High-SchoolVolleyball: Nicole Dalton

ESPNHS All-AmericansCourtesy of LoneStarVolleyball.comOutside hitter Andie Malloy helped Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas) become the first team in Texas history to win four straight 3A state titles.
READ MORE: Madison Bugg practically perfect

Meet the players who have been selected to the 2011 ESPNHS All-America volleyball team.

First team

(With name, position, year, school and college destination)

Taylor Morey, L, senior, Muncie Burris (Ind.), Notre Dame
Although her FAB 50 No. 45 team had its run of consecutive state titles end at 14, the 5-foot-6 Morey put up better numbers across the board. From her junior year, she went up in kills (415 to 436), digs (233 to 424) and aces (59 to 105).

Inky Ajanaku, MB, senior, Bishop Kelley (Okla.), Stanford
There was nothing dinky about the accomplishments for the 6-foot-4 Inky in her career for the FAB 50 No. 49 Comets. She led the team (32-3) to three state titles in four years with a .634 kill percentage as a senior.

Molly McCage, MB, senior, Klein Collins (Spring, Texas), Texas
A 6-foot-3 player who was captain of the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team last summer, McCage also led her high school team to a 32-10 record. She had 260 kills and 107 blocks and is known for her leaping ability.

Megan McGehee, MB, senior, Lee's Summit West (Mo.), Stanford
She came into this season as a two-time all-state pick and was academic all-state three times. The 6-foot-3 blocker then did even more, leading her team to a runner-up finish in the Class 4 state playoffs with 393 kills, 80 blocks and 103 digs.

Melanie Wade, MB, senior, Palo Alto (Calif.), Washington
The 6-foot-5 Wade was a major reason the FAB 50 No. 9 Vikings (36-3) became the first school from Northern California to win back-to-back CIF Division I state titles. She had 27 kills in the final match against Marymount of Los Angeles and ended the season with 594 kills, 65 aces and 255 digs.

Jordan Burgess, OH, senior, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.), Stanford
The Gatorade Florida Player of the Year for 2010 and 2011 also was the ESPNHS National Junior of the Year for 2010. Burgess, who is 6-foot-1 and multi-talented, led FAB 50 No. 5 Berkeley Prep (30-2) to its third straight state title. She had 553 kills, 366 digs, 48 aces and 32 blocks.

Nicole Dalton, OH, senior, Chaparral (Parker, Colo.), Texas
Considered the best player in Colorado history by many, Dalton is a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year and led Chaparral to two straight Class 5A state titles and a final No. 8 ranking in the FAB 50. The 6-foot-2 member of last summer’s U.S. Youth National Team finished with 492 kills, 406 assists and 267 digs.

Amy Neal, OH, senior, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), Texas
She isn’t the biggest outside hitter around at 5-foot-10, but makes up for that in many different ways. Neal led the FAB 50 No. 2 Cavaliers to a 50-0 record and has been chosen as the Texas Gatorade State Player of the Year. She had 538 kills, 287 digs and 63 aces on the season.

Kadie Rolfzen, OH, junior, Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.), Nebraska
Last year’s top sophomore in the nation followed it up with another stellar season. At 6-foot-3, Rolfzen and twin sister Amber form the nucleus for Papillion-La Vista South’s teams that have gone 82-0 the last two seasons and have been FAB 50 national champions twice.

Emily Sklar, OH, senior, Presentation (San Jose, Calif.), Duke
She didn’t even start playing volleyball until she was a freshman three years ago and has quickly become one of the top players in the nation. The 6-foot-2 Sklar led the FAB 50 No. 14 Panthers (41-2) to the CIF Division II state title and had 584 kills and 487 digs for the season.

Katy Beals, S, senior, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), Washington
She joined with teammate Amy Neal to lead the Cavaliers to their 50-0 dream season. The 6-foot-1 Beals nearly had 1,000 assists with a final total of 970. She also had 153 kills, 228 digs and 31 aces.

Madison Bugg, S/OH, senior, Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.), Stanford
She’s one of those players who shined at a different position in high school than the one she’s going to play in college. The 6-foot-1 standout was an outside hitter for Cardinal Gibbons and led the Crusaders (22-3) to their third straight Class 3A state title. She’ll be a setter at Stanford and has been a setter for the U.S. Girls’ Youth Team.

Megan Courtney, S/OH, senior, Archbishop Alter (Kettering, Ohio), Penn State
A versatile 6-foot-2 player who did it all for her Division II state finalist team, Courtney won the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year honor and has been all-state three times. For the season, she had 451 kills, 426 assists and 316 digs.

