Volleyball matches are on the schedule later this week as the season can officially get underway and weâ€™ll spend the next few days looking at each division highlighting some of the top matches and storylines for the 2019 campaign.Â The series begins in Class 1A.
TOP THREE TEAMS COLLIDE IN REGULAR SEASON
Kit Carson is the two-time defending state champion and begins the season ranked #1.Â La Veta is second and is coming off a runner-up finish in the state tournament last November.Â Traditional power Fleming sits third in the official pre-season CHSAA rankings.
Two dates in the regular season feature head-to-head matchups between the clubs as Kit Carson meets La Veta in a state championship rematch on September 6th and then La Veta also hosts Fleming near the end of regular season on October 25th.Â Both results could give fans an indication which is the team to beat in the post-season.
Despite winning 55 of their last 56 matches, there are some holes to fill in the Kit Carson lineup this year. Â They lost four very good seniors in Tess Horning (333), McKenzie Smith (245), Olivia Isenbart (216) and Hayley Johnson (96) who combined for nearly 900 kills in the championship run.Â Johnson also led the club with 444 diggs.
The top returnee is Reyna Isenbart who bounced back from a knee injury with 241 assists and 90 kills.Â Otherwise, new faces will make up the Wildcats lineup including Tieler Randel (272 diggs) and Cally Rady (29 kills).
Before focusing on the trip to La Veta, Kit Carson has matches with Burlington and Limon.Â The second is a showdown with a Badgers club ranked second in Class 2A.
La Veta and Fleming both lost a key senior but return a solid nucleus from last yearâ€™s club.Â The Redskins graduated top hitter Kaylee Corsentino (436 kills) but gets back Desi Ortivez (241) and Nya Sciacca (236) who also combined for 420 diggs and were 1-2 in that category a year ago.Â Another key returnee is setter Mary Goins who finished her sophomore season with 584 assists.
Flemingâ€™s Jenna Lengfelder (372 kills) was lost to graduation but the duo of Whitney Chintala and Kendyl Kirkwood are back for another run at the state title.Â Chintala led the Wildcats in kills (539), aces (47) and digs (639) and was named a MaxPreps Freshman All-American.Â Kirkwood, a junior, will be a third-year starter at setter with 1,799 assists through her first two years.
NORTH CENTRAL RACE SHOULD BE TREMENDOUS
Always a very deep and talented league, the North Central could have four clubs pushing for the league championship.Â As mentioned, Fleming is ranked 3rd to open the season with Weldon Valley 5th and Briggsdale 10th.Â Prairie, with division one signee Hannah Kinnison, back from injury could also contend.
Kinnison missed her junior season with injury but still signed to play collegiately at San Francisco.Â She recorded 378 kills as a freshman and another 411 as a sophomore.Â The Mustangs also return the likes of Cierra Hove, Makayla Baker and Emma Stump who gained valuable experience with Kinnison on the sideline.
Weldon Valley is coming off a 27-win season including a 3-2 run at the state tournament.Â Key returnees include Linda Amaglio (226 kills), Kaytlyn Keating (145), Tia Dillehay (126) and Kenndra Filter (113).Â Christa Sandoval split time at setter last year and picked up 400 assists, which was second best on the club.
Briggsdale (16-9) did not advance from districts last year but could easily be a state tournament team this season.Â Kimberlyn Krise (444 kills) is back for another run and sheâ€™s joined up front by Kylie Krise (151) and Shelby Hoffman (109).Â Taylor Donoho also played a dual role with 152 kills and 398 assists.
MERINO JOINS NORTH CENTRAL MIX FOR POST-SEASON
Ranked fourth by CHSAA, the Rams will spend much of the regular season against 2A teams in the Lower Platte but will join Fleming, Briggsdale, Weldon Valley and Prairie in the district tournament. Â All five have enough talent to make a deep state tournament run but only three will advance to regionals.
Five players who played a major role for the Rams last year return to the court in 2019.Â Heading that list are Madison Sutter (839 assists) and Faith Trenkle (642 diggs).Â Up front, the duo of Brooke Mertens (319) and Taysa Conger (239) are very solid and Ainsley Powell (384 diggs) is another solid contributor on the defensive side.
SANGRE DE CRISTO HAS BUMPED SCHEDULE
La Veta remains favored to land another Southern Peaks title this year but Sangre De Cristo hopes to use a strong non-league schedule to get them ready for their late season showdown with the Redskins.Â The two league rivals clash on October 24th and will probably meet again the next week for the district championship.
