Fleming, Kit Carson, McClave and Flagler have drawn the top four seeds for the Class 1A state volleyball tournament this week.  They’re joined by eight other teams in the quest to be crowned state champion Saturday evening at the Denver Coliseum.
Below is a breakdown of each of the four pools.  Matches get underway at 8:00am on Friday morning and each match can be seen live through the website www.nfhsnetwork.com.  Colorado Preps will also track all results at the state tournament and you can follow the progress by clicking here.
#1 Fleming (25-2)
#8 Weldon Valley (22-5)
#12 Otis (18-7)
This is a heavyweight pool as the three teams have combined to win the last nine Class 1A state championships.  Otis is the defending state champion and also captured the crown in 2011.  Weldon Valley won their lone title in that span in 2012 with Fleming grabbing the remaining five.  The Wildcats won back-to-back championships in 2013-14 and earned three straight from 2007-09.  Fleming and Otis have five state championships apiece in school history which ties them with 5A Grandview for eighth most all-time.
Fleming has just one loss to a 1A team this year and it came against Weldon valley in the district tournament.  The Wildcats beat their league rivals twice in league play and rallied from 0-2 down in the first meeting to win a five-set thriller.  Alli Kiesel is the top hitter with 248 kills and she gets plenty of support from Bailey Chintala (204) and Shaylee Johnson (201).  All three were part of the program that won the state crown two years ago.  Kalyn Serrato is the floor general with 681 assists with the rest of the team combining for just 97.  The Wildcats have reeled off 197 assists including a team best 42 from Chintala.
Weldon Valley captured the district title by beating both Fleming and Prairie but lost to Prairie in the regional tournament last week.  Still the Warriors had a good enough season to land an at-large bid.  They were also added to the field in 2012 as a wildcard but went on to win the state championship.  Anna Sanchini is the top offensive threat for Weldon Valley and she enters the tournament with 483 kills.  Kirsten Wood is a distant second with 158 and Rebeckah Ruland is third on the team with 113.  Karissa Schulte has 833 assists and the team needs just six more to reach 1,000 for the season.  The Warriors have 249 aces this year with Sanchini again topping the list with 82.  Britney Filter has added 39.
Otis, as mentioned, is the defending state champion as they rallied past Idalia to win it all last year but the Bulldogs lost nearly their entire lineup from that group.  One key returnee is Essence Tolson who has turned into the teams’ best hitter with 347 kills.  McKenna Metzler, with 114 assists, is next on the sheet but no other Bulldog has cracked 100 for the season.  Rudy Halcomb is the top server with 50 of her team’s 209 aces.  Hannah Stallings (271 assists) and Sydney Reynolds (186) have shared server duties much of the season.
#2 Kit Carson (24-0)
#7 Nucla (22-1)
#11 Holly (16-8)
Kit Carson is the last team other than the three programs that make up Pool 1 to win a state championship.  The Wildcats outlasted Fleming in five sets to win the 2006 title and they hope to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of that title by adding another trophy this season.  They’re the only team in the pool to have captured a state championship.
The Wildcats are one of two unbeaten teams in the 1A field joining La Veta without a loss.  They had gone past three sets just once all season before working through two five set wins over McClave and Wiley to land the regional tournament title last week.  Tess Hornung has 311 kills and sophomore classmate McKenzie Smith is next with 199.  Freshman Reyna Isenbart is third in hitting with 134 and has a team high 370 assists.  Paige Johnson has contributed 184 assists.  Smith leads the Wildcats with 52 aces followed by Haley Johnson (38) and Josie Hornung (31).
Nucla carries a 19-match win streak into the state tournament and the last ten of those wins have come in straight sets.  The last time the Mustangs lost a game came on October 11th to Ridgway (3-1).  That win helped them win the 2A/1A San Juan league championship.  Their only loss came against 2A #1 ranked Dayspring Christian as part of the Northeastern Junior College tournament in early September.  Taylor Sickels (237 kills) and Carlie Wytulka (202) are a solid one-two punch at the net.  Wytulka has also dished out 251 assists which is only two behind team leader Kylie Puderbaugh.  The Mustangs have 232 aces through 23 games and spread the wealth there as four players have between 41 and 44 overall.
Including district and regional tournaments, Holly lost four of their last six matches but were invited to the tournament as an at-large team based on their RPI.  Sophomore Kallie Cathcart leads the team with 187 kills and is second on the team with 36 aces.  Other top hitters include Ashlyn Crawford (107) and Sadee Davis (89).  Victoria Avalos is the top server (37 aces) while Joes Cook (307 assists) and Taylor Neugebauer (243) both see action as the main setter.
