake Travis (Austin) celebrates after winning its 50th game of the season to claim the 4A Texas state championship.

Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) won its third straight state title last week, navigating through a difficult path to get the trophy.

Berkeley Prep, No. 6 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national poll, beat No. 22 Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale) in the state semifinals and No. 15 Bishop Moore (Orlando) in the championship game.

Of the combined total of four losses absorbed by Gibbons and Bishop Moore this year, three of them were administered by Berkeley Prep.

Meanwhile, Berkeley Prep (30-2) was perfect against Florida teams, losing its only two games at the Asics Challenge in Chicago.

In the final against Bishop Moore, Berkeley Prep got the final point on an ace by Stanford recruit Jordan Burgess, a senior who wrapped up her high school career in style.

Florida, though, was just one of 10 states to hold its state finals last week. Texas crowned five champions, including three ranked in the FAB 50 national poll: No. 2 Lake Travis (Austin) in 4A; No. 18 Lovejoy (Lucas) in 3A; and No. 34 Coppell (Coppell) in 5A.

With one more set of winners yet to be determined – California’s playoffs will conclude Dec. 3 -- here is a salute to state champions across the United States.


Class 6A: Huntsville 3, Bob Jones 0
Class 5A: St. Paul's 3, Madison County 0
Class 4A: Guntersville 3, Alexandria 0
Class 3A: Bayside 3, Montgomery Academy 0
Class 2A: Providence Christian 3, Cottage Hill 0
Class 1A: Donoho 3, Addison 2

4A: South Anchorage 3, Dimond 0
3A: Mt. Edgecumbe 3, Grace Christian 0

Division V: Veritas Prep 3, Mogollon 2
Division IV: Northwest Christian 3, Thatcher 2
Division III: Seton Catholic 3, Catalina 0
Division II: Sunnyslope 3, Arcadia 0
Division I: Gilbert 3, Horizon 2

Class 7A: Fayetteville 3, Bentonville 1
Class 6A: Marion 3, Mountain Home 0
Class 5A: Greenwood 3, Little Rock Christian 1
Class 4A: Valley View 3, Jonesboro-Westside 0
Class 3A: Harding Academy 3, Mansfield 1

Division I: Palo Alto 3, Marymount 2
Division II: Presentation 3, La Costa Canyon 2
Division III: Cathedral Catholic 3, Albany 2
Division IV: Union Mine 3, La Jolla Country Day 1
Division V: Branson 3, Tri-City Christian 0

5A: Chaparral 3, Grandview 0
4A: Cheyenne Mountain 3, Coronado 0
3A: Eaton 3, Colorado Academy 0
2A: Lutheran 3, Akron 0
1A: Otis 3, Fleming 2

Class L: East Lyme 3, RHAM-Hebron 0
Class LL: Newtown 3, Southington 1
Class M: Rocky Hill 3, Joel Barlow-Redding 2
Class S: Coventry 3, Northwest Catholic 0

St. Mark’s 3, Archmere 0

8A: East Lake 3, Wellington Community 1
7A: Martin County 3, Winter Springs 1
6A: Leon 3, Fort Myers 1
5A: Merritt Island 3, Gulf Breeze 1
4A: Berkeley Prep 3, Bishop Moore Catholic 1
3A: First Academy 3, Evangelican Christian 1
2A: Lake Worth Christian 3, Pine Castle Christian 2
1A: Lafayette 3, Baker 0

Georgia Class 5A: Walton 3, Harrison 2
Class 4A: Pope 3, Whitewater 1
Class 3A: Sandy Creek 3, St. Pius 0
Class 2A: Eagle’s Landing Christian 3, Greater Atlanta Christian 2

Hawaii Division I: Punahou 3, Kamehameha-Kapalama 0
Division II: St. Francis 3, Leilehua 0

Class 5A: Idaho Falls 3, Post Falls 1
Class 4A: Century 3, Skyview 1
Class 3A: Snake River 3, Fruitland 2
Class 2A: West Side 3, Butte County 2
Class 1A (Division i):Troy 3, Genesee 1
Class 1A (Division II): Camas County 3, Dietrich 0

4A: Benet Academy 2,Cary-Grove 1
3A: Mater Dei 2, Marian 0
2A: Notre Dame 2, Chicago Christian 1
1A: Dakota 2, Mt. Pulaski 0

Penn volleyball
Courtesy of Penn AthleticsPenn (Mishawaka, Ind.) won its second straight state title with an upset of Avon in the final.
Class 4A: Penn 3, Avon 1
Class 3A: Yorktown 3, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard 0
Class 2A: Wapahani 3, Eastern Greene 0
Class 1A: Wes-Del 3, Trinity Lutheran 0

4A: Iowa City West 3, Iowa City High 2
3A: Waverly-Shell Rock 3, Bishop Heelan 1
2A: Dike-New Hartford 3, Western Christian 0
1A: Tripoli 3, LeMars Gehlen Catholic 0

