Your Prep Sports
The prep volleyball season officially opened this week with Monday marking the first day of competition.
City High and West High open the season tonight with Mississippi Valley Conference matches while other area teams get started later in the week.
With the season underway here are five things to watch from now to the state tournament in November.
West High senior Ali Tauchen
WEST WANTS MORE
The goal for every team is to end the season at the state tournament.
West High has done that the past two years falling to Bettendorf in the 5A quarterfinals both seasons.
This year the Women of Troy want more than a return trip to the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
“The last two years we have been happy with that but this year we feel like is our time,” West High senior Ali Tauchen said. “We feel like we have the team to get past that first round this year.”
West High opens the season ranked third in Class 5A and return seven starters, including four Division I recruits from last year’s team that went 27-12.
With the talent that returns, state tournament wins not a state tournament berth are the expectation at West.
“We know where we want to go, we want to get to state, we want to have a special season but you have to get there first,” West High coach Randy Dolson said. “Once you get there you go full bore and you get after it and we have the group of kids that I think can do it again if we stay healthy.”
UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP
West Branch and Solon will unveil new head coaches this season.
Sarah Ferin takes over at Solon after spending 11 seasons coaching at Cedar Rapids Xavier.
Ferin replaces Peter Gustin who went 109-39 in four seasons at Solon including a Class 3A state title in 2014.
The Spartans went 10-23 last season.
West Branch tabbed assistant coach John Walsh to replace Josh Lukavsky who won 196 matches in six seasons.
Walsh spent two seasons as an assistant to Lukavsky and was the head coach at Durant for 16 seasons before coming to West Branch.
The Bears have reached the state tournament three of the past four seasons and are coming off a 36-6 season that ended in the Class 2A semifinals.
“Josh resigned after a really successful run here and I want to keep the tradition going here,” Walsh said. “I’m sure it’s a lot smoother for them rather than a brand new person who might have totally different ideas.”
DON’T SLEEP ON CITY
One week into last season City High found itself atop the Class 5A rankings.
It was a short stay on top for the Little Hawks who battled injuries while finishing 17-16 last season.
City High opens the season ranked No. 15 in Class 5A and flying under the radar but with the talent to contend in a rugged Mississippi Valley Conference and push for a state tournament berth.
Four starters return led by a trio of seniors (Shannon Stamp, Shannon James and Alexa Aldrich-Ingram) that earned all-conference honors last year.
Sophomore Ellie Evans and junior Cessily Hayes are primed for bigger seasons after combing for 90 kills last year as underclassmen.
IN PURSUIT OF 1,000
Aldrich-Ingram and Regina senior Sarah Lehman both enter their senior seasons within striking distance of 1,000 career kills.
Lehman pounded 387 kills for the Regals last season and needs 168 kills to reach 1,000 for her career.
Aldrich-Ingram has collected 284 and 267 in her previous two varsity seasons and needs 264 this year to tally 1,000.
CHASING THE CHAMPS
A pair of defending state champions open the season ranked number one and two of last year’s title winners find themselves in a new class.
Defending 1A champ Janesville and last year’s 2A champion Western Christian both enter the season ranked number one in their respective class.
Last year’s 3A champion Nevada has moved up to 4A this season while defending 4A champion West Delaware dropped to 3A.
Johnston received the top spot in the Class 5A preseason poll ahead of defending champion Ankeny Centennial.