Tawa’s Dots: Lots of young teams take titles; tragedy hits Louisiana championships


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. The last Dots will be next Tuesday, we’ll take a break, and then we will have club Dots in the new year.

• My thoughts today are with Pope John Paul head coach Danny Tullis. The Jaguars had just won a Louisiana semifinal match on Friday and were poised to vie for their eighth state title in Division IV since 2013 the next day when the news broke that Danny’s son, Christian, a 16-year-old junior at the school, had been killed in a collision with a semi while returning home. Christian Tullis is the third of Danny’s four children.

Danny was too grief-stricken to coach the final, but his daughter, Ali, a senior setter, played. She had 27 assists, but PJP fell in three sets to Newman, which won state for the first time since 2007. Senior OH Za Nelson was named MVP after contributing 18 kills and 17 digs to Newman’s cause.

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In Division I in Louisiana, Dominican won its third title in a row, downing Mount Carmel in straight sets. The MVP was Camryn Chatellier, daughter of head coach Jessica Chatellier.

Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone, who was a rookie coach in 2007 when I covered the Louisiana championships in person, is retiring after winning eight titles for the Cubs during her tenure. Best wishes, April! You were a favorite of mine from the first moment I met you!

In Division V, Metairie Park Country Day’s title was no surprise. The Cajuns have won 13 titles in 14 years, the only break coming in 2014, when McGehee broke through. Country Day, guided by coach Julie Ibieta, needed five sets to get past Westminster Christian. Ellie Schneider was named the match’s Most Outstanding Player after recording 28 kills.

Since 2012, the only teams winning Division II have been Teurlings Catholic and St. Thomas More. St. Thomas More was the victor this year, in three sets. The title was the third in a row for the Cougars and eighth over the past 11 years.

In Division III, Dunham, a private school in Baton Rouge, moved up in class and won it all, beating E.D. White, a Catholic school from Thibodaux, 16-25, 26-24, 27-25, 25-23. Head coach Donna Pixley, in her 20th year as head coach at the school, last won in 2005 in Division V. This year’s title was extra special because daughter Caylin Pixley, was the team’s starting setter.

• With 17 states (plus the District of Columbia) holding championship events this past week, there’s only so much one can fit into 10 Dots. Here are the storylines I thought were most interesting:

Dimond came from the loser’s bracket to capture state over a West Anchorage team it defeated seven times during the season

In Alaska, Dimond won the state 4A title for the first time since 2018. The Lynx were the best team in the state and were 6-0 versus West Anchorage when the Eagles pulled the upset in bracket play on Thursday. Dimond was not eliminated, however, due to the double elimination format, and fought back to face West again in the championship match. Dimond won in three, forcing a one-set to 30 “if needed” showdown, which Dimond also won, 30-28.

The win completed the “triple crown” for Dimond, its 10 seniors and six returning starters. The won the regular season conference championship, conference tournament and state tournament, all in the same year.

“There were many teams in the state tournament this year that could have won it all; it was very competitive,” said Lynx coach Kim Lauwers.  “We had a well -balanced skilled team this year.”

Setter Jolee Kelzenberg, libero Kailei Muehlenkamp, MB Elaina Alfano and OHs Lauren Sulte and Laney Fagerstrom keyed Dimond’s title run.

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In 3A, Kenai Central won its first title in program history, avenging a five-set loss to Valdez in last year’s championship match. The title will be remembered fondly by head coach Tracie Beck, especially since her daughter, 5-11 junior middle Emma Beck, was part of it as well.

• In Colorado, Princeton-bound Erin McNair led Valor Christian to the 5A title, completing a season in which the 29-0 Eagles dominated the state to capture state for the first time since 2018. McNair had nine kills and nine digs to lead the way for Valor Christian, which got 28 assists from sophomore setter Chloe Elarton. The Eagle head coach is former University of the Pacific head coach Jayne McHugh.

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In other Colorado results, Thompson Valley won its second straight 4A title, Sedgwick County also won again in 2A and Merino won for the third straight time in 1A.

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The 3A championship match was far and away the best show at the Denver Coliseum. Platte Valley needed five sets (16-14 in the fifth) to down top-seeded Lamar to claim its state-record 15th title all-time but first since 2003. The win avenged a five-set loss to Lamar in last year’s final.

Sophomore Karsyn Fetzer was a spark for the Broncos in the win.

• Billings Senior captured its first Montana AA title since 2014, winning a ridiculous finals match over Billings West, 25-23, 26-24, 21-25, 23-25, 18-16, under the charge of first-year head coach Courtney Bad Bear, who was a standout setter on the 2014 title team.

The finals came about because Montana employs a double elimination format. West swept the unbeaten semifinal the night before then waited to see which team would win back to the title match. Billings beat Great Falls CMR to get to the final, where it swept West, forcing the marathon “This one really counts” finale.