Kansas Class 6A: Washburn Rural 2, Blue Valley North 1
Class 5A: Bishop Miege 2, Newton 0
Class 4A: St. James 2, McPherson 0
Class 3A: Hillsboro 2, Hoisington 0
Class 2A: Olpe 2, Washington County 1
Class 1A (Diviison I):St. John 2, Centralia 1
Class 2A (Division II): Baileyville B&B 2, Norwich 1

Assumption 2, Greenwood 0

I: Fontainebleau 3, Mount Carmel 1
II: Cabrini 3, St. Thomas More 1
III: Ursuline 3, St. Louis 0
IV: Notre Dame 3, De La Salle 0
V: Metairie Park Country Day 3, Episcopal of Acadiana 0

Class A: Greely 3, Scarborough 1
Class B: Yarmouth 3, Bucksport 0

4A: Sherwood 3, Arundel 0
3A: North Hagerstown 3, River Hill 2
2A: Century 3, Fallston 1
1A: Smithsburg 3, Perryville 0

Division I: Barnstable 3, Central Catholic 0
Division II: Marlboro 3, Melrose 1
Division III: Frontier Regional 3, Case 2

A: Rockford 3, Lake Orion 0
B: Fruitport 3, Tecumseh 0
C: Morley-Stanwood 3, Monroe St. Mary 2
D: Battle Creek St. Phillip 3, Wyoming tri-Unity Christian 0
A: Bethlehem Academy 3, Nevis 0
AA: Marshall 3, Stewartville 1
AAA: Eden Prairie 3, Lakeville North 2

Mississippi Class 1: Lewisburg 3, Our Lady Academy 1
Class II: Long Beach 3, Hernando 0
Class III: Hancock 3, Tupelo2

Class 4: Lafayette 2, Lee’s Summitt West 1
Class 3: Villa Duchesne 2, Kansas City St. Pius X 0
Class 2: Festus St. Pius X 2, Fatima 0
Class 1: Eminence 2, Valle Catholic 0

AA: Helena 3, Billings Senior 2
A: Lewistown 3, Billings Central 0
B: Huntley Project 3, Red Lodge 0

A: Papillion-La Vista South 3, Burke 0
B: Pius X 3, Northwest 0
C-1: Columbus Scotus 3, Kearney Catholic 2
C-2: Lutheran High NE 3, Ord 0
D-1: Humphrey 3, Exeter-Milligan 1
D-2: Howells 3, Bertrand 0

4A: Green Valley 3, Reed 0
3A: Truckee 3, Boulder City 0
2A: Yerington 3, Whittell 0
1A: Pahranagat Valley 3, Tonopah 0

New Hampshire
Division I: Hollis Brookline 3, Merrimack 1
Division II: Gilford 3, Dover St. Thomas Aquinas 1
Division III: Moultonborough 3, Farmington 2

New Jersey
Group 4: Livingston 2, Hunterdon Central 0
Group 3: Demarest 2, West Windsor South 0
Group 2: River Dell 2, Sterling, 0
Group 1: Bogota 2, Science Park 0
Non-public: IHA 2, Union Catholic 0
Tournament of Champions: IHA 2, Demarest 0

New Mexico
5A: Gadsden 3, Cleveland 2
4A: Artesia 3, St. Pius X 1
3A: Pojoaque 3, Portales 1
2A: Texico 3, Bosque Prep 0
A: Tatum 3, Melrose 1
B: Elida, 3, Carrizozo 0

New York
AA: Penfield 3, Baldwinsville 2
A: Burnt Hills 3, Our Lady of Mercy 1
B: John Glenn 3, Pelham 0
C: Eden 3, Rhinebeck 0
D: Haldane 3, Randolph 0

North Carolina
Class 4A: Providence 3, Wilmington Hoggard 0
Class 3A: Cardinal Gibbons 3, North Iredell 0
Class 2A: Starmount 3, Northeastern 1
Class 1A: Pender 3, Rosman 0

North Dakota
Class A: Grand Forks Red River 3, Bismarck Century 2
Class B: Central Cass 3, Stanley 0

Division III: Casstown Miami East 3, Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 1
Division II: Columbus Bishop Hartley 3, Kettering Archbishop Alter 1
Division I: Mount Notre Dame 3, St.. Ursula Academy 1
Division IV: St. Henry 3, New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Catholic 1

Bishop Miege high school
Courtesy of Bishop Miege/ESPNHSBishop Miege (Shawnee Mission, Kan.) won its fourth consecutive state championship.
Class 6A: Bishop Kelley 3, Edmond North 0
Class 5A: Cascia Hall 3, Heritage Hall 2
Class 4A: Lincoln Christian 3, Cache 2

