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Prep girls volleyball preview: Waunakee pursues another state appearance

August 22, 2018

Area rankings

1. Waunakee; 2. Middleton; 3. Verona; 4. Watertown; 5. Milton; 6. Sun Prairie; 7. Janesville Craig; 8. Mount Horeb; 9. DeForest; 10. Wisconsin Heights; 11. Lakeside Lutheran; 12. Waterloo.

Players to watch

Kiana Schmitt, sr., Waunakee: Schmitt, a Creighton recruit, was named to the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association all-state second team last year. Schmitt, a middle blocker, helped lead Waunakee to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.

Sophee Mink, sr., DeForest: Mink, who will play outside hitter this season, has orally committed to High Point University. She was second in the high jump at the WIAA Division 1 state track and field meet in June.

Milla Malik, jr., Waunakee: University of Buffalo recruit Malik was an honorable-mention all-state pick in 2017.

Brooke Mosher, so., Waterloo: Mosher, an honorable-mention all-state choice, has orally committed to the University of Illinois as a setter.

Bailey Neuberger, sr., Marshall: A Southern Illinois recruit, Neuberger was an honorable-mention all-state selection last year.

Lily Welti, sr., Middleton: Welti, an outside hitter, was an honorable-mention all-state choice in 2017.

Karlie McNabb, jr., Sun Prairie: McNabb, an outside hitter, has orally committed to Loyola University in Illinois.

Elise Goetzinger, jr., Mount Horeb: Middle hitter Goetzinger is a Kentucky recruit.

McKenna Warnock, sr., Monona Grove: A highly recruited basketball player, Warnock was an honorable-mention all-state volleyball player in 2017.

Sarah Malone, sr., Waunakee: Malone was an honorable-mention all-state selection as a libero.

Ella Foti, so., Madison Edgewood: Marquette recruit Foti was an honorable-mention all-state pick. She’s coming back from a knee injury.

Things to watch

State run: Waunakee reached the WIAA state tournament for the first time since 1993 last season, falling to Oconomowoc in the Division 1 quarterfinals. The Warriors return the bulk of that team and will pursue another run at the state tournament.

Back for more: Verona, Sun Prairie and Middleton shared the Big Eight Conference crown last year after each finished 8-1 in league dual play, while Janesville Craig won the conference tournament. Those four teams enter as the Big Eight favorites this season.

New faces: The Badger South had several coaching changes, including defending Badger South dual and tournament champion Watertown. The Goslings have a new coach in Carrie Hein, after Melissa Hahn became associate principal and volleyball coach at Monona Grove.

Work in progress: Lakeside Lutheran won the WIAA Division 2 state championship last season. Several key players graduated from that team, which won the conference title for the fifth consecutive time. But coach Jenny Krauklis is optimistic the Warriors, led by seven returning letter winners, will progress throughout the season and again compete with the top teams.

Family matters: McFarland coach Patricia “Trish” Fortune, who’s compiled a 348-210-11 record in 18 seasons at McFarland, has two daughters on her roster – Lizzy, a junior, and Maddy, a freshman.

Conference previews

Big Eight

Middleton shared the Big Eight crown with Verona and Sun Prairie and reached the Division 1 sectional semifinals last year, and 21st-year coach Franco Marcos believes the Cardinals have what it takes to reach the state tournament this season. Four starters return, led by senior outside hitter Lily Welti. Middle blocker Hannah Flottmeyer and Keller Frinzi, who has shifted from right-side hitter to outside hitter, also are back. Jada Cerniglia, who transferred from Verona, will play libero, while Torrey Coan will play right-side hitter after moving from San Diego. Setter/right-side hitter Evie Coleman and setter Rachael Roberts also are expected to be key contributors.

Verona reached the Division 1 sectional semifinals during a season marked by coach Kelly Annen surpassing 200 victories. Ten letter winners and five starters are back for an athletic and versatile attack. Junior libero Amelia Hurst, junior outside hitter/right-side hitter Megan Touchett, senior outside hitter Nikki Phelps and junior middle blocker Maddy Kelley lead the Wildcats, while freshman outside hitter Claudia Bobb, sophomore outside hitter Kylie Magnus and junior defensive specialist Rachel Karnosky are expected to contribute.

Sun Prairie was 35-10 and reached the Division 1 sectional final last year. But 10 seniors departed from that team — including outside hitter Claire Chaussee (who’s at Louisville) — and only two starters return for 12th-year coach T.J. Rantala. Junior outside hitter Karlie “K.J.” McNabb, who had 250 kills in 2017, returns, as do two other letter winners -- senior outside hitter/right-side hitter Gabby Braatz and 6-1 senior middle blocker Holly McCloskey.

Four starters — middle hitters Amanda Carlson and Lily Stockheimer, setter Taylor Salmon and libero Skylar Flood — and eight letter winners return for Janesville Craig, which toppled Sun Prairie for the conference tournament title last year. Blake Budrow, in his 28th year as head coach this season, said Carlson entered the season approaching 1,500 career kills and Salmon is nearing 3,000 assists.