On the schedule for the T-Birds are road matches against 3A Alamosa (September 12th) and 2A Del Norte (October 19th).Â Alamosa went unbeaten last year until a loss at the state tournament and Del Norte is coming off a 24-win season including a state tournament win over Byers.
The T-Birds return a very talented roster including Kylee Christensen and Avery Palmgren who both ended up with 189 kills as sophomores.Â Makenzie Rogers (120) and Lexi Metz (90) combined for 210 kills as juniors while Renae Sinclair (489 assists) and Victoria Ford (303) could again share that role.Â Jordyn Cantu is also back after picking up 331 diggs as a sophomore.
One role that needs filled is leadership.Â Jessica Slane led the team with 284 kills last year and spent the last two seasons directing a very young roster.
CAN LONE STAR TAKE THE NEXT STEP?
Lone Star is a program with very little volleyball history or tradition, but a very young group of Longhorns captured 12 wins last season and the entire roster returns for what they hope will be another successful campaign.Â Andrea Kuntz (130) and Lamya Kuntz (123) picked up a combined 253 kills and were also 1-2 in diggs with 185 and 149 respectively.Â Jayna Lockhard will again direct the attack after recording 331 assists last season.
To win a league championship, the Longhorns must get through an always talented Otis program.Â The Bulldogs have five state championship trophies at their school and routinely push for a spot in the Final Four.Â Three of the top four hitters from last yearâ€™s 23-win team graduated so Becca Bleak (192 kills) should be the #1 option this year.Â Juniors Anthoneya Schaffert (202 diggs) and Annalise Glosson (253 assists) are two other key returnees.
MORE TOP CLUBS
- GENOA HUGO: The Pirates appear to be favored for the 1A portion of the Union Pacific and could push Limon (#2 in 2A) for the overall championship.Â Ryely Smartt (370 kills), Mindi Carr (427 diggs) and Tessa Smith (635 assists) all have extensive varsity experience since their freshmen seasons.
- SPRINGFIELD: Always difficult to predict which club will land the Ark Valley title but the Longhorns also feature a lineup of players who have been major competitors from their first high school practice.Â Julia Mondragon (128 kills), Brinlyn Dukes (123) and Lexi Crane (116) have experience up front.Â Crane added 347 assists and Payton Arbuthnot 216 last year.Â Kylie Parks is a top defender with 452 diggs in 2018.
- WALSH: Looking to push Springfield are the Eagles who won 20 matches a year ago.Â Tyree Jones (138 kills) and MyKenzie Penick (124) were 2-3 in hitting last year but the Eagles must replace two setters who combined for 569 assists.
- MCCLAVE: The Cardinals are coming off a state tournament visit and a 19-win season.Â They look to push Kit Carson for the High Plains title.Â Jordan Parker (369 kills) was lost to graduation but back in the lineup are Anna Beckett (152) and Katie Bronniman (127).Â Rebecca Steerman totaled 678 assists last year but is no longer with the team following a transfer to Class 2A Meeker.
- HAXTUN: Competing in the 2A Lower Platte during the regular season, the Bulldogs move into 1A for the post-season and will battle the likes of Otis, Lone Star, Idalia, and Flagler-Hi Plains for berths in regionals.Â Dawson Knode (377 kills) is gone through graduation but Cierra Schelling (185) and Brooklyn Davis (154) return up front.Â Davis also chipped in 322 diggs.Â Allie Thompson had 264 diggs as a freshman and could share setting duties with classmate Taylor Schram.Â They combined for 147 assists a year ago.
- DOVE CREEK: The Bulldogs are again considered the top 1A club in the combined 2A/1A San Juan conference.Â They most likely will battle Dolores for the overall championship as well.Â Cassie Gatlin returns after finishing 2018 with 264 kills.Â She will again be set up by Taylor Hickman (562 assists).
- DEBEQUE: The Dragons won 17 matches a year ago and finished third overall in the 2A/1A Western Slope.Â The top hitter from that club graduated but Jadyn Graham (79 kills) and Abby Tatum (76) should get more chances this year.Â Madi Scott (566 assists) will again direct the attack.
- PLATEAU VALLEY: The Cowgirls finished 16-8 last year but may be hard pressed to match that win total in 2019.Â Top hitter Hannah Piland (169) is back but the next three behind her on the list all graduated.Â Also gone is their top setter.