6A: Central Catholic 3, Jesuit 0
5A: Summit 3, West Albany 2
4A: Crook County 3, Hidden Valley 0
3A: Burns 3, Willamina 0
2A: Days Creek 3, Portland Christian 0
1A: Ione 3, Powder Valley 2

AAA: Parkland 3, Hempfield 1
AA: Brandywine Heights 3, Southern Lehigh 1
A: Linesville 3, Clarion Area 0

Rhode Island
Division I: Coventry 3, Ponaganset 2
Division II: Exeter/West Greenwich 3, Cumberland 2

South Carolina
Class 4A: Hillcrest 3, Aiken 2
Class 3A: Eastside 3, Myrtle Beach 0
Class 2A: Bishop England 3, Gilbert 1
Class 1A: St. Joseph's 3, Branchville 0

South Dakota
Class AA: Lincoln 3, Roosevelt 2
Class A: SF Christian 3, Wagner 1
Class B: Northwestern 3, Arlington 1

Tennessee Class A: Friendship Christian 3, Summertown 0
Class AA: Page 3, Goodpasture 2
Class AAA: Ravenwood 3, Independence 0
Division II Class A: St. George’s 3, St. Cecilia 0
Division II Class AA: Ensworth 3, Baylor 0

5A: Coppell 3, Boyd 1
4A: Lake Travis 3, Pearce 0
3A: Lovejoy 3, Wylie 2
2A: Poth 3, Nocona 0
1A: Water Valley 3, Iola 0

Utah Class 3A: Morgan 3, Snow Canyon 0
Class 2A: Richfield 3, San Juan 1
Class 1A: Monticello 3, Rich 1
Class 5A: Davis 3, Lehi 0
Class 4A: Timpview 3, Salem Hills 2

Class A Division I: Bath County 3, Alta Vista 2
Class A Division II: Mathews 3, Eastside 1
Class AA: Cave Spring 3, Jamestown 0
Class AAA: Floyd E. Kellam 3, Ocean Lakes 1

1B: Tekoa-Oakesdale 3, Colton 1
2B: Reardan 3, Colfax 0
1A: Colville 3, Castle Rock 0
2A: Burlington-Edison 3, Tumwater 1
3A: West Valley, Yakima 3, Eastside Catholic 1
4A: Olympia 3, Kentwood 2

West Virginia
AAA: Spring Valley 3, Musselman 1
AA: Oak Glen 3, Ritchie County 1
A: Wirt County 3, Williamstown 2

high school
Courtesy of Bishop Kelley/ESPNHSBishop Kelley (Tulsa, Okla.) claimed the 6A state volleyball championship with a 3-0 win over Edmond North.
Division1: Burlington 3, Fond du Lac 0
Division2: Waukesha Catholic Memorial 3, Tomahawk 0
Division3: Oostburg 3, Spencer 2
Division4: Burlington Catholic Central 3, Owen-Withee 0

Wyoming Class 4A: Kelly Walsh 3, Cheyenne East 0
Class 3A: Cody 3, Douglas 1
Class 2A: Wright 3, Lovell 0
Class 1A: Cokeville 3, Kaycee 0
By Kirstin Olsen

California playoffsCourtesy of St. Francis AthleticsSt. Francis (Mountain View, Calif.) takes on Presentation (San Jose) for the Division II NorCal title.
No. 12 Palo Alto (Calif.) won its 19th straight match with a three-set win over San Ramon Valley in the second round of the Division I NorCal CIF state tournament. The Vikings got 19 kills from Washington commit Melanie Wade. Outside hitter and UConn commit Maddie Kuppe had 15 kills, and setter and University of Pacific commit Kimmy Whitson had 32 assists in the 25-20, 25-23, 25-13 win. Next up for Palo Alto is Menlo-Atherton, which knocked off St. Francis (Sacramento) in straight sets.

In the SoCal bracket, No. 6 Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos) defeated No. 26 Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.) 25-16, 25-20, 21-25, 27-25 in the second round. The Griffins struggled in the third set and lost middle blocker Crissy Jones to an injury. But Los Al picked up its defense and rallied to win a tight fourth set.

No. 15 Marymount (Los Angeles, Calif.) won in five over a very feisty No. 28 Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.) 25-22, 21-25, 13-25, 26-24, 15-8. Junior Middle blocker Kaitlyn Edwards paced the Sailors with 21 kills and 10 blocks, and senior outside hitter Manon Greskovics-Fuller contributed with 12 kills and 25 digs. Newport outside hitter and USC commit Cinnamon Sary led the Sailors with 29 kills and 9 digs. Marymount’s Lanti Moye-McLaren and Greskovics-Fuller stepped up their game with some key kills at the end of the match to give the Sailors the edge. Marymount next faces Los Alamitos on Tuesday.

