Preps notebook: Top area volleyball storylines entering 2019

Lawrence High and Free State volleyball starters huddle up before the City Showdown at LHS on Oct. 2, 2018.

The 2019 volleyball season begins today with multiple area teams taking the court.

Last season, a volleyball state champion came from this area when Lawrence High finished first in Class 6A for the first since 1995. The Lions will have to replace an instrumental senior class from a season ago, but it is possible that an area volleyball team could capture another state crown this fall.

LHS will host Blue Valley Northwest at 6 p.m. tonight. Bishop Seabury will host Atchison, while Veritas will travel to Whitefield. With that, let’s take a look at the top storylines regarding the area volleyball squads entering 2019:

Defending champs will have to reload

It was a season to remember for the Lions last fall.

Behind its memorable senior class, LHS dominated during a 38-2 campaign that ended with a state title. Lawrence will have to defend its crown with a new-look squad, though one that has capable players across the board.

Seniors Ashley Wildeman and Asjah Harris are used to success. Both of them are members of Lawrence’s 4×100-meter relay team, which has claimed back-to-back state titles in the event in Class 6A girls track. Seniors Keely English and Haven Bellerive are also going to make a huge impact on this year’s volleyball team.

It also helps that head coach Stephanie Scarbrough, who is in her 13th season at the helm, has formed a culture within this volleyball program. So even with many new faces, the Lions figure to be a capable team in 2019.

Free State enters season ranked under new coach

As the lone area team ranked in the preseason poll by the Kansas Volleyball Association, Free State has the talent to do some damage under first-year head coach Jayme Savage.

The Firebirds, who are ranked No. 4 in Class 6A, have lost to Manhattan High in each of the last two seasons. Last year’s team went 23-15, including 10-2 in Sunflower League play, before losing to MHS in the first round of sub-state. Free State fell to Manhattan in the sub-state championship in 2017.

Savage, who has been an assistant for FSHS over the previous nine seasons, knows her team is capable of a deep run. For now, though, Savage is focusing on getting the players to buy in and ultimately grow through the process.

Free State will have to wait a week to take the court, as it hosts a triangular with Olathe North and Shawnee Mission North on Sept. 10.

Seahawks aim to build off last year

In 2018, the Seahawks finished one game shy of making it to the state tournament.

Bishop Seabury brings back a number of key players from a squad that went 27-14 last fall. Gabriella Aubel, the only senior on this year’s team, has been a key player throughout her career. She was ranked in aces per set last year and was also one of the team’s two leading attackers.

Junior setter Reaghan Bible is coming off a summer where she qualified for USA Volleyball Nationals with her club team. Sophomores Shea Hanna, Lizzette Borjas and Elena Weber are all back as well after strong rookie campaigns.

“The focus for this season is to play to our full potential, and to work at getting better as individual players and as a team,” third-year coach Brian Rios said. “Serve receive and defense are going to be (a) big emphasis for the Seahawks.”

Several volleyball players to shine

Free State senior Kaitlyn Hamilton, an Indiana State commit, is one of the many potent volleyball players in our area coverage. In fact, on the same team, senior setter Mya Gleason has set every setting record at Free State in her career.

Baldwin senior Anna Burnett is moving outside this year after leading the Frontier League in digs last season. Burnett should lead the Bulldogs in kills this fall, while Emma Grossoehme will be the team’s primary setter this year.

Senior Keagan Shockley, who is verbally committed to Pittsburg State University, is Eudora’s go-to player on offense. She managed to make first team All-Frontier League as a setter and earned an honorable mention selection as an attacker. Eudora’s Delaney Franklin, a Baker University commit, made the first team as a libero last season.

Four seniors will lead Perry-Lecompton’s volleyball team in 2019. Seniors Jenna Keller and Rylee Paramore will be the focal points of attack as outside hitters for PLHS. Senior setter Tabor Brown and senior middle back Cali Coleman will also be key to the Kaws’ success.

Meanwhile, Tonganoxie’s volleyball team could improve on its 15-21 record with the help of multiple returners. Senior Erin Gallagher, senior Abby Marcouillier, senior Lauren Gray, sophomore Jordan Knipp and junior Frankie Downing should all take another step this year.

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