#3 McClave (19-5)
#6 Springfield (19-5)
#10 Kiowa (23-7)
Kiowa is the only club in the pool that has a state title in their history but it’s been awhile.  The Indians earned the 1983 crown with a two-set win over Karval.
The Indians this year are competing for the 1A crown after dropping in from Class 2A before the start of the season.  Many of the players competed in the 2A state basketball tournament last year and will draw on that experience at the Coliseum this year.  They’ve won 19 straight matches including a marathon five-set win over Otis at the regional tournament last week but despite that win and streak the Indians are just the tenth seed in the bracket.  Melanie Deering tops the hit list with 433 kills.  Helen Janes (171) and Sarah Bates (144) provide support.  Janes also leads the team with 59 aces while Ashlea Carothers runs the offense with a team high 676 assists.  She’s also provided 34 aces.
Four of McClave’s five losses are against teams that are in the state tournament.  They lost to Kit Carson during the regular season and then pushed the Wildcats to five sets before falling in last week’s regional tournament.  Other losses came against Flagler, La Veta and Cheyenne Wells.  That strong schedule helped the Cardinals land the #3 seed despite not winning a regional title.  Allie Nidey (211), Tatum Chase (189), Ryely Smart (158) and Jordan Parker (140) lead a balanced attack at the net.  Alyssa Gomez directs those four and paces the offense with 465 assists.  Chase (56) and Nidey (51) are the top servers.
Springfield also has five losses overall and two of them are five-set decisions to McClave so they’ll get a third shot at the Cardinals in pool play this weekend.  The Longhorns have won six straight since the second loss including a pair of three-game sweeps over Cheyenne Wells and Holly to win regionals last weekend.  Brenna Shetron has a team high 191 kills but the junior is followed closely by Jayci Westphal with 145 and Tatelyn Lasley with 117.  Ally Loflin is also effective up front as she enters the tournament with 103 kills and leads the teams with 57 aces.
#4 Flagler (22-2)
#5 La Veta (25-0)
#9 Prairie (19-8)
This could easily be the most competitive pool as each team has enough talent to land a semifinal berth and maybe beyond.  And two of the three teams, La Veta and Prairie, likely feel they deserve a higher seed.  The Redskins are one of only two unbeaten teams in the field but dropped to #5 and Prairie is a regional champion over Weldon Valley but finished one spot behind the Warriors in the bracket.  Flagler is also deserving of their number four seed as they’re 22-0 against the rest of the state but 0-2 against 2nd seeded Kit Carson.
The Panthers have four state titles in school history but they came in a five year stretch from 1992-96 including a three-set win over Kit Carson in 1995.  Prairie went back-to-back in 1975 and 1976 beating Limon both seasons while La Veta is still seeking their first title.
Flagler has won nine straight including wins over Arickaree/Woodlin and Genoa-Hugo in last week’s regional event.  There is depth up front with Megan Moore (239 kills), Bailey Jones (153) and Kodie Niebur-Hasz all having the ability to take over the offense.  Jones also leads the team with 58 aces and Erin Marzolf has 47.
La Veta is in the tournament for a second straight year and a young group is hoping for a better showing this time around.  They were swept by both Otis and Springfield in pool play last year but that experience should boost their play this year.  Points from the service line are an important part of their offense as they enter the tournament with a whopping 479 aces.  Sonia Vallejos tops the list with 89 and Kaylee Corsentino has added 84.  Four other players have at least 40 aces this year.  Corsentino is also the team’s best hitter with 286 kills but Kinley Coe (189) and Kaelin Coe (131) have also had good seasons.
Prairie’s record is very misleading as seven of their eight losses are to Fleming and Weldon Valley.  Another meeting with one of those two will likely be on the schedule in the semifinals should the Mustangs advance from pool play.  The Mustangs are 0-4 against Fleming and have yet to take a set from the Wildcats.  They also lost three times to Weldon Valley in the regular season but have earned two impressive wins over the Warriors here in the post-season.  Full season stats are not available for Prairie but the leading hitters are senior Emily Kaiser and freshman Hannah Kinnison.  McKinley Thompson is the top setter.
2015:  Otis
2014:  Fleming
2013:  Fleming
2012:  Weldon Valley
2011:  Otis
2010:  Fleming
2009:  Otis
2008:  Fleming
2007:  Fleming
2006:  Kit Carson