The rest of the Big Eight, led by Madison La Follette, is expected to chase Middleton, Verona, Sun Prairie and Janesville Craig. La Follette coach Tarah Harms said 6-0 senior outside hitter Ayona Johnson is orally committing to Hampton University.

Senior setter Paige Buske, a four-year starter, is among six starters returning for Madison East, which is expected to have its strongest team in several years, according to Purgolders coach Liz Nagel. Other contributors figure to be senior outside hitter Lea Krasniqi, senior right-side hitter Rachael Muldrow, senior middle blocker Shayla Moseberry and sophomore libero Bell Vang.

Phil Friedl is the new coach at Madison West.

Badger North

Waunakee was 42-8 and advanced to the Division 1 state tournament quarterfinals last year and, with seven players who started in 2017 returning, should be powerful again this season. Coach Anne Denkert’s attack will feature 6-3 senior middle blocker Kiana Schmitt, junior outside hitter Milla Malik and senior outside hitters Kaleigh Roepke and Lexi Langendorf, all strong blockers. Senior Sarah Malone is a defensive specialist/libero. Senior outside hitter Bridget Daniels and junior outside hitter Jocelyn Meinholz are expected to join the lineup.

Mount Horeb advanced to the Division 2 sectional final last year, falling to Lakeside Lutheran, after finishing atop the Badger North standings (6-1 in league, 33-6 overall). Four starters are back for coach Kurt Owen, including Kentucky recruit Elise Goetzinger, a 6-4 middle blocker and first-team all-conference selection. Jadyn Holmen, a 6-1 senior who has played the middle, likely will move to outside hitter. Senior defensive specialist/libero Ashley Lange and 6-2 junior right-side hitter/setter Maddy Mason also figure prominently as Mount Horeb seeks its third consecutive conference title.

Five starters, led by 6-1 senior outside hitter Sophee Mink, return for DeForest, 27-17 last year. Scott Schumann, in his second season at DeForest, believes the Norskies have size, strong serving skills and solid defense – and can contend for the league title. He will count on Mink and outside hitter/setter Megan Mickelson, right-side hitter Aleah Grundahl, middle hitters Heidi Compe and Kaycee Meiners, outside hitter Sydney Hoffman and defensive specialist Rachel Sime. The Norskies will seek to settle their setter position.

Baraboo fourth-year coach Morgan Liebetrau welcomes back 10 letter winners and six starters and hopes the Thunderbirds can challenge for a top-three finish in league play. Senior middle hitter Lia Kieck, a first-team all-conference performer a year ago, leads the way. The senior-laden team also features senior right-side hitter Abby Haseley, senior middle hitter Megan Horstman, senior libero Grace Stuckey and senior outside hitter Haley Hannagan.

Doug Pickarts, who has coached at DeForest and most recently Barneveld, takes over as the Beaver Dam coach.

Badger South

Watertown earned the conference title in its first season in the Badger South last year and finished 33-12 overall. New Watertown coach Carrie Hein will have a lot of experience at her disposal this season, as the Goslings have five seniors and seven juniors on the roster. Seniors include Sheridan Dettmann, Bri Korducki, Payton Zubke, Ashley Stair and Bailey Coughlin.

Milton’s Wayne Hansen, who has five starters and eight letter winners returning, said this arguably will be the best team he’s coached and believes the Red Hawks can challenge for a state tournament berth. Senior setter Skyler Salter runs the 5-1 offense and is surrounded by talented players: senior middle hitter Courtney Knudson (258 kills last year), senior outside hitter Chloe Buescher (353 kills), senior outside hitter Ashley Didelot (307 kills) and Waldorf recruit Emily Zastoupil, a senior right-side hitter. Freshman Jordan Karlen, a setter/defensive specialist/right-side hitter, is receiving interest from NCAA Division I colleges, Hansen said.

Former Watertown coach Melissa Hahn is the new coach at Monona Grove, which was led last year by all-conference hitter McKenna Warnock.

Nine letter winners and three starters return at Stoughton, where Jillian Bauer begins her first season as coach. Senior Hannah Wirag will lead the way for the Vikings.

Senior setter Erin Flanagan and senior libero Emily Konop pace Oregon, which has five starters and nine letter winners returning. Senior outside hitter Leah Rogers and senior opposite-side hitter Erin Wriedt also should be key contributors for fourth-year coach Katie Heitz’s team, which joins Fort Atkinson in looking to challenge for a top spot in the conference.

Eliza Zwettler begins her first season as Madison Edgewood’s coach and faces a rebuilding job. The Crusaders finished 26-14 last year, but return only two starters. Seniors Anna Mueller and Ashley Arians will be primary offensive threats. Sophomore Ella Foti, who has orally committed to Marquette, continues to recuperate from a knee injury, Zwettler said.

Monroe will be young after losing five key individuals from last year’s team. Returning letter winners for the Cheesemakers include sophomore right-side hitter Zoee Pond, junior middle hitter Cassi Gersbach, senior outside hitter Lexi Davis and senior defensive specialist Elli Mueller.

