Iowa City West
27-12, Class 5A state qualifier
The state-quarterfinal round has been a roadblock in each of Randy Dolson’s first two seasons, but the Women of Troy are ready to clear that barrier. All seven starters return, including Division-I commitments Emma Norris (Western Illinois), Emily Halverson (North Dakota State), Maddie Fay (South Dakota State) and Madi Ford (Drake). West is the team to beat in the Mississippi Division of the realigned MVC.
27-13, Class 3A state semifinalist
Three all-staters are back — libero Libby Ryan (first team), Kaitlyn Volesky (second) and Wynne Vandersall (honorable mention) — and the Mustangs figure to be one of the top two contenders (Dike-New Hartford is the other) for preseason No. 1 honors in 3A. Expect Mount Vernon to make its ninth state-tournament appearance in 10 years.
31-9, Class 4A state qualifier
The Indians are the pick again in the Wamac Conference West Division. Isabella Sade (6-2, sr., MH) has committed to play at Nebraska-Omaha, and setter Caitlyn Smith (5-9, jr.) has selected Drake. Sade averaged 3 kills per set, and Smith tallied 9.3 assistys per set. The Indians also welcome back their top digger, Tanea Westhoff.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy
29-10, Class 5A state qualifier
Three Division-I players have departed, but two remain, and Kennedy remains a top-end team in the Mississippi Valley Conference. Paige Franck will play at Iowa next year; Kendal Meier has chosen Illinois State. Veteran coach Michelle Goodall will share the head-coaching duties with Tim Johnson beginning this year.
49-2, Class 4A state champion
This much is certain, the Hawks won’t repeat as 4A state champions. They’re down a class to 3A. It’s a transition year, with four starters departed, including setter Carlee Ketchum, the 2015 state player of the year. But Brett Mather has built this into a year-in, year-out power, and the Hawks should rebuild nicely around players like Haley Lyness and Lauren Collier.
27-14, Class 3A regional finalist
A four-set regional-final loss to Center Point-Urbana ended Union’s run of five consecutive state-tournament appearances. The Knights are loaded for a return to the U.S. Cellular Center behind seniors Megan Hudson (4.45 kills per set) and Peyton Parker (3.47 kills, 3.15 assists per set). Maggie Driscol engineers the attack at 6.65 assists per set.
28-9, Class 5A regional finalist
Amanda Ollinger has moved on to play basketball at Iowa, but the remainder of the cast comes back, virtually intact. Denver recruit Ellie Anderson (8.28 assists per set) directs the show. Most of her weapons are young, including junior Carly Spies (2.11 kills per set, .439 kill efficiency) and sophomore Megan Renner. Emilee McGowan will play at North Dakota State. Teresa Bair (formerly Kehe) is in her fourth season, and looking for her first state tournament with the Lions.
Iowa City High
17-16, Class 5A regional semifinalist
Expect a big bounce-back year from the Little Hawks, who battled through an uncharacteristic down year in 2015. Lots of key pieces return, including two-way threat Alexa Aldrich-Ingram, who posted 3.30 kills and 3.85 assists per set. The top three attackers are back — Aldrich-Ingram, Kendra Cave (2.16 kills per set) and Shannon Stamp (1.90). All are seniors.
30-11, Class 2A regional finalist
With 2015 powerhouses West Liberty and West Branch hit hard by graduation, the center of the River Valley Conference volleyball universe shifts to Clarence. The Knights have been knocking on the state-tournament door recently under Traci Smith, and are fully equipped to make the 2A field this year behind left-handed power hitter Darby Hawtrey (junior, 3.10 kills per set).
Cedar Rapids Prairie
31-8, Class 5A regional finalist
Made the mistake of underestimating the Hawks at the beginning of each of the last two seasons, and won’t do it again. Graduation losses were fairly heavy, but there are some quality hitters like Megan Oldenburger (2.29 kills per set), Maddie Bell and Jenna Wagemester. Taylor Fisher leads the back line.