In the Division II CIF tournament, No. 36 St. Francis (Mountain View, Calif.) took care of No. 47 El Camino (Sacramento, Calif.) 25-20, 26-24, 22-25, 25-18, and No. 19 Presentation (San Jose, Calif.) beat Rocklin 25-13, 23-25, 25-20, 25-23. The much-anticipated rematch of St. Francis and Presentation will take place on Tuesday for the DII NorCal championship. Presentation beat St. Francis three times in the regular season, but when it counted most in the CIF Central Coast Playoffs, St. Francis beat Presentation in five. Presentation boasts outside hitter and Duke commit Emily Sklar, and St. Francis has setter and UCSB commit Taylor Formico and middle blocker and Wake Forest commit Taylor Deaton.
READ MORE: Lake Travis (50-0) wins 4A title

By Walter Villa

SAN MARCOS, Texas – Pushed to five sets for the first time all season and playing without one of its stars, Lovejoy (Lucas) persevered and won its fourth straight state title Saturday.

The Leopards (48-4) beat Wylie (Abilene) 25-20, 18-25, 25-14, 23-25, 15-8 at Strahan Coliseum on the campus of Texas State University.

Lovejoy’s string of Class 3A titles appears likely to come to an end next season – but only because the school’s increased enrollment indicates a move up to 4A is coming.

Texas playoffs
1stPhotoTexas.com by Ashley LandisSenior Nicole Newton finished with 12 kills as Lovejoy won its fourth straight state title.
Lovejoy, No. 18 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, will also have to replace three key seniors for next season: Andie Malloy, Nicole Newton and Morgan Hofacker.

Malloy, a 6-2 setter and hitter who will play for Iowa State, is an especially big loss. She earned 3A MVP honors Saturday after posting a triple-double: 24 kills, 21 assists and 15 digs.

Malloy also won MVP honors in 2009.

“Winning MVP this year means so much to me,” said Malloy, her voice hoarse from yelling encouragement to her teammates. “Every year, our team has changed. It was great to be able to lead the team, no matter who else is out there.”

Malloy’s comment was a reference to 6-4 star middle hitter Ebony Nwanebu, who sat out her second straight game due to undisclosed reasons. It was termed a “coach’s decision” by Ryan Mitchell, who praised Malloy after the final.

“This kid’s been a stud since her freshman year,” Mitchell said. “But this year, she’s showed a lot of leadership.”

Lovejoy’s other seniors also showed the way for the team’s two freshmen, six sophomores and eight juniors. Newton had 12 kills and a match-high .556 kill percentage. Hofacker had 17 digs, which helped subdue Wylie (40-7).

When Malloy put down the match’s final point, Nwanebu was among the first Lovejoy players to storm the court in celebration. And Mitchell said he fully expects Nwanebu to be back on the team and in good standing next season.

Lovejoy is now tied for third for the best run in Texas history. The record is six straight titles, set by Class 1A Windthorst (Windthorst) from 1997 to 2002.

Mitchell said his deep roster made it possible Saturday.

“We have kids on our bench who could start for other programs,” Mitchell said. “We also have kids with character. When a hard decision is made, they have their coach’s back.”

In Saturday’s other Texas final involving at least one nationally ranked team, No. 34 Coppell beat No. 21 Boyd (McKinney) 25-22, 25-19, 20-25, 25-19.

With the victory, Coppell coach Julie Green completed an amazing feat, winning consecutive state titles with two different teams, including Lake Travis (Austin) in 2010.

Senior Kierra Holst, a 6-4 middle blocker, was named the 5A state finals MVP for Coppell (42-8). She had 19 kills and a .341 kill percentage in the win over Boyd (45-7).

Coppell also survived perhaps the most competitive class in the nation. At least six Class 5A teams that were nationally ranked at some point this season were beaten before the state final, including Carroll (Southlake); College Park (The Woodlands), Cypress Woods (Cypress), Westlake (Austin), Georgetown (Georgetown) and Johnson (San Antonio).
READ MORE: Lovejoy captures 3A crown

By Walter Villa

Texas playoffs1stPhotoTexas.com by Ryan JacksonNo. 2 Lake Travis (Austin) celebrates after winning its 50th game of the season to claim the 4A Texas state championship.

SAN MARCOS, Texas – After winning its second straight state title and posting a 50-0 record, Lake Travis (Austin) answered all the questions this season -- except for a long one in Saturday night’s final post-match press conference.

The indecipherable query was asked of Lake Travis outside hitter Sierra Patrick, who said a couple things before stopping.

“Can you repeat the question?” Patrick said as her teammates and the assembled media roared with laughter. “I was going to try to say something, but …”

Patrick and her teammates need not say anything more.

Their play spoke volumes.

After losing their first set of the season Thursday night against Foster (Richmond), the Cavaliers got back to being routinely dominant on Saturday with their 49th sweep of the season, a 25-13, 25-16, 25-14 dismantling of Pearce (Richardson) in the Class 4A state final.

