Tawa’s back! The first high school volleyball Dots of the season

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. Look for Dots every Tuesday until the last high school state championship in November:

• Our No. 1 Dot has to do with No. 1, namely which is the No. 1 team in the nation now and into the future? At present, it appears that two entities are ranking teams on a national level, MaxPreps and USA Today.

MaxPreps has tabbed Marian of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan as its pre-season No. 1 choice. The Mustangs won the Michigan Division 1 title last fall with a 53-1 record and is off to a 12-0 start to 2022. Coached by Mayssa Cook, Marian boasts senior setter Ava Sarafa, a Kentucky commit averaging over nine assists per set; as well as hitters Ella Schomer (Wofford), senior Molly Banta and rising star Izzy Busignani, a 6-1 sophomore outside hitter.

USA Today went with Cathedral Catholic of San Diego. The second best team in California last year (behind undefeated national champion Marymount), the Dons started the fall with a sweep of state-ranked La Costa Canyon and are in Hawaii for a tournament over the holiday weekend. Coach Julianna Conn’s squad graduated its standout libero and star setter, but returns its entire hitting corps, led by OH Julia Blyashov and RS Noemie Glover, two of the hardest hitters in the game. Middles Ryleigh Patterson, Jenna Hannes and Mia Compass are more than solid at the net. Central Catholic reloads at the setter position, with junior Amanda Saeger, a DePaul commit; and at libero, as talented Maya Evens, the coach’s kid, takes over. The team has nine seniors and is motivated to fulfill its massive potential.

• I’m not ranking teams nationally this year, but if I were, I might have been tempted to go with defending Indiana 4A champion McCutcheon in the top spot. The Mavericks bring back National POY favorite Chloe Chicoine (Purdue), fellow OH Isabella Humphrey, a junior; and junior Allie Shondell, a recent Purdue commit herself. The Mavericks have started 8-1 on the year. They lost to one-loss Yorktown, which lost to one-loss Brebeuf Jesuit, which lost to … McCutcheon.

Wayzata of Minnesota and San Antonio’s Cornerstone Christian are two other intriguing teams. Wayzata was undefeated last year in winning state and has the Swenson sisters, setter Stella Swenson and hitter Olivia Swenson, both juniors; along with 6-3 junior OH Avery Jesewitz. The Trojans are 1-0 to start 2022.

Cornerstone Christian, coached by longtime Reagan mentor Mike Carter, is 31-1, has avenged its only loss and recently won Lollapalooza in the Austin area. Senior OH Nayeli Gonzalez (Iowa State) is the team’s top player.

One final team to watch: Fayetteville in Arkansas. The Bulldogs are defending state champs, have five Division I-committed athletes between indoor and beach and will be playing the Durango Fall Classic alongside Cathedral Catholic and two dozen other elite schools. That should give Jessica Phelan’s team a springboard to No. 1 if it were to prevail in Las Vegas.

If you’re an avid high school volleyball fan, you’ll want to watch all six of these teams closely this fall. Odds are that the national champion will emerge from this sextet.

• I started ranking teams nationally in 2000, which Bonita Vista down San Diego way won the mythical national title. My last year ranking teams, 2019, another San Diego school, Torrey Pines won the natty. Cathedral Catholic could well follow in those footstep.

Indeed, California is well represented among national championship teams in the 20 years I’ve been doing the rankings, but there have been teams from eight other states to claim best-in-nation status as well. Texas won with Lake Travis in 2011. Indiana has taken top dog status twice, including Indianapolis Cathedral in 2015. So look out Cornerstone Christian and McCutcheon. There is precedent for you two.

As for Michigan, Minnesota and Arkansas, teams from these states have never won before. Traditionally, Michigan and Minnesota play only locally. It was always difficult in my view to be a NATIONAL champion if you did not play a national schedule. That’s what make Fayetteville’s sojourn so exciting.

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A total of nine states have produced national champions in the two decades I’ve been doing this. Nebraska and the Rolfzens won at Papillion-La Vista South. Illinois rang the bell with Mother McAuleySt. James won twice to make Kansas proud and, of course, Kentucky is well–represented by Assumption (two) and Mercy (one).

What are the other two states to have won national titles, what are the schools and in what year did they win? Email jtawa@volleyballmag.com with your guesses. I will put all correct guesses into a hat on Monday and choose the winner, which I will announce next week.

• The Durango Fall Classic has emerged over the past decade as the nation’s premier high school competition. This year’s event, hosted by four schools in the greater Las Vegas area on Sept 16-17, features 64 teams from a dozen states, including the very best teams from seven. Eight teams from the USA Today top 25 will attend. Eight teams from the MaxPreps top 25 will participate. They are not the same eight by the way.

When I ranked teams, I went 100 deep. There would be 25-30 ranked teams from this group. What that means is Friday’s four-team pools will feature VERY competitive matches. Teams will not have to wait until Saturday to be tested …

If you’re a high school fan interested in a volleyball vacation, what better place than Sin City in a little more than two weeks’ time?

• Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove have dominated large-class volleyball for the better part of two decades. Lone Peak has 10 titles since 2003, including last year. Pleasant Grove has won seven championships since 2001. No team other than Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove has won the state’s largest classification since Lehi in 2015.

Defending-champion Bountiful HS is one of three serious contenders for the Utah 5A title in 2022

But change is in the air. Both 6A schools have new head coaches and the teams have started 2022 a collective 1-5 as they rebuild. That has given 5A a chance to grab the spotlight with three elite schools, Bountiful, Mountain View and Timpview vying for King of the Mountain status. Bountiful, the defending champs, bring back the Harvey sisters, Jordyn and Taylor. Kaylin Scott, Mia Lee and Lucy Perez lead Mountain View. Salina Dimuni and Tailiah Lee lead Timpview. The three teams have started a collective 10-0 …

• Alabama has seven volleyball classifications. Bayside Academy of Daphne is in 6A, the second highest. This is significant because when the Admirals won their first of a national record TWENTY STRAIGHT state titles back in 2002, they were in 2A! Bayside Academy also won four of their record 30 overall state titles as a 1A school in the 1990s. Incredible!

• Rampart of Colorado Springs should still be formidable despite graduating seven seniors from last year’s 21-6 team. That’s because junior S/OH Izzy Starck, the state’s best player and a Penn State recruit; has been joined by 6-4 senior Avah Armour, a transfer from Manitou Springs and a Central Florida recruit. Behind the duo, the Rams took reigning 5A champion Cherry Creek to five sets, including a 25-9 win in Game 4, before losing…

• Dots will be here every Tuesday and I need varsity head coaches to contribute. I am building an email list through VolleyballMag.com.

Here is the link: https://volleyballmag.com/hs-email-sign-up/

• Starting next Wednesday and continuing every Wednesday during the fall season, we will choose a high school Dream Team of eight from players who had outstanding weeks the week prior. You can only nominate if you have the link. And you’ll only get the link if you are signed up on my email list. So sign up!!!

Until next time …

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