From personal triumphs to dominant dynasties, high school girls’ volleyball had plenty to celebrate in 2011. We look back on some of the year’s top stories before ringing in 2012:
Led by juniors Amber Rolfzen, Kadie Rolfzen and Kelly Hunter, all University of Nebraska commits, Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.) won back-to-back national championships and stretched its winning streak to 82 games, including a five-set, come-from-behind thriller against No. 4 St. James (Lenexa, Kan.) on the road in early October. And it might not be time quite yet to close the book on the Heartland dynasty. “We want a three-peat,” Hunter says of 2012.
Donning a helmet and pads to help prevent a recurrence of blood clots that formed after she had her tonsils removed, senior Katie George helped Assumption (Louisville, Ky.) win the Durango Fall Classic title in Las Vegas. The Louisville commit went on to lead Assumption to the Asics Challenge championship and, no longer needing her protective gear, the Kentucky state championship. She was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Kentucky, while Assumption (43-1) finished third in the final POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings for 2011.
Playing in honor of teammate Caroline Found, Iowa City West repeated as state champions with a dramatic five-set win over cross-city rival Iowa City. Found, a setter who would have been a senior this year, died after a moped accident on Aug. 11."Everybody who didn’t have a friend knew her," coach Kathy Bresnahan said. "She embraced everyone."
With a perfect 50-0 record, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) becomes the first undefeated state champion in Texas since 2004. The Cavaliers, who dropped only a single set all season, were led by senior outside hitter Amy Neal, who won state MVP honors and was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year in Texas. Lake Travis finished No. 2 in the final POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings for 2011.
Wapahani (Selma, Ind.) stunned superpower Muncie Burris in the opening round of the Indiana sectional playoffs. With the four-set win, the Raiders ended Muncie Burris’ 14-year reign as state champions and halted its playoff winning streak at 95 matches. Wapahani didn’t stop there, going on to clinch the Class 2A title with a sweep of Eastern Greene.
After the NCAA made sand volleyball an emerging sport in 2011-12, high school players looked to capitalize on an additional scholarship source. Arizona followed suit and will launch a sand volleyball pilot program in 2012, making it the first state to offer the sport at the high school level.
The California state championships brought the 2011 girls’ volleyball season to a rousing conclusion. In the Division II final, Presentation (San Jose, Calif.) rallied from two sets down to claim the crown. In Division I, Palo Alto was pushed to five sets but became the first Northern California volleyball team to win back-to-back Division I state titles and the first team in school history to notch back-to-back CIF state titles.
Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.) skipped the pleasantries and upset undefeated Berkeley Prep, at the time the No. 3 team in the nation, on the eve of hosting the prestigious Asics Challenge. Berkeley Prep got some measure of revenge the following day, topping Mother McAuley in straight sets in a rematch in the semifinals before falling to Assumption in the final.
In one of the tightest races ever, Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.) was crowned the FAB 50 national champions for boys’ volleyball, edging fellow California powers Mira Costa, Buchanan, Santa Margarita and Mater Dei. The Sea Kings finished their season with a 32-4 record.
Sky High Black of Crystal Lake, Ill., won the 17U title at the 38th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships, part of the inaugural ESPNHS Girls Showcase at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in June. It was the second consecutive national title for the squad, which was led by seniors Abby Gilleland and Mary Striedl.