Texas playoffs
1stPhotoTexas.com by Ryan Jackson Amy Neal had nine kills in the championship match and was named MVP for the second year in a row.
Lake Travis, No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national poll, was led by Amy Neal, who earned state finals MVP honors for the second straight season.

Neal had nine kills, 12 digs and a .333 kill percentage to power a balanced attack. Patrick and Piper Toler also had nine kills, Katy Beals had a match-high 21 assists and libero Mackenzie Mayo added 10 digs.
As a team, Lake Travis had a .316 kill percentage compared to .057 for Pearce (36-14).

Pearce star Shelby Sullivan, a Texas A&M recruit, led her team with 10 kills and a .292 kill percentage. But it was far short of her stellar semifinal performance, when she took apart No. 29 Randall (Amarillo) with 20 kills and a .541 kill percentage.

Give credit to Lake Travis’ leaping ability up front and agility in the back row for making life difficult for Sullivan.

Pearce coach Jason Nicholson, whose team lost to Lake Travis last year in an epic five-set state semifinal, wasn’t surprised.

“We knew what we were walking into,” he said. “Lake Travis brought back everybody from last year.”
Everybody except coach Julie Green, that is. Green left for Coppell (Coppell), which won a state title in Class 5A later Saturday night.

Lake Travis replaced Green with Jennifer Kazmierski, who had been an assistant at Magnolia (Texas).
Kazmierski said she realized quickly that she had inherited great talent.

Asked if Lake Travis is the best high school team she has ever seen, Kazmierski was quick to respond.

“Absolutely,” she said. “I can’t even explain it. … You just don’t find high school teams with eight seniors who will play college volleyball next year like we have.”

Kazmierski’s bunch is the first team in Texas history to win 50 matches in a season. Lake Travis is also the first undefeated Texas state champ since Windthorst in 2004 and the 12th overall.

Pearce, meanwhile, came in on a 23-match win streak, dropping just four sets in that span.

But the Mustangs never got going against Lake Travis’ superior skill, speed and savvy.

“Our kids fought,” Nicholson said. “But by the third set, I think some fatigue set in because they had to extend themselves so much on every rally.”

Kazmierski said her team played better Saturday than it did in the semifinal. She said she could feel the difference in her team during Friday’s practice.

The pressure of trying to go the whole season without dropping a set had disappeared. Now there was just a singular goal – the state title – and a worthy opponent in Pearce.

Neal said last year’s state semifinal, when Pearce led Lake Travis two sets to none, came into her thought process on Saturday.

“We knew after what happened last season that they were going to fight hard,” Neal said. “We had to push our hardest to beat them.”

Texas playoffs
1stPhotoTexas.com by Ashley LandisLake Travis dropped just a single set all season long on its way to the Texas 4A state title.
The Lake Travis seniors said the only thing that makes Saturday’s win bittersweet is the realization that their high school careers are over.

Soon, they will split up for college.

Before every practice, they reminded each other of that fact and promised to do everything they could to make their final run a success.

“The girls,” Neal said when asked what she will miss most about playing for Lake Travis. “We know everything about each other. We are weird with each other. It’s going to be weird not playing with them anymore.”

Four of Lake Travis’ seniors are considered big-time recruits: Neal (Texas), Patrick (Texas A&M), Beals (Washington) and Mayo (Baylor). Toler, meanwhile, plans to walk on at Texas Christian. The other Lake Travis players headed for college volleyball are Cassie Wang (Washington University of St. Louis), Gabby Bienkowski (Great Falls in Montana) and Kaci Easton (North Texas).

All of them, though, will fondly recall their phenomenal season of 2011.

“It’s pretty cool that we got 50-0,” Mayo said. “That’s solid – a nice, round number.”
By Walter Villa

SAN MARCOS, Texas – If Lovejoy (Lucas) is to become just the fourth Texas team to win at least four straight state titles, it will have to do so without one of the nation’s best players.

Ebony Nwanebu, a 6-foot-4 junior and a Southern Cal recruit, did not play Friday, when Lovejoy defeated Sinton 25-23, 25-9, 25-15 in a Class 3A state semifinal. Nwanebu was on the bench, supporting her team and wearing her warm-ups.

Lovejoy coach Ryan Mitchell said Nwanebu was not hurt and was not out due to disciplinary reasons. He told the team Nwanebu would not be playing on Wednesday, giving them only one day to prepare.

“Ebony is a coach’s decision this weekend,” Mitchell said after his team improved to 47-4. “She is eligible to play. She will not be playing.”

Nwanebu was the MVP of the 2010 Class 3A state finals. But even without her, Lovejoy still has 6-2 senior Andie Malloy, a setter and right side hitter. Malloy, an Iowa State recruit and a part of the USA’s Youth National team, came through Friday with a match-high 12 kills. She also added 10 assists and a .303 kill percentage.