Katie George, S/OH, senior, Assumption (Louisville, Ky.), Louisville
Her credentials include the usual such as Miss Kentucky volleyball and Gatorade State Player of the Year, but the 5-foot-10 George also was MVP at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas and made the all-tournament team at the Asics Challenge (an MVP was not named) in Chicago. She led the FAB 50 No. 3 Rockets to a 43-1 record and a state championship.

Andie Malloy, S/OH, senior, Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas), Iowa State
The 6-foot-2 Malloy helped her team become the first in Texas history to win four straight Class 3A state titles. She was a U.S. Junior National Team member last summer and ended the high school season with averages of 4.2 kills, 4.7 digs and 6.1 assists per set.

Second team

Caitlin Nolan, L, senior, Carroll (Southlake, Texas), Iowa State
Sheridan Zarda, L, senior, St. James Academy (Lenexa, Kan.), Nebraska
Sarah Burrington, MB, senior, Riverview (Fla.), Florida State
Meghan Haggerty, MB, senior, Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.), Wisconsin
Kierra Holst, MB, senior, Coppell (Texas), Oklahoma
Ebony Nwanebu, MB, junior, Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas), USC
Mackenzie Bigbee, OH, senior, Williamsburg (Iowa), Iowa State
Macey Gardner, OH, senior, Gilbert (Ariz.), Arizona State
Brittany Howard, OH, senior, Mountain View (Calif.), Stanford
Paulina Prieto, OH, senior, Palmer Trinity (Palmetto Bay, Fla.), Penn State
Amber Rolfzen, OH, junior, Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.), Nebraska
Lauren Sieckmann, S, senior, Marian (Omaha, Neb.), Nebraska
Alexis Viliunas, S, senior, Lyons Township (LaGrange, Ill.), Illinois
Rebecca Strehlow, S/OH, senior, Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.), UCLA
Taylor Racich, Opp., senior, Dos Pueblos (Goleta, Calif.), Pepperdine
By Walter Villa

Girls volleyballCourtesy of Catherine WegnerJackie Wegner, an outside hitter for East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), is hoping to get a Tim Tebow Broncos jersey for Christmas.

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been the talk of the sports world this season, his No. 15 is among the NFL’s hottest-selling jerseys, and everyone, it seems, has an opinion of the quarterback.

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David Villegas"He's an amazing player, and he is humble at the same time, and it's really fun to watch people like that," Berkeley Prep's Jordan Burgess says of Tim Tebow.
Girls’ volleyball players are no exception when it comes to Tebow-mania, especially those who play in Tebow hot spots Florida and Colorado.

Jackie Wegner is a case in point.

The 5-foot-9 outside hitter for East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) has been a Tebow fan since he started playing for her favorite college team, the Florida Gators. She has a Tebow Gators jersey and is hoping she gets a Broncos No. 15 for Christmas.

But Wegner’s support for Tebow extends beyond the football field.

“I’m a big Christian, and I like what he represents,” said Wegner, who has committed to play sand volleyball at Tulane. “Tebow does a good job balancing his sport and his faith.”

Wegner read Tebow’s book, “Through My Eyes,” and was amazed to discover that he was almost aborted due to health concerns.

“But his parents kept the faith that everything would come out OK,” Wegner said. “It’s crazy that he almost didn’t live, and now he’s awesome.”

Janae Hall, a 6-1 senior middle hitter for Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.), started following Tebow when he was drafted by Denver. Her father, Darryl Hall, is a former Broncos defensive back, so she hears a lot of Tebow talk in her home.

“Some of my dad’s friends think Tebow gets hyped up too much, but most of my friends like him,” said Hall, who has signed to play at Kansas. “I like the way he plays. Even when things go bad, he always finds a way to pull it out in the end.”

Hall is certainly correct. Tebow is 6-1 as a starter this season and has led the Broncos to a first-place tie in their division.

As for Tebow’s views on religion, Hall said she appreciates the NFL star’s candid approach.

“I like that he is secure enough in his relationship with God that he wants to spread the word,” Hall said.

Nicole Dalton, a 6-2 senior setter/hitter for Chaparral (Parker, Colo.), is one of the nation’s top recruits and is preparing to enroll at Texas this summer.

Dalton said she wants to follow Tebow’s example, especially as it pertains to the next stage of her life.

“He stayed strong with his faith, and that’s hard to do in college,” Dalton said. “We all know there are parties and stuff in college.

