Class 2A routinely is among the deepest divisions in Colorado volleyball and this year shapes up to be no different.Â Pre-season rankings also indicate the depth as Denver Christian sits number one but two other clubs also received first place votes.Â We review the top teams in 2A and offer up some storylines to watch in our season preview.
RETURNING STATE TOURNAMENT CLUBS SUFFER HEAVY GRADUATION LOSSES
Yuma captured the state championship with a three-game sweep of Denver Christian in the finals but the rest of the tournament was filled with exciting five set matches and several so-called upsets.Â All 12 of those clubs must fill major holes from graduation to make a return trip to Denver.
- Yuma: Cody Robinson and Chasey Blach (Top 2 hitters)
- Denver Christian: Jenna Peters and Jenai Haman (top 2 setters)
- Wiggins: Chloe Baker and Tanna Hansen (to setter and hitter)
- Meeker: Krissie Luce and Kassie Luce (top setter and hitter)
- Vail Mountain: Sarah Evans (top hitter)
- Holly: Kallie Cathcart (top hitter â€“ 4 year starter)
- Limon: Anna Wiesensee (top hitter)
- Swink: Kyla Oâ€™Neal and Brianna Denton (4-year starters)
- Lyons: Kylen Christiansen (top setter)
- Del Norte â€“ three of top 4 hitters â€“ Myka Glover transferred to Cortez
- Byers â€“ three of top 4 hitters including Arika Herman and Lauren Marin
- Rye: Rachel Shaffer and Hannah Ambler (502 kills among them)
CAN YUMA REACH A SIXTH CONSECUTIVE STATE FINAL MATCH?
The Indians have two state championships since 2015 but maybe more remarkable are a total of five straight appearances in the finals. Â As mentioned, Yuma downed Denver Christian for the title last November and outlasted Resurrection Christian in five sets to capture the 2015 crown.Â But the Eastern Colorado program also finished second in 2017, 2016 and 2014.
Extending the string may prove difficult as the Indians lost their top three hitters from last yearâ€™s title club including three-year starters Chasey Black and Cody Robinson.Â Also gone is Taylor Hansen.Â Elle Roth (95 kills) and Ema Richardson (91) are two players expected to step up.
One strength for the team is Reagan Nolin.Â She handed out 952 assists a year ago and should step forward as the team leader.
The early schedule is difficult as the Indians meet Limon, Akron, University and Sterling in September and then open October with a test against two-time defending 1A state champion Kit Carson.Â They also have meetings with Merino, Fleming and Resurrection Christian later in October.
LOWER PLATTE RACE COULD BE MORE COMPETITIVE
In addition to earning six consecutive visits to the state finals, Yuma has also dominated the Lower Platte league schedule.Â The Indians are 47-1 since 2013 in league play with their last loss coming to Caliche (3-1) on October 15th, 2013.
Wiggins placed second last year and should be in contention again and Akron could step up as another league challenger.
Chloe Baker is a huge loss for the Tigers.Â She compiled 1,052 assists last year and has been the team leader each of the last two years.Â Also gone is top hitter Tanna Hansen (415 kills).Â But there is talent left in Wiggins with Paige Finegan (230 kills), Bre Gilliland (176) and Tasha Hansen (128).Â Gilliland also finished with a team high 58 aces and was second with 248 diggs.
Itâ€™s been a quick climb for Akron.Â Two years ago, the Rams won just two matches but jumped to 13 last year and enters this season ranked 9th statewide.Â Â They remain young as leading hitters Sara Wylie (188 kills) and Quincy Basler (185) are entering their junior and sophomore seasons.Â Numbers for both should increase with the graduation of Kate Pachner (221 kills).Â Mariah DeMers (667 assists) enters her junior year needing just six assists to reach 1,000 for her career.
THE MILE-HIGH CONFERENCE SHOULD AGAIN BE AN EXCITING RACE
Up to five teams have challenged for the Mile-High championship over the past two years and while top ranked Denver Christian is ranked number one and favored to land the title, there are several quality clubs within the conference.Â Among those are #5 Lyons, Union Colony Prep, Dawson and Highland.