Sinton (30-11), which did not know about Nwanebu’s status until the match started, led the first set 17-11 before unraveling. For the match, Sinton had 11 return errors compared to only two for Lovejoy.

Lovejoy will play Wylie (Abilene) in Saturday’s state championship game.
By Walter Villa

SAN MARCOS, Texas – It was a night when the winning players seemed crushed halfway through the match, when the losing team accomplished something unique, and when the reigning champions proved their mental fortitude.

Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) – as it turns out -- isn’t perfect, and the Cavaliers had their single-season streak of 122 consecutive winning sets broken. But the Cavaliers regrouped to beat Foster (Richmond, Texas) 25-11, 22-25, 25-17, 25-22 in a Class 4A state semifinal Thursday night at Strahan Coliseum on the campus of Texas State University.

“It was upsetting,” Lake Travis outside hitter Sierra Patrick said. “We just had to get over it and go to the next thing.”

The next thing for Lake Travis (49-0) is Saturday’s state final against 36-13 Pearce (Richardson, Texas).

Lake Travis, No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, is bidding for its second straight state title. But it figures to get a challenge from Pearce, which split two matches with the Cavaliers last year.

It was the second match, however, that became an instant classic. In the 2010 state semifinal, Pearce won the first two sets before Lake Travis roared back to win the next three on its way to the first girls’ volleyball championship in school history.

Lake Travis hadn’t lost a set since … until Thursday.

After winning the first set with ease, the score was tied at 18 in the second. That’s when Foster took control, scoring four straight points. The Falcons were up 24-20, but Lake Travis saved two set points.

At that point, Lake Travis surely believed it could pull out another minor miracle like the one in which they rallied from down 16-7 earlier this season. But Foster senior Erin Fairs showed some touch when she tipped a ball over the Lake Travis block, just inside the left sideline.

Lake Travis coach Jennifer Kazmierski said she knew Foster was tough.

“I watched them on video for three straight days,” she said. “They’re athletic, they don’t let the ball drop, and they stay after it to try to win the rally every single point.”

After Fairs’ shot went down, the Lake Travis players looked dazed and confused –- and who could blame them?
It had been 364 days since they last lost a set.

When they got back to their bench, Kazmierski made sure to get them focused. The perfect-sets streak was never the goal, she told them. The state title was the real prize, and that was still in play.

“Initially, they were disappointed,” Kazmierski said. “But as soon as I told them that, their eyes got big, and they went, ‘Yeah!’ And they were right back in.”

The third set was close -- Foster trailed by one at 17-16 -- before Lake Travis took control. The Cavaliers led the fourth set 21-14 when Foster scored six straight.

The Cavaliers rallied to take a 24-20 lead, and, after faltering on two match points, a Patrick spike put the match away for Lake Travis.

Amy Neal, the MVP of last year’s Class 4A state finals, was again the star for Lake Travis. She had match-highs in kills (24), kill percentage (.312) and digs (17).

The Cavaliers also got contributions from Patrick (11 kills), Katy Beals (33 assists), Mackenzie Mayo (16 digs) and Claire McCown (.267 kill percentage).

“They have a million great players,” Pearce coach Jason Nicholson said of the Cavaliers, his opponent on Saturday.

Pearce has a great player of its own in 6-2 senior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan. She had a phenomenal match in Tuesday’s first semifinal, a 25-17, 26-24, 12-25, 25-21 win over No. 29 Randall (Amarillo, Texas). She had match-highs in kills (20) and kill percentage (.541) to end Randall’s season at 42-5.

Remarkably, Sullivan had no attack errors, no service errors and only one return error. For perspective, consider that Neal on Thursday had nine attack errors, four service errors and two return errors – and she’s one of the best players in the nation.

If Sullivan can repeat her performance or even come close on Saturday, an upset is possible.

“I can’t wait to play them,” Sullivan said of Lake Travis. “I just want to play them so bad.”

Patrick feels the same way. She has known Sullivan since sixth grade, and the two are going to play together for Texas A&M next season.

As for Saturday’s final, perhaps Lake Travis can now relax after losing a set.

But Patrick dismissed that notion.

“The pressure’s always on,” she said. “There’s always pressure.”
By Walter Villa

Texas volleyballLoneStarVolleyball.comLake Travis (Austin, Texas) enters the semifinals of the state tournament without losing a single set this season. "Not losing a set is a huge goal for us," setter Katy Beals says.

Gwen Egbert, the coach of Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.), said she never talks to her team about perfect records “because you’re never going to be perfect.”

Don’t tell that to Lake Travis (Austin, Texas).

One week after Papio South -- No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings -- won a state title and finished undefeated, No. 2 Lake Travis will try to accomplish the same feat, with a twist.

Lake Travis (48-0) is trying to reach the finish line without losing a single set all season.

