This is “Dots,” VolleyballMag.com’s weekly look at 10 things in high school volleyball, past or present, that interest me and hopefully will interest you. Look for Dots through the last high school state championship this month:
• The number of states that have concluded their fall volleyball seasons now stands at nine. Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas and Maine finished up in the past week. Another 10 will crown champions by Sunday, including Oregon, where I’ll be after my 770-mile drive on Thursday (Yay me!).
In high school volleyball, only Junior Nationals in June/July can produce as much excitement.
• The biggest story of the week, indeed, the biggest story of the year is Bayside Academy of Daphne, Alabama. The Admirals, a school with fewer than 300 students, won the Alabama 6A title last week. They defeated three-time defending 7A champion Mountain Brook in the semifinals and Spanish Fork, the team that defeated them for the regional title just a few days earlier, in a five-set championship thriller. Junior setter Blakely Robbins was named MVP after hoisting 57 assists in the final, adding 11 digs, four kills and four aces. Haley Robinson, a freshman, led four hitters in double figures with 19 kills. Misty Kate Smith, a sophomore, added 14 kills and 15 digs. Mary Whitehurst, another freshman, contributed 34 digs and two aces. Grier Broughton, yet another freshman, totaled 21 digs to go along with three kills and two aces.
• If that’s all there was — small school wins big school state title with three freshmen playing major roles – that would be a helluva story. But this story has so many more layers. Twenty-one (21) more, in fact.
If you read my writing faithfully (and with a Hi-Liter, which you should), you’ve read about Bayside Academy and its longtime head coach, Ann Schilling, before.
On Thursday, Bayside won its national-record 31st state title. The Admirals have won in Class 1A, Class 2A, Class 3A, Class 4A, Class 5A and, in its first year, in Class 6A. Twenty-eight (28) of those titles came with Schilling, who’s coached at Bayside for 36 years, on the bench.
But that’s not the most amazing thing. The most amazing thing is that, for TWENTY-ONE STRAIGHT YEARS, Bayside Academy has been a state volleyball champion. The last five have come while Schilling has been battling Stage 4 breast cancer. She has leaned hard into her Christian faith to give her strength during her battle.
Schilling and Bayside just keep winning and winning and winning, despite all the roadblocks placed in their path.
It truly is awe-inspiring.
• With that context, consider how Bayside won state in 2022.
The Admirals went into the Elite Eight State Tournament having lost two four-set decisions to Spanish Fort in an eight-day span.
They were 1-3 on the season versus the Toros while playing a lineup that included three freshmen, a sophomore and three juniors in their regular rotation.
One day earlier, they won the final two sets versus junior-dominated Mountain Brook to stop the Spartans’ three-year championship streak.
They went down two sets to one in the final before rallying to win. The final two set scores were 25-11, 15-12.
I reached out to Coach Schilling and conducted an interview with the legendary coach in the days following No. 21. Here it is, with only light editing:
- Was this the toughest?
It was! The fact that we moved up to 6A and lost two really solid classes of seniors and the fact that we were putting three freshmen out there in prime positions … it truly was the toughest. Also we had the tougher side of the bracket — we had to get past Hazel Green and Mountain Brook to get to the finals.”
2. Was there a moment or moments when you didn’t think it might happen?
After Set 3, I knew we had to win and win big. And we did.
3. Other than your faith, how important is the streak to you? Is it next?
It’s nice. I guess as a coach now you don’t want to ever see a group go down. But I really enjoy the kids and spending time with them is fun. 1. Faith 2. Family. 3. Then my volleyball family.
4. Is there any part of you that would like it to end, considering the amount of pressure it puts on you and your girls every year?
No. not at all. It is pressure but I feel like pressure is a privilege. I think our kids do a fantastic job of embracing the challenge. And I love that.
5. What’s the moment you’ll remember most from this year’s tournament and team?
In the fifth set my freshmen libero got really fired up. I could see it in her eyes. And all of their eyes. They wanted it and I told them that nobody can take anything away unless they let them and they believed in each other. It was so cool to see.
6. How’s your health? Will you be back next year health permitting?
I am doing fantastic. Another perfect scan a month ago. GOD IS KEEPING ME HERE FOR A REASON AND I’M NOT GOING TO BLOW IT.
• McGill-Toolen of Mobile won the Alabama 7A title on Thursday, the 22 state title all-time for the Dirty Dozen. They defeated Bob Jones in the four-set final while keeping forefront in their minds the notion of playing with joy.
Anna Grace Sparks took home MVP honors by amassing 14 kills, 12 digs and three aces in the final. The championship was the first for McGill-Toolen (51-8) since 2018.
Westminster Christian, Montgomery Catholic, Prattville Christian, Donoho and Addison won the other Alabama titles. Check out this stat line for Prattville Christian’s Hannah Jones in the four-set win over Plainview in 3A: 30 kills, 17 digs.
• In Kansas, favored Washburn Rural won its eighth state title, dispatching Blue Valley in straight sets for the 6A crown. The Junior Blues last won state 10 years ago.