Lyons won the state title two years ago and has a traditionally strong program.Â But the Lions received bad news this summer when Taylor Maguire suffered a knee injury that will cost her entire senior season.Â She was a solid Player of the Year candidate after leading the Lions in kills (481) and diggs (402) last season.Â She also totaled 53 aces.Â Key returnees for the Lions who will now need to step up even more are Charlotte Rogers (144 kills), Jesse Bartel (248 diggs) and Avery Joy (125 assists)
Union Colony Prep will again receive solid contribution from Mayson Fago.Â For the second straight season, she led the Timberwolves in hitting (393 kills) and defense (383 diggs).Â Â The â€˜Wolves also get back Desirae Pisano (373) and Kamryn Arnold (277) who combined for over 600 assists a year ago.Â Union Colony dropped their final five matches of last season including regional losses to Holly and Colorado Springs.
Dawson and Highland both ended league play at 9-3 last year to tie with Union Colony in third place.Â Denver Christian won the title with Lyons a game back in the standings.Â Dawson returns top hitter Kiera Porey (337 kills) and setter Angelina Sala (860 assists).Â Nicole Scribner, with 490 diggs, is also back in the lineup for a team that came up short to Vail Mountain in the regional final.
Highland needs some hitters to step forward but the rest of the rotation appears in good shape with Maiya Dehoyos (470 assists) and Alyssa Winter (552) both returning.Â The Huskies dropped a four-set match to Byes in regional play last November.
Denver Christian has good depth up front with the return of tandem hitters Jacki Bogner (379 kills) and Anna Kaemingk (302 kills).Â They also combined for 89 aces.Â The biggest concern for the pre-season number one club is the back line as setters Jenna Peters (519 assists) and Jenai Haman (332) both graduated.Â Kaemingk (18) has the most of any returnee.
WILL MEEKER CONTINUE TO RULE THE WESTERN SLOPE?
The Cowgirls rolled through the regular season unbeaten last season including a perfect 12-0 run through the Western Slope.Â They also went 11-1 in 2017 to share a conference crown with Rangely.Â Both seasons finished with a run to the state semifinals where the season ended with a loss to the eventual state champions; Yuma a year ago and Lyons in 2017.
Meeker has lost key components to the last two years but many other conference teams also suffered tough graduation losses giving the Cowgirls a chance to defend the title.Â Seven of the top eight hitters in the conference a year ago were seniors.Â The exception is Julia Dinwiddie who powered down 261 kills a year ago.Â She will be paired up front with Caleigh Morgan who was fourth on the club with 151 kills last year.
The question for Meeker is the same as Denver Christian in who steps in at setter.Â Kassie Luce registered 940 of 985 assists a year ago.Â But the role could be handed over to Rebecca Steerman who led 1A McClave in assists (678) a year before transferring to the Cowgirls.
Vail Mountain placed second in the conference race a year ago and the Gore Rangers also scored a quality win over Lyons in the state tournament.Â But they have major holes to fill up front and in the back.Â Sarah Evans registered 488 kills a year ago to lead the club by more than 300 in that category and the Gore Rangers return a total of just three assists to the lineup.Â Key returnees are Lexi Linafelter (164 kills) and Payton Connolly (164 diggs).
Paonia is always in the conference mix and returns Carly Horn (489 assists).Â West Grand could also challenge behind the play of Emma Desanti (267 assists).Â Joey Deckler (169 kills), Morgan Bennett (297 assists) and Alex Camiletti (462 diggs) all return for Hayden so the Tigers may take a big step forward this year.Â Soroco also returns young setters Irene Hoff (210 assists) and Emily Romero (209).
IS THEIR A CLEAR-CUT FAVORITE IN THE SANTA FE?
Rye, Swink and Holly all reached the state tournament last year and traditionally have solid programs but like the trend across the state, all three programs must find new faces to play starring roles this year.
Rye went 2-2 at the state tournament and is ranked 10th in the pre-season but their top four hitters were all seniors.Â The top returnee is Ella Peters with 71 kills and Courtney Proctor with 67.Â Peters though had 239 assists a year ago so will probably handle those duties more than playing at the net.Â Another key returnee is Ashlyn Romine with 487 diggs.