On Thursday, Lake Travis plays Foster (Richmond) in a Texas Class 4A state semifinal. If it beats Foster (38-10), Lake Travis would either face No. 33 Randall (Amarillo) or Pearce (Richardson) in Saturday’s state final.

Besides Lake Travis, three other teams in the FAB 50 are undefeated, but none have gone unscathed in terms of sets. Papio South lost a total of four sets; No. 12 Chaparral (Parker, Colo.) won a state title last weekend, finishing 31-0 with six lost sets; and No. 25 Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.) also won a state title on Saturday with a 33-0 record and three lost sets.

Lake Travis coach Jennifer Kazmierski, like Egbert, doesn’t talk to her team about perfection. But she does admit “it’d be really sweet.”

“As a coach, my aim is just to win the match,” Kazmierski said. “I don’t want to put extra pressure on the girls by talking about not losing a set. But I know for them, as the season has gone on, not losing a set has become their goal.”

Certainly, there have been some close calls, including a regular-season game against Cedar Park in which Lake Travis was down 19-17 before winning 25-23.

But the most dire situation came in the regional quarterfinals against Canyon (New Braunfels). Canyon led 16-7 in the second set before Lake Travis rallied to win 25-22.

“I was pleasantly surprised when we came back to win that set,” Lake Travis setter Katy Beals said.

Kazmierski said it helps that her team is rock-solid mentally.

“They don’t put pressure on themselves, and they don’t get flustered, even when they’re trailing,” she said. “It’s stunning to see.”

It’s probably fair to say that all teams feel pressure, especially when they are closing in on their championship goal.

Papio South players admitted as much last week before they won their second straight state title and extended their winning streak to 82 matches.

“Everyone has really high expectations for us,” Papio South libero Lauren Poulicek said. “Struggling through school and volleyball at the same time, it’s really hard to keep focused on what we want to do.”

Papio South outside hitter Amber Rolfzen and setter Kelly Hunter said the key was how the team reacted to the pressure they faced.

“I think we perform best under pressure,” Rolfzen said. “That’s why we always come out on top.”

Added Hunter: “I think we like the target on our backs. We knew everyone was going to give us their best shot. There was a lot of pressure, but I think it made us better and made us work harder.”

Ron Kordes, coach of No. 3 Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), watched his team win a state title this season, finishing 43-1. He said his team played much better after an early-season loss, a defeat that took the pressure off and allowed the players to play free.

Lake Travis, though, has no such luxury. A loss now and the season would be over.

Just ask No. 5 St. Ursula Academy (Toldeo, Ohio), which had an undefeated season until this past Saturday, when the Arrows lost to Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati, Ohio) in a state final.

Perhaps the Arrows, who had won 48 matches in a row entering the final, felt the pressure.

“When you start thinking of pressure,” former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once said, “it’s because you've started to think of failure.”

Then again, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had a different view on the same issue: “A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.”

Now it’s up to Lake Travis to decide how they will be remembered this season. Will an opponent end their dreams of perfection? Or will the pressure they face create a jewel of a finish?

“Not losing a set is a huge goal for us,” Beals said. “At the beginning of the season, we weren’t very serious about (the goal). But after (the) Pearland (tournament), it became more real. We beat a lot of great teams there.”

Asked if she felt pressure to finish the season on a high note, Beals flipped the script.

“I think if I were going up against a team that hadn’t lost a set, I’d be nervous,” she said. “For us, it’s just about having fun.”
By Walter Villa

Nebraska state volleyballPatrick BreenNo. 1 Papillion-La Vista South won its second consecutive Nebraska state title and completed a perfect season with a straight-set win over Burke on Saturday.
READ MORE: Titans survive semi | Volleyball thrives in Heartland | Tale of the tape: 1 vs. 2

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. –- Some champions are hated by their opponents, especially after they’ve won a big playoff game, dashing their rivals’ dreams.

Nebraska’s Class A champions, however, seem to be admired.

There was evidence of that all weekend at the Heartland Events Center, where Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.) dominated the girls’ volleyball state finals.

Papillion-La Vista South
Patrick BreenTitans' senior setter Whitney Kostal dives for a ball Saturday against Burke.
On Saturday, the Titans never trailed and defeated Burke (Omaha, Neb.), 25-15, 25-11, 25-17, to win their second straight state title. The Titans also likely wrapped up their second consecutive year atop the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings.

The Titans (41-0) have now won 82 consecutive matches and are approaching the state record of 115, set by Scotus (Columbus, Neb.) in 2004.

Outside hitter Amber Rolfzen referenced the record when she was asked about a three-peat in 2012.

“It’s a goal,” she said of winning a third straight state. “But we also want to break the consecutive win streak.”

Rick Hughes, who coaches Burke (32-7), wouldn’t be surprised if the Titans kept on winning.

“I think they could beat a lot of junior colleges,” Hughes said.