Washburn Rural came to the state tournament with a 40-1 record, its lone loss to 5A power St. James Academy, and went 3-0 in pool play, including a win over senior-led Blue Valley. The three wins set a school single-season win record with 43.
The Junior Blues added on to their record on Saturday with a semifinal sweep of Mill Valley, then stared down Blue Valley again.
“I was bit worried about playing them a third time, let alone beating them the day before,” noted longtime coach Kevin Bodewick. “After taking the first set, 25-21, the second set was a back and forth set almost the whole time. I think there were 7-9 lead changes late and we wound up on top, 26-24.”
Senior OH Brooklyn DeLeye, a four-year standout and Kentucky recruit considered the best senior in the state, took over for Rural in key moments in the sweep. She graduates as one of only three in KHSAA history with more than 2,000 career kills.
“She is the best all-around player we have ever had here, and by far the best hitter,” Bordewick said. “She finished her career with 2090 kills against the best competition and toughest schedule we could get. But as great as she is, she is an even better person, a tremendous role model for younger kids, and a humble but confident player.”
• St. Thomas Aquinas also won its eighth state title. The Saints (40-3) defeated longtime rival St. James, 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, to complete a year in which their only two in-state losses were to Washburn Rural.
Senior RS Betsy Goodenow had 16 kills and three blocks to lead the way.
“My team prepared all season for this past weekend,” said coach Sarah Cretors. “They came in with passion and the right mindset to accomplish the goal they set for themselves at the beginning of the season. I couldn’t be prouder of their character as players, but more importantly as people. They played Aquinas volleyball. Betsy Goodenow, Alea Goolsby, Reagan Anderson, Tatum Grimes and Kelsey Schenck all were vital for our success, although every single player on our roster of 11 was necessary to win.”
Bishop Miege, which won a thriller over Andale; Heritage Christian, Hillsboro, Little River and Lebo also won Kansas championships on Saturday. Miege entered the tournament with a sub-.500 record, knocked Andale (42-2) from the unbeaten ranks during pool play then won again in the final to square its record at 21-21.
• Iolani captured the Hawaii Division I title, sweeping Kamehameha-Hawaii in the championship match. The Raiders won their fourth title in their first appearance at the state tournament since 2018, when they also won.
Kamehameha – Hawaii reached the finals by stunning ILH power Punahou in the quarterfinals and then defeated Kahuku in the semis. But the team from near Hilo on the Big Island could not take down another ILH power, Iolani, for the biggest prize. Every year since 1990, an ILH team has won the state title. That’s 32 straight years, folks! And in almost every one of those years – maybe all of them before this year — the runner up has been from the ILH, too!
Brooke Naniseri led the way for the victors with 16 kills and four blocks. Tess Onaga contributed a staggering 34 digs in the three-set sweep.
Le Jardin defeated Hawaii Baptist in five sets to take the Division II title. Le Jardin now has three titles since Division II was instituted in 2005.
The individual stat totals for Le Jardin were extraordinary. Reese Diersbock had 31 kills and 19 digs. Sydnee Walker added 27 kills and 10 digs. Hailee Naone dug up 27 balls and Gennezia Hawkins put up 57 assists. Marisa Nakata had 30 kills and 16 digs in the loss.
• Fayetteville won the Arkansas 6A title for the third straight year, sweeping Southside. The Bulldogs (37-2) did not drop a set versus an in-state opponent this year.
“With such a senior-laden group, and being the two time defending state champions; it would be hard to imagine this season ending any other way for them,” said head coach Jessica Phelan. “They put the icing on the cake of a magical season, and finished just as they should: state champions.”
Brooke Rockwell, a Stanford Beach Volleyball recruit; led the way with 17 kills and 13 digs. Senior Kennedy Phelan, a Florida State recruit, also was phenomenal in her final match, putting up 37 assists, 18 digs and seven kills.
Benton (29-1) defeated Valley View in 5A, ending the Blazers’ seven-year state championship streak.
Brookland, Baptist Prep and Mansfield also won Arkansas state championships.
• Skyview of Nampa won state in Idaho for the third straight year. The Hawks won 5A in 2020 and 2021 before dropping down to 4A this year. The final, a four-set win over conference rival Columbia, marked the 55th straight win against in-state opponents, dating to the 2019 state final. Skyview has now appeared in eight straight state championship matches, winning five during that stretch.
“It was a great way to cap off our season,” said head coach Kevin Murphy. “We challenged ourselves all season long by playing great competition in Utah, Vegas and Omaha, with the purpose of trying to win our third state title in a row. It was extremely rewarding for our players to accomplish that.”
Alex Bower had 51 assists, 14 digs and six kills to lead the way. The junior dished with equal effectiveness to the duo of junior Alex Acevedo and freshman Bellamie Buess, who each had 26 kills.
Madison, Kimberley, Melba, Troy and Horseshoe Bend also took home Idaho titles. Kimberley and Melba won their first titles. Horseshoe Bend won without a single senior on its roster.
Sorry I could not get to single-match stat leaders again this week.
Until next time …