Capitol North

Lakeside Lutheran has four starters returning from last year’s conference champion and Division 2 state champion, and is expected to battle Lake Mills and Watertown Luther Prep for the league title this season. Lakeside Lutheran will be led by 6-1 sophomore middle hitter Payton Kuepers, junior outside hitter Ella Collins (who was a middle hitter a year ago) and senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Shadoski (a right-side hitter last year). Sophomore Kaylee Raymond takes over at setter. Key back-row players include senior Hannah Willems, junior Ally Murray and sophomore Kylee Gnabasik. Coach Jenny Krauklis begins her seventh season 198-53, closing in on 200 victories.

Seven letter winners return for Poynette, seeking to improve on last year’s 9-29 mark. Second-year coach Morgan Serstad will count on eight seniors for leadership and experience.

Capitol South

Wisconsin Heights finished 9-1 in conference play last season and coach Amy Schlimgen believes the Vanguards can contend for the league title again this season. Junior outside hitter Ashlee Adler and two athletic middle hitters, senior Tayler Kraemer and Kelsi Handel, lead the attack. Junior Jada Wood is scheduled to be the setter. Junior right-side hitter Raegan Doherty and senior defensive specialists Rylin Hodson and Destiny Brown also figure prominently.

Waterloo was 9-1 in conference play and advanced to the WIAA Division 3 state semifinals last year, falling in a five-set thriller to eventual champion Hartland Lake Country Lutheran. Claire Mosher and Grace Meyer are among those gone from last year’s team. Christy Mosher takes over as coach, replacing Nicole Bakalars. Illinois commit Brooke Mosher, a 6-foot sophomore setter/outside hitter, is expected to carry a big load for the Pirates, along with 5-10 sophomore outside hitter/setter Joslyn Wolff, 6-0 junior middle hitter Sydney Schonhoff and junior middle hitter/right-side hitter Chloe Fitzgerald (whom Christy Mosher said is recovering from foot surgery).

Belleville coach Kelsey Schmit hopes the Wildcats, who have eight players who started and 13 letter winners returning, can compete for a top-two spot in the conference this year. Senior Rachael Heittola, a 6-2 middle blocker, and senior outside hitter Jade Halvensleben lead the attack. Sisters Sydney Gentilli, a senior libero, and Ellie Gentilli, a junior defensive specialist, will lead the defense.

Marshall — led by senior outside hitter Bailey Neuberger, a Southern Illinois recruit — hopes to challenge the three favorites.

Rock Valley

Conference teams are expected to chase East Troy, led by Brianna Scuric.

Senior Ashley East, a left-handed right-side hitter, leads McFarland, which also features senior outside hitter Izzy Grassl, junior setter Lizzy Fortune, junior libero Erin Eggers and sophomore middle hitter Katie Hildebrandt. Spartans coach Trish Fortune has nine letter winners returning and believes her team can bid for a top-two spot in the conference.

Edgerton will be young and inexperienced with only two starters returning from last year’s 36-10 team. Sophomore outside hitter Carly Rebman and senior outside hitter Olivia Brittan are six-rotation players for second-year coach Sharon Fox. Freshman setter Kate Fox Gunderson and freshman defensive specialist Nadia Kim will be asked to contribute immediately. The Crimson Tide will be more defensive-oriented this year, due to the loss of offensive firepower.

Jefferson, behind Cassidy Spies, also should be in the mix.

South Central

Wisconsin Dells seeks to defend its South Central crown after finishing 10-0 in league play a year ago. Six starters return for coach Tami Janke, led by three all-conference performers, senior middle hitter Jamie Pfeifer, senior outside hitter Caelan Tourdot and senior libero Kennedy Hickey. Sophomore Brooke Hartley has moved to setter. Senior Katelyn Meister is expected to contribute as an outside hitter.

SWAL

Samantha Riedel begins her first season as Mineral Point’s coach. Middle blocker Kyla Lindsey was a first-team all-conference pick last year as a junior.

SWAC

Only five letter winners return, but four were starters, for River Valley. Junior setter Ali Hoffman, junior outside hitter Tienna Gruber, senior hitter Emily Briehl and sophomore middle hitter Alicyn Stephens are returning starters, while senior defensive specialist Katy Jennings also is back. Coach Lisa Roelke expects junior middle hitter Hope Ragels and freshman outside hitter Kate Hanson also to figure into the lineup.

Trailways

Madison Country Day School coach Laura Soden looks for her team, which has five starters returning, to continue making progress in the program’s second year at the varsity level and in the Trailways South.

Six Rivers East

Nicole Henke takes over as coach at Barneveld, replacing Doug Pickarts, now the coach at Beaver Dam. Henke anticipates a rebuilding season after Barneveld graduated eight seniors.

Key postseason dates

Regionals in WIAA Division 2, 3 and 4: Oct. 16, 18 and 20.

Regionals in Division 1: Oct. 18 and 20.

Sectionals: Oct. 25 and 27.

State tournament: Nov. 1-3, Resch Center, Ashwaubenon.

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