The Titans began their Grand Island victory tour on Thursday with an easy win over Millard West (Omaha, Neb.). The Millard West student section spent the entire match chanting creative cheers in a futile attempt to distract or disrupt the Titans.

Finally, with just a couple of points left in the match, the Millard West fans did something rather remarkable and started chanting:

“We respect you! We respect you!”

On Friday, the Titans defeated Marian (Omaha, Neb.), 28-26, 25-19, 25-18, in their most difficult match of the weekend.

Marian is the only team in the state to have taken a set from the Titans this season. Marian is also ranked 42nd in the FAB 50 poll. And had it not been for the Titans, Marian likely would have won three straight state titles instead of just the one recent championship they earned in 2009.

It would be easy to understand if Marian were frustrated by the Titans’ mere existence, blocking their path to glory. But, publicly at least, no Marian player wept, appeared angry or expressed anything other than what a thrill it was to compete against the Titans.

Perhaps that’s just good Nebraska sportsmanship at play. But one senses that if the Titans were an arrogant bunch, their vanquished opponents would react differently.

Marian coach Rochelle Rohlfs said as much and added that it would have taken a special team to beat the Titans.

“There is not one spot on the floor you can go after for a whole match,” she said. “You have to constantly change your defense because they are athletic enough to make the adjustments.”

Rohlfs was asked for perspective on how the Titans would rank among other great champions in Nebraska history.

“Position by position,” Rohlfs said, “the only team I can think of that could have matched up with them was Papillion-La Vista (Papillion, Neb.), back when they had Lindsey Hunter.”

Rohlfs was referring to the teams that won Class A state titles in 2000 and 2001 and was led by Hunter, who went on to star at the University of Missouri and played for the U.S. national team. That Papillion-La Vista team had five Division I recruits and went 78-5 in a two-year span.

The Titans, meanwhile, have three Division I recruits, a number that could grow. One of those recruits is Lindsey Hunter’s younger sister, Kelly, a junior setter who has committed to Nebraska. Kelly and Lindsey’s mother, the former Lori Melcher, was a setter at Nebraska from 1977 to 1980.

Kelly Hunter’s two junior classmates, twins Kadie and Amber Rolfzen, committed to Nebraska two months before they started their high school careers.

That trio – along with fellow juniors Katelyn Kurtz, Alyssa Gibbs and Olivia Schonewise -- will return next season and should be heavily favored to win a third straight state title.

Titans coach Gwen Egbert will have to replace valuable seniors such as setter Whitney Kostal, libero Lauren Poulicek, outside hitter Megan Stroyek and middle hitter Rachel Nelson.

“Our seniors did a great job,” Egbert said. “Now our juniors will have one more year to get better.”

The Titans figure to continue their dynasty as long as they can find a libero as good as Poulicek.

The rest of the pieces are in place, including a setter who serves as a vocal on-court leader (Hunter), a veteran coach (Egbert) and role players galore.

But what makes the Titans truly special are the Rolfzen twins, who finish points with regularity and – despite their height -- are athletic enough to combine for more than 600 digs this season.

The twins were the ESPNHS Co-Sophomores of the Year in 2010. This year, Kadie’s numbers have been clearly better, evidenced by the fact that she led the team in kills, digs and aces.

Kadie Rolfzen is also fast enough to have finished fourth in the state last year in the 200-meter dash and skilled enough to lead her school’s basketball team in assists and blocked shots.

Poulicek, however, said it’s impossible for her to say which twin is best.

“They’re both great,” she said. “It was always good to know we could count on them for anything.”

Titans fans can count on their team being outstanding again next year. The Titans’ celebration on Saturday was a bit muted, but that’s probably because the core of the team – the Rolfzens and Hunter – will return next season.

“Last year, we were all on the floor – a huge dog pile – and there were more tears,” Kadie Rolfzen said. “This year, we were excited … but not as excited.”

If they get here again in 2012, it will be a different story, Hunter said.

“Definitely,” she said. “We want that three-peat.”

Pius X wins Class B crown

No. 41 Pius X (Lincoln, Neb.) won the Class B state title Saturday night, defeating Northwest (Grand Island, Neb.), 25-18, 25-14, 25-17.

The Bolts won their seventh state title and their first since 2008. They were led by four Division I recruits: 6-4 middle Lauren Smith (Creighton); 5-7 libero Lea Sack (Bradley); 6-0 outside Scarlett Howerter (Drake); and 6-2 middle Cassie Effken (Drake).

Pius X’s three losses this season were to No. 1 Papio South, No. 42 Marian and Northwest. But the Bolts won the season series 2-1 against Marian and 2-1 over Northwest.

The Bolts beat Elkhorn South (Elkhorn, Neb.) in Friday’s semifinals. Elkhorn South was led by Nebraska recruit Lauren Sieckmann, who had a game-high 18 kills.