The Dallas Morning News’ high school volleyball expert Greg Riddle collected the top programs in the area for preseason rankings. See his top teams below:
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1. Keller: Keller was one set away from winning the Class 6A state title before dropping the final two sets in a five-set loss in the championship match against San Antonio Brandeis, ranked No. 5 in the nation by MaxPreps. Keller has a new head coach, as Danielle Barker comes over from Flower Mound Marcus to replace Lauren Rao, who is now the director of operations for TCU volleyball. Barker won three consecutive state titles (2007 to 2009) as a player at Amarillo, and as a coach she led Marcus to its first district title since 2010 and coached a pair of All-Americans. Keller, which finished 32-13 after reaching the state tournament for the first time, returns plenty of talent. First-team All-Area setter Taylor Polivka had 1,424 assists (9.7 per set) as a junior, and third-team All-Area middle blocker Leah Ford had 361 kills (3.7 per set) and 102 blocks as a junior. Ford, committed to USC, is rated the 41st-best player in the nation in the Class of 2023. Anna Boatner, a 6-3 junior, is rated the 22nd-best player in America in the Class of 2024. The big hole for Keller to fill is at outside hitter, where West Virginia signee Melanie McGann set a school record for most kills in a season, finishing with 648 as a senior en route to being named The Dallas Morning News’ All-Area hitter of the year.
2. Prosper: Prosper will be one of the most talented teams in the state this season, with Nebraska pledge Ayden Ames (455 kills) joined by Louisiana-Lafayette pledge Ella Chaney (306 kills), Alabama pledge Callie Kieffer (822 assists) and Gonzaga pledge Brianna Martin (376 digs). Sophomore Hannah Beauford, who was on Prosper’s JV last season, was an all-tournament selection at the USA Volleyball 15 Open club nationals. Prosper has reached at least the third round of the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons. That includes winning the Class 5A state title in 2017, finishing as the state runner-up in 2013 and reaching a regional final in 2014 and 2018. Prosper lost only two starters from last year’s 29-13 team, and this will be a versatile team with a lot of hitters able to play multiple positions.
3. Highland Park: Highland Park moves up to 6A after reaching the regional semifinals in 5A last season. There are three Division I pledges returning — outside hitter Sydney Breon (UCLA), middle hitter Ceci Gooch (Michigan) and libero Zoe Winford (Georgia Tech). Breon and Gooch were all-state selections. Highland Park must replace first-team AVCA All-American Emily Hellmuth, who had a school-record 551 kills (4.4 per set) for a 39-7 team.
4. Flower Mound: Flower Mound finished 36-6 and was ranked No. 7 nationally by MaxPreps when its season ended with an upset loss to Prosper in the first round of the playoff last season. Flower Mound’s Briana Watson (No. 60) and Catherine Young (No. 78) are ranked among the top 80 recruits in the nation in the Class of 2024. Young had 297 kills last year. Keep an eye on Audrey Jackson, Liz Goodspeed and Caroline Tredwell as well this season.
5. Denton Guyer: Coming off a 21-11 season, Guyer returns Kyndal Stowers, who led the team with 533 kills. Also back is outside hitter Lauren Schneider, who ranked fourth on the team in kills. Ava Houser led Guyer in assists (5.8 per set) while playing in a two-setter system.
6. Northwest Eaton: The team finished No. 13 in the MaxPreps national rankings last season after a run to the Class 6A Region I final for the second straight season. Emily Simmons ranked third on the team in kills (322) and second in digs (602). Lorena Gomez and Keely Shearer combined for 1,334 assists and 545 digs. Outside hitter Payton Sandefer and middle blocker Kimaya Webb are also expected to make big contributions. Eaton has a new coach, as Leslie Berens replaces Diane Wilson.