Swink rallied from two sets down to beat Limon in the opening round of state and ended up splitting four matches there.Â Four hitters from last yearâ€™s club finished with at least 115 kills but three have since graduated.Â Key losses were Brianna Denton, Kyla Oâ€™Neal, Skyler Jones and Tierra Holland who were all in the rotation since their freshman seasons.Â Top returnees include Edit Morales (80 kills) and Rylee Platt (221 diggs).Â The Lions are unranked to open the season.
Holly went 15-9 during their first year of 2A volleyball.Â A late hot streak at the end of the season got them to the state tournament where they knocked off Vail Mountain before falling to Yuma and Rye.Â Up front, they lost Kallie Cathcart (400 kills) but return Sadee Davis (274).Â The top two setters also graduated with Athena Crum (93 assists) maybe taking over that role.
Around the always talented conference, Fowler (15-10) lost their top four hitters and setter but gets back Jayden Osborne (227 assists).Â John Mall (10-15) could improve with the return of Amanda Dotter (257 kills) and Shelby Farris (135).Â Alyssa Brown recorded 399 assists as a freshman.Â Hoehne (15-10) could push for a top two finish as they return Avery Navarette (246 kills & 394 diggs).Â Sarah East, with 367 assists, also returns.
LIMON HOPES TO BUILD ON LAST YEAR
The Badgers open the season ranked 2nd in the state and coming off a state tournament appearance, they have high hopes for the 2019 campaign.Â They finished 16-13 a year ago and experienced two wild five-set matches to open the tournament.Â They gave up the lead to Swink but recovered to knock off Del Norte.Â Another win over Vail Mountain kept them alive before being eliminated by Wiggins in four sets.
Top hitter Anna Weisensee (241 kills) graduated but Trista Marx is back after picking up 125 kills as a freshman.Â Amy Weisensee has experience up front but spent more time in the back last year to record 243 assists.Â Lauren Stang also had time in that role (231 assists).Â Sidney Hines (66 kills) is also back after limited duty because of injury.
Byers (17-10) is another Union Pacific club coming off a state tournament berth.Â The Bulldogs were one of just three teams all season to take a set from Denver Christian in their four-game loss.Â Three of the top four hitters have graduated but Symantha Linnebur returns.Â She picked up 236 kills as a freshman.
WHO WINS THE SOUTHERN PEAKS?
Del Norte rolled through the conference unchallenged winning all ten matches to grab the trophy.Â The Tigers then advanced to the state tournament and pushed both Meeker and Limon to five sets before being eliminated.Â But like many other clubs, there are several lineup spots to be determined in pre-season workouts.
The Tigers lost three of their top four setters to graduation and the fourth, Myka Glover, has transferred to Montezuma Cortez.Â She was second on the team with 261 kills a year ago.Â Defensively, the Tigers could be solid with the return of Kacei Madrid (171 diggs) and Mackenzie Owsley (138).Â Madrid also recorded 119 assists.
Sanford finished second last year and picked up 16 wins, but the Indians were also senior laden.Â Sargent though could be the top challenger as the Farmers return hitters Ashlyn Griffin (165 kills) and Lexxi Aguilar (120).Â Alicia Urbina (120 assists) is also back.
DOLORES AGAIN SEEMS TO BE THE TOP TEAM IN THE SAN JUAN
The Bears went 11-1 last year to share the conference title with Dove Creek.Â Only two other 2A clubs ended the year with winning records overall (Mancos & Telluride).Â With the return of Jordan Elder (270 kills) and Sydney Smith (115) up front, the Bears remain favored to land the title again.Â They need to find a new setter as Abby Jones (510 assists) finished up her career last Fall.
Mancos and Telluride also have a solid nucleus coming back so their win totals might be higher as well.Â The Bluejays will see Magdalena Halls (193 kills) and Emmalee Asnicar (418 assists) back on the floor and Telluride will have Danika Petit (189 kills) and Morgan Watkinson (266 assists) in the lineup again.