“I think Tebow is great. Pope John Paul II said ‘be not afraid,’ and obviously Tebow is not afraid.”

Dalton said Tebow Fever is everywhere in Colorado. During one of her matches this past season, the Chaparral fans all kneeled in the Tebow pose, just as an opponent was about to serve.

Back in Florida, “Tebowing” has also caught on in high schools.

Jordan Burgess, a 6-0 senior outside hitter for Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.), said she’s seen people photographed doing the pose at school, at the mall and just about everywhere else.

“It’s spreading the nation,” said Burgess, who signed with Stanford. “Him getting down on one knee and thanking God, it amazes me because he’s a superstar. He could easily run around the field, attracting attention to himself, jumping around like a lot of other football players do.

“But he is completely selfless. That’s probably why he has such a following. He’s an amazing player, and he is humble at the same time, and it’s really fun to watch people like that.”

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Courtesy of keyserimages.comEmily Podschweit says she tries to emulate Tim Tebow's response to negativity: "Faith first, confidence to push forward and loving the journey along the way."
Nicole Edelman, a 6-0 senior setter at Fairview (Boulder, Colo.), said she is “not hugely religious” but is still a fan.

"If that’s what motivates him, that’s awesome,” she said. “As long as he’s being honest, I’m all for it.”

Edelman said what resonates with her most about Tebow is how he has responded to his voluminous critics. She said she dealt with some criticism when she was selected for the U.S. Youth National Team that went to Turkey last summer.

“You’re always going to have critics, but I like how (Tebow) put all the controversy aside and just kept playing,” Edelman said. “I’ve just started dealing with it, but he’s obviously dealt with it a lot more.”

Emily Podschweit, a 5-7 senior libero for Chaparral, also draws inspiration from Tebow.

“My journey to be a collegiate beach athlete has been tough already,” she said. “So many people are negative against my location and my size. I can let it hurt me or I can choose to handle it the way Tebow has -- faith first, confidence to push forward and loving the journey along the way.”
By Walter Villa

high schoolCourtesy of keyserimages.comEmily Podschweit has been described as fiery, passionate and persistent, traits that have helped the 5-foot-7 libero from Iowa get on the radar of the U.S. national beach volleyball team.

It’s not often that a beach volleyball prospect emerges from the cornfields of Iowa.

But that’s exactly what happened for Emily Podschweit, a 17-year-old ball of energy and a 5-foot-7 libero, who has managed to befriend several of the sport’s VIPS, including Misty May-Treanor.

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Courtesy of keyserimages.com"When she found out I just had a daughter, she volunteered to become our nanny," Jon Aharoni, coach of the U.S. U19 beach volleyball team, says of Emily Podschweit.
For several months in 2010, Podschweit emailed “millions of questions” to Jon Aharoni, the coach for the United States under-19 beach volleyball national team.

Podschweit wanted to know everything -- even basics such as how to run in the sand.

“It may sound simple,” said Podschweit, who now stars for Chaparral (Parker, Colo.). “But as a defensive player, speed is one of the most important parts of my game.”

Aharoni laughed off Podschweit’s emails -- at first.

“But she was relentless,” Aharoni said. “She wanted to know how she could get involved.

“When she found out I just had a daughter, she volunteered to become our nanny.”

Podschweit was more than just persistent. She was also extremely confident, telling Aharoni that she was “your next Misty May.”

Aharoni said Podschweit “moved mountains” to get on his radar screen. And while that’s not literally true, it is a fact that she moved to the mountains, in part, to be closer to Team USA’s training center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Raised in what she called the “farmy” town of Bettendorf, Iowa (population 33,217), Podschweit and her older sister, Aubrey, were known as the community’s volleyball stars.

Their mother, Mary Kaye, coached volleyball at the high school level for 23 years until leaving the sidelines so she could watch her daughters play.

The girls’ father, Matt, was able to get a job with USA Volleyball as a multimedia engineer, making the transition to Colorado easier.

Podschweit, who had impressed Team USA coaches at a volleyball clinic in Chicago, was one of 10 girls invited to spend three weeks training in Russia before the start of her junior year.

But when she struggled with the Russian cuisine, May-Treanor -- who was there as a mentor for all the players -- let her know that she was a guest of the Russians, and it was bad form not to eat and enjoy their food.

“Who gets yelled at by Misty May?” said Podschweit’s mother, clearly delighted by the story. “Emily learned a great life lesson.”