7. Plano West: Plano West is coming off an appearance in the 6A Region I semifinals, where it lost in four sets to state runner-up Keller. It was the fifth consecutive season that Plano West reached at least the third round of the playoffs, a streak that included a state semifinal appearance in 2018 and a state runner-up finish in 2019. Outside hitters Blaire Bayless (committed to Pittsburgh) and Katelyn Ruhman and middle blockers Ansley Denison and Kate Mansfield will play significant roles this season. Cooper Phillips is the new head coach, taking over for Justin Waters.
8. Sachse: After reaching the 6A Region II semifinals, Sachse returns state champion Favor Anyanwu. The junior middle blocker, who is being highly recruited and plays for the elite Texas Advantage Volleyball club, won the 6A state title in the shot put in track with a throw of 45 feet, 1.50 inches. Also back for Sachse is six-rotation senior outside hitter Macy Taylor, who is committed to Providence. Kaelynn Sims’ primary position is middle blocker, and she played right-side hitter last year, but she will transition to outside hitter this season.
9. Rockwall: Becca Kelley, a 6-3 pin hitter who is committed to Oregon, is an Under Armour All-American and had 378 kills, 226 digs and 41 blocks for a 27-15 6A Region II quarterfinalist team. Kelley will get help from senior libero Addison Goss (419 digs) and junior setter Gabi Ashcraft (672 assists, 77 aces).
10. Plano East: This spot could have gone to traditional powers such as Flower Mound Marcus, Hebron, Southlake Carroll or Trophy Club Byron Nelson. But we’re going with a team that could be one of the biggest surprises in the Dallas area. Plano East missed the playoffs last year, but its 2022 roster includes outside hitter/right-side hitter Krista Dooley (committed to Rutgers), middle blocker Ashby Daniel (committed to Alabama) and outside hitter/right-side hitter Kennedi Wright (committed to UT-Permian Basin). Dooley is rated the 68th-best player in the nation in the Class of 2023. Plano East will have to survive District 6-6A, which includes Flower Mound, Plano West, Flower Mound Marcus and Hebron.
1. Lovejoy: After winning its third consecutive Class 5A state title — and its ninth overall state championship — Lovejoy lost eight of the 10 players who played in the state final. That includes four-time All-American setter Averi Carlson, a Baylor signee who was the Gatorade National Player of the Year. But returning is second-team All-Area middle blocker Hannah Gonzalez, who had 303 kills and 119 blocks for a 42-6 team. Gonzalez had nine blocks in a three-set win over Grapevine in the state final — two short of the 5A state tournament record. Gonzalez is committed to North Texas, and is rated the 114th-best player in the nation in the Class of 2023. Juniors Reagan Fitzsimmons and Bethanie Wu are also top recruits, with Fitzsimmons ranked No. 38 nationally in the Class of 2024 and Wu rated No. 67. Wu and Nicole Cornell, a move-in from Illinois, will handle the setting responsibilities, while Fitzsimmons is one of four players competing for the starting libero role. Sophomores Shelby Burriss (MB/RS), Morgan VanVoorhis (OH), Anna Barr (OPP/OH) and SadieJane Hand (MB/RS) are expected to be key contributors.
2. Plano Prestonwood Christian: After finishing as the TAPPS 6A state runner-up last season, coach Ryan Mitchell may have an even better team this season. Junior setter Camille Edwards (No. 36), junior outside hitter Mikala Young (No. 53) and junior outside hitter Jadyn Livings (No. 75) are ranked among the top 75 recruits in the nation in the Class of 2024. Livings was a first-team all-state selection after she had 581 kills (4.5 per set), 90 blocks and 251 digs, and she was joined on the all-state list by Edwards (first team), Young (second team) and sophomore libero Gillian Pitts (honorable mention). Prestonwood is adding move-in Macaria Spears, the daughter of former Cowboys defensive lineman Marcus Spears. The sophomore outside hitter has been playing with the U19 USA National Development team.
