The 2018 high school season will be here before you know it. The question we ponder today is this:
“Will the top 10 teams nationally at the end of 2017 reside in the top 10 in 2018 when all is said and done?”
We think that four schools are locks to repeat their 2017 glory, while six others have a ways to go before reaching the summit again in 2018.
Walton (Marietta, Georgia) (No. 1 last year) – PrepVolleyball.com’s 2017 national champions will be better this fall than the 40-1 team that won it all. That may not mean a repeat national title for the Raiders, however, because of an ambitious schedule and the presence of other outstanding teams. Coach Suzanne Fitzgerald’s team brings back all but one starter, including National Junior of the Year Gabby Gonzales and a great defense that includes at least three Division I talents; and gets back talented middle Meghan Froemming from an ACL tear to fill the lone departing starter. The team also has ridiculous talent on the bench and can survive an injury if need be. Walton should not move from the top five nationally all of next year.
Assumption (Louisville, Kentucky) (No. 4) – It’s been a while since the Rockets made a run for a national championship. The 2018 team has all the pieces to repeat its state title of 2017 and to defeat all challengers in 2018. KiVA 17 Red is No. 7 nationally in our latest club rankings. Eight of the nine on that team attend Assumption, including setter Cami Nazor, middles Rylee Rader and Emma Monks and outsides MaryAnn O’Toole and Lauren Myrick. Add rising junior Anna DeBeer, a 6-0 OH and perhaps the school’s best all-around player, and Ron Kordes has a team with no weaknesses and breathtaking ability.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) (No. 7) – The Monarchs finished seventh nationally in 2017 after losing in the California Open state title match. Dan O’Dell’s team should get back to that title tilt again in 2018 with a loaded team that returns six deep impact starters. Setter Mia Tuaniga, S/RS Brielle Mullally and OH Natalie Berty are among the key performers back. We are also hearing rumors about a possible transfer that could make this team even scarier than it already is.
Xavier College Prep (Phoenix, Arizona) (No. 9) – The Arizona 6A champions graduate 6A POY Lanie Wagner and libero Alyna Draper but return scads of talent. Senior setter Shannon Shields will run the best offense in the state, as OH Briana McKnight, RS Serena Turner and MB Jasmine Knight all return. On defense, Ashley Yeung should step seamlessly into the contrasting jersey.
Ursuline (Cincinnati, Ohio) (No. 3) — The Lions graduated a lot, but the Ohio Division I champions will own the first two contacts behind returnees Maggie Huber at libero and Logan Case at setter. Coach Jeni Case has some talented underclassmen primed to make an impact, including OH Emma Gielas, who’s been most impressive this club season.
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, California) (No. 6) – I put Mitty in this category instead of the “I don’t see it” category that follows because the Monarchs return coach Bret Almazan-Cezar. So long as they have him, anything is possible, even when you lose your starting setter, starting libero and four top hitters to graduation. Three from Open-qualified Vision 16 Gold, RS Ellen Veargason, OH Megan Lux and MB Julia Cabri, should be foundational pieces.
Torrey Pines (San Diego, California) (No. 8) – The Falcons always have talent and are the kind of program that can withstand the graduation of four impact starters. The ball control, headed by libero Macall Peed, should be first rate. S/RS Emily Fitzner, OH Kendra Ham and MB Trinity Durfee are others who will be difference makers for Brennan Dean’s squad.
Hebron (Carrollton, Texas) (No. 10) – Hebron has won three Texas large-class state titles in a row. With only two starters back, setter Jessica Stancliff and MB Emma Clothier, how the Hawks fare in 2018 will answer whether they just had a good run or are a perennial power in the state. Coach Karin Keeney also returns junior middle Nnedi Okammor, who has had a breakout club season; but will be without RS Nicole Drewnick, a Nebraska commit, who will sit out the fall campaign.
I DON’T SEE IT
Marist (Chicago, Illinois) (No. 2) – The RedHawks had a dream season in 2017, capped by the Illinois large-class state title. That team had nine seniors on the roster, including four – two hitters, a libero and setter Molly Murrihy (POY) – on the Daily Southtown Star All-Area team. Jordan Vidovic will build around junior S/RS Camryn Hannah.
St. Joseph’s (St. Louis, Missouri) (No. 5) — The Angels snapped Lafayette’s six-year reign atop Missouri’s Class 4 thanks to an outstanding senior class led by Penn State-bound setter Gabby Blossom. Rebuilding is probable in 2018, though All-State libero Tara Beilsmith returns.