Once Podschweit returned to the U.S., it was time to make her debut with Chaparral. Wolverines coach T.R. Ellis knew she had a winner in Podschweit, but she moved her from outside hitter to libero because of her size.

Podschweit was crushed but agreed to experiment at the new position for one weekend. When she made all-tournament, Podschweit was convinced she should remain at libero.

She went on to earn all-state honors -- the only libero on the list. She also helped bring a state title back to Chaparral, whose star is Texas recruit Nicole Dalton, a 6-2 hitter and setter.

Aubrey Podschweit, who also played on the state title team, has since graduated and is now competing for Regis University in Denver.

But the Wolverines added another star in 6-3 middle hitter Elizabeth Campbell, a transfer from North Carolina who has committed to Duke.

With all that talent, it’s no wonder the Wolverines (18-0) are 13th in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings as they prepare for district playoffs on Saturday.

Ellis used the word “amazing” to describe Podschweit, who is being recruited by Southern Cal and Georgia State as a sand player.

“She has an uncanny ability to read where the hits are going,” Ellis said of Podschweit, who set a school record last year with 35 digs in one match. “Emily seems to come from out of nowhere to make plays.”

Jim Miret, her coach at Front Range Volleyball Club, said it’s her personality that makes her special.

“She’s exciting, fiery and passionate,” he said. “She wants to be great, which makes her fun to train.”

Podschweit’s mother said her daughter first drew inspiration when, at age 11, she met legendary beach player Kerri Walsh at a clinic.

Walsh told Podschweit to “dream big,” and the pre-teen took it to heart.

“My other daughter, Aubrey, is a hugger, a team player,” Mary Kaye Podschweit said. “Emily’s attitude on the court is ‘stay out of my way.’ She literally stares down the server.”

Aharoni once emailed Podschweit a drill she could do to improve her quickness, but he never mentioned how long it should take. Podschweit’s manic response was to run it repeatedly until she vomited her way off the court.

“No one will believe I want to be a beach volleyball player if I’m not the best,” Podschweit said.

It speaks volumes about Podschweit’s desire that the major surgery she required on her left knee as a freshman is now barely worth a mention. But at the time, doctors told her the torn ACL would keep her out 18 months.

Podschweit was training again in six.

“She is ferocious and tenacious,” Aharoni said. “She has a great arm and a jump serve you don’t usually see on a smaller player.

“But the best thing about her is she listens and absorbs information at a really fast rate. She tends to come up with that really ingenious question.”

Aharoni once told Podschweit that to make it at her size, volleyball had to be the last thing she thought about before she went to sleep and the first thing she pondered when she woke up.

“The next thing I know,” Aharoni said, “I got a call from her mother that Emily had dumped her boyfriend.”

Aharoni said Podschweit follows May-Treanor on Facebook.

“I’m sure they’re best friends by now because Emily won’t give up,” he said. “I don’t know if Emily will win a gold medal or become a pro player like Misty, but I won’t bet against her.”
By Kirstin Olsen
Kelly Marcinek
David Villegas/ESPNHSMarist outside hitter Kelly Marcinek battles the Joliet Catholic block at the Asics Challenge.

With a 29-6 record, No. 25 Marist (Chicago) has had a strong season against some top competition in the Midwest.

The Redhawks spread their wings to Arizona this past weekend to compete in the Nike Tournament of Champions. They beat St. Jospeh’s Academy (St. Louis, Mo.) but lost to unranked Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) in the final 17-25, 25-17, 15-11.

The Redhawks boast 6-foot-4 senior middle blocker Lauren Zielinski, who is committed to South Carolina. Unfortunately she has been sidelined for the season after surgery on a torn labrum.

To secure their second consecutive East Suburban Catholic Conference title, the Redhawks must defeat No. 29 Joliet Catholic. Marist stands 2-0 against JCA so far this season.

No. 7 Presentation (San Jose, Calif.) has made a steady climb all season long and has some big-time wins over No. 19 St. Francis (Mountain View, Calif.) and at the Panther Challenge. The Panthers are led by 6-2 senior outside hitter and Duke commit Emily Sklar. The Panthers have one more regular-season match against Valley Christian (San Jose, Calif.) to close out the West Catholic League title.