3. Frisco Wakeland: From a recruiting perspective, this is one of the premier teams in the state. Wakeland has four players committed to Division I colleges — senior setter Audrey Clark (Creighton), senior middle blocker Hannah Pfiffner (Oklahoma), junior middle blocker/right-side hitter Jessica Jones (LSU) and senior libero Savanna Ivie (Providence). Clark was the District 9-5A setter of the year and helped Wakeland reach the regional quarterfinals.
4. Colleyville Heritage: Nearly everyone returns from a 40-11 team that reached the 5A Region I semifinals. That includes senior outside hitter/right-side hitter Ella Busey (committed to Houston), senior middle blocker Reagan Engler (committed to Air Force) and senior setter Morgan Howard (committed to Louisiana-Monroe). Busey, a first-team All-Area selection, led the Dallas area with 708 kills (5.1 per set) and had 244 digs, 54 blocks and 55 aces as Colleyville Heritage won District 6-5A. Engler, third-team All-Area, had 391 kills and 170 blocks.
5. McKinney North: This is a team that had a straight-sets win over 5A state champion Lovejoy in district play last season. TCU pledge Lily Nicholson had 1,080 assists last season, giving the senior setter 2,521 assists in her career, and she was an all-state pick. Middle blocker/outside hitter Natalie Hughes, a San Diego State pledge who is ranked as the area’s ninth-best recruit in the Class of 2023, had 115 blocks for regional quarterfinalist McKinney North in 2021. Libero Tinley Merder had 561 digs and is just shy of 1,500 for her career. Nicholson, Hughes and Merder have all been on the varsity since they were freshmen, so the team will rely heavily on them.
6. Hockaday: The defending SPC champion has the area’s No. 2-ranked recruit in the Class of 2024 — six-rotation outside hitter Avery Jackson, who is committed to Stanford for beach volleyball. Jackson is rated the eighth-best player in the nation. Georgia “Bennett” Trubey, Katherine Shoup and Olivia Wayne are options in the middle, and senior Payton Arbaugh has been Hockaday’s libero since she was a freshman. Hockaday lost only two starters.
7. Frisco Reedy: Outside hitter Halle Schroder is committed to Boston College and is coming off a spectacular season that saw her named the District 9-5A MVP. She had 389 kills and 364 digs to lead 9-5A champion Reedy to the 5A Region II final, where it lost in four sets to state champion Lovejoy. Right-side hitter Reese Miller is committed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
8. Grapevine: Grapevine was a 5A state semifinalist in 2020 and the 5A state runner-up last season, losing to Lovejoy both times. Grapevine must replace third-team AVCA All-American outside hitter Janet deMarrais (445 kills and 465 digs) and right-side hitter Alea Lastinger (354 kills). Realignment placed Grapevine in a tough district — 7-5A — which will include Colleyville Heritage, Birdville and Argyle. Argyle moves up to 5A after reaching a regional final in 4A, while Colleyville Heritage was a 5A regional semifinalist and Birdville reached the 5A regional quarterfinals.
9. Bishop Lynch: Two all-state players — six-rotation outside hitter Lauryn Lambert (first team) and middle blocker Lyric Berry (second team) — return from a TAPPS 6A state quarterfinalist team. Berry is rated the seventh-best recruit in the Dallas area in the Class of 2023. Lambert ran on Bishop Lynch’s 4x200-meter relay team that was the state runner-up in track. Bishop Lynch has three players committed to play college volleyball — Berry (Providence), Leah Oyewole (Washington University in St. Louis) and Ashlyn Zilliken (Arizona for beach volleyball).
10. Celina: Last year’s 4A state runner-up returns junior outside hitter Ryan McCoy and junior libero Morgan Kelley, who were all-state selections. Back-row specialist Reagan Radtke and outside hitter Aubrey Lambert are also back from a 42-2 team after Radtke had 27 digs in two matches at the state tournament and Lambert had nine kills in a straight-sets win over Needville in the state semifinals. Celina must replace three starters, including a pair of setters.