Leela Ormsby had 13 kills and 15 blocks to lead the victorious Broncs in the five-set thriller. West, which got 26 kills from Sydney Pierce, lost only to Senior this season.

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In Class B, Huntley Project won its 14th title all-time. To say that the Red Devils defeated a familiar foe for the championship would be an understatement. Huntley Project and Shepherd faced off 11 times in 2022, including three times at the state tournament. Huntley Project won nine of those matches, including two of three at state to take home the title.

Harlie Murphy had 18 kills in the match that counted for the victors.

• Clara Yu led the Georgetown Day School to its first District of Columbia “state title” in an intense four-set match versus St. John’s College High School. Yu contributed 30 assists, eight kills, eight digs, two blocks and two aces for the Grasshoppers in the win and was named the DCSAA State Tournament MVP.

Tower Hill was barely seeded in the top 10 but found a way to win Delaware’s single-class state title

• In Delaware, Tower Hill won the single-class state title, sweeping No. 3 Saint Mark’s. The title, the first for the Hillers, was shocking in a state where the top seeds almost always dominate. Tower Hill was the only school not seeded in the top eight to make the quarterfinals and kept winning through the final, where it denied Saint Mark’s a third straight title.  In the championship match, the Hillers served 13 aces and their middles hit .400.

“We really are a well-balanced team throughout our rotations,” said coach Michael Sachs. “Everyone embraced their role. This has been the most selfless, supportive team that I have ever coached. It was a true team championship.”

• The two best teams in Illinois met for the 4A title, with Mother McAuley prevailing, two sets to one, over Benet. The Mighty Macs, who were led by junior Ellie White’s 20 kills and nine digs, captured their state record 16th title.

Barrington (40-2) won the third-place match over St. Charles East and retiring coach Jennie Kull after 30 years on the bench. Fare the well, Jennie!

***

Wheaton St. Francis knocked off Nazareth Academy in 3A, Genoa-Kingston got 18 kills from Alayna Pierce in the 2A finals win over IC Catholic and Aquin won 1A behind 27 kills combined from Lucy Arndt and Ainsley Stovall.

• In Florida, Sneads’ nine-year run atop 1A is over. Liberty County (28-2), which ended Sneads’ reign in the quarterfinals, defeated Baker in three sets to take its first state crown. Junior Caleigh Peddie led the way with a team-high 11 kills.

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Summer Kohler had the clinching kill to give Venice the Class 7A title, the first for Coach Brian Wheatley and his crew in five seasons.

New Smyrna Beach needed overtime in Game 5 to capture its first state title, 16-14 over Viera in Class 6A. Maddie Peterson had 25 kills to lead the Barracudas.

Clearwater Central Catholic swept Westminster Christian in Class 3A, a shocking result since the Warriors were undefeated and considered the best team in the state regardless of classification. CCC, which finished second in its district, won 25-22, 25-23, 27-25 behind senior Lauren Cairo, junior Taylor Bedinhaus and sophomore Josie Hensley.

• Lindsey Green had 48 assists to lead a balanced offense that propelled Ursuline Academy past Magnificat in four sets for the Ohio Division 1 title. The Lions, a perennial Ohio power, had not won state since 2018.

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In Division 2, Caroline Jurevicius affirmed her place atop Ohio talent with 27 kills, eight digs, four blocks and three aces as Notre Dame Cathedral Latin  captured the title in five over Gilmour Academy, which got 50 assists and 10 digs from Ella Jackson.

Lake Catholic, with Emma Briganti contributing 17 digs and four aces, won Division 3. New Bremen won Division 4, as Olivia Heitkamp produced 19 kills, five digs and three blocks.

• Coronado dropped just four sets to Nevada opponents all year in capturing the 5A title in a sweep of RenoAbigail Paulson and Nanea Merryman combined for 30 kills and Angelina Sayles had seven aces in the win.

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Willow Watson had 10 kills and five aces to lead Arbor View to the 4A title in sweeping fashion over Sierra Vista.

Ryan Mitchell is used to watching teams dogpile. This is his first with Prestonwood Christian Academy.

• Prestonwood Christian Academy (40-1) finished the season on a 28-match winning streak in downing Bishop Lynch for the TAPPS 6A state title in Texas. PCA, with no seniors among those earning regular playing time, are ranked in the top five nationally. Ryan Mitchell’s squad was paced by junior setter Camille Edwards, sophomore libero Gillian Pitts and pin hitters Jadyn LivingsMikayla Young and Cari Spears. Spears, who may be the best sophomore in the nation, had a match-high 23 kills in the championship match.

Until next time …

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Coronado rolled to the large-class title in Nevada



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