No. 13 Chaparral (Parker, Colo.) has been dominating the Rockies with an impressive 18-0 record. The Wolverines are led by talented senior outside hitter/setter and Texas commit Nicole Dalton, who was also was selected to the U.S. Girls Youth National Team. Dalton hopes to lead her team again to the 5A state title. She is joined by standouts senior libero Emily Podschweit and 6-3 transfer middle blocker Elizabeth Campbell.
By Walter Villa

high schoolCourtesy of Carroll VolleyballCarroll (Southlake, Texas), ranked No. 5 in the FAB 50, is getting its 20-player roster healthy just in time for states. "We have a lot of kids who know how to play," coach Arthur Stanfield says.
With 20 players on its varsity, Carroll (Southlake, Texas) surely has one of the deepest rosters in the nation.

Given that, Dragons coach Arthur Stanfield has been surprised by how often his roster hasn’t felt big enough this season.

“We’ve had concussions, knee injuries, sprained ankles,” said Stanfield, who is in his third year at Carroll but is a veteran coach with three state titles to his credit at Red Oak (Texas). “We’ve had as many as five girls out at the same time.”

Fortunately for Stanfield, the Dragons are getting healthier at just the right time. Last Friday night, he had all 20 of his players available as Carroll defeated Coppell (Coppell, Texas) in four sets.

Carroll, No. 5 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, is 40-1 with a couple games left in the regular season. The Dragons’ only loss was to No. 22 Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas), the defending Class 3A state champs.

The Dragons, who have never won a state title, fell just one win short in 1998. Last year, Carroll went 41-6, setting a school record for wins before getting eliminated in the regional quarterfinals by Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas).

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Rex Teter PhotographyOutside hitter Janelle Jenkins is one of the core four looking to lift Carroll to its first state title.
This, though, would seem to be Carroll’s best shot at the elusive title. The Dragons are led by four seniors who have started since their freshman years.

One of the leaders of the group is Caitlin Nolan, a 5-foot-8 libero who has committed to Iowa State and is regarded as one of the nation’s best back-row defenders.

Another leader is 5-9 setter Kayden Cook, who may end up at an Ivy League school.

The two star outside hitters are 5-9 Sutton Sunstrum, who has committed to Texas Christian, where she will join her sister Sloane; and 5-11 Janelle Jenkins, who has committed to Louisville. Jenkins had a game earlier this season In which she made 30 swings and had 19 kills and 0 errors.

The Dragons are ranked No. 1 in Texas’ 5A, and Stanfield thinks his team has a legitimate shot at the title.

“If we stay healthy, I think we have a great chance,” said Stanfield, who has 40 more players on the Carroll junior varsity and freshman rosters. “We have some limitations due to our size, but we have a lot of kids who know how to play, and we have kids who jump really well.”

Stanfield’s point about size is well taken. He has no players over 6-feet tall. To win, his team has to serve well and keep opponents off balance.

“If (opponents) can run offense, we’ll be in trouble because we don’t put fear in them when it comes to blocking,” Stanfield said. “If they have non-perfect sets, we have a great chance of digging with Catilin in the back row. And then we can run our offense.”

Chaparral developing college players

Chaparral (Parker, Colo.), No. 13 in the FAB 50 rankings, is proud of its record of sending players to college. Five of last season’s Wolverines are now playing in college: Anna Faul (Ohio State); Skylar Johnson (Mississippi); Aubrey Podschweit (Regis); Audri Marrs (Metro State); and Karlie Dalton (Benedictine).

Two of Chaparral’s Class of 2012 players have already committed to colleges, including Dalton’s younger sister, Nicole Dalton, who is going to Texas. The other is aspiring doctor Elizabeth Campbell, who committed to Duke.

Emily Podschweit, the younger sister of Aubrey, has offers from Southern Cal and Georgia State, and Wolverines coach T.R. Ellis said she expects several more of her players to compete in college. That list includes seniors Katie Ford and Mikaela Heble and juniors Abby Shelton, Madison Thorpe and Ahren Moydell.

Ellis said the unquestioned star of the team is Dalton, a 6-2 outside hitter who is versatile enough to also play setter.

“She has nationally ranked skills in all six facets of the game – serving, setting, attacking, blocking, defending and passing serve,” Ellis said.

Added Emily Podschweit: “Oh my gosh, Nicole is probably one of the best players I will ever know. I don’t know how much more perfect you can get.”

Delta force

Delta (Muncie, Ind.), which last won a state title in 2008, is hoping to return to the podium Nov. 5 at Ball State University.

Delta (21-9), ranked eighth in the state in Class 3A, is led by senior setter Morgan Bergren, a 6-0 University of Kentucky recruit.

Bergren was on the Delta state champs as a freshman and last summer led Munciana to an 18-U AAU national championship in Orlando, Fla.