Prep Volleyball

Preseason Iowa high school volleyball rankings: Janesville favored in 1A again

Centennial, Wahlert, Kuemper, Grundy Center also open at No. 1

Janesville players lift the Class 1A championship trophy after they beat LeMars Gehlen in the finals last season. Janesville has won three straight 1A titles and opens the season at No. 1 this year. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Janesville players lift the Class 1A championship trophy after they beat LeMars Gehlen in the finals last season. Janesville has won three straight 1A titles and opens the season at No. 1 this year. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

With three consecutive state championships, the Janesville Wildcats have become a small-school volleyball giant.

And with five returning starters, they are the early Class 1A pick again.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union released its preseason rankings Friday afternoon, and Janesville stands atop the 1A perch. The Wildcats (37-7 last season) swept their way to the 1A title last year, their fourth in the last five years. Outside hitter Bree Thompson and setter Alisa Bengen lead a veteran roster.

The other preseason No. 1s are Ankeny Centennial in Class 5A, two-time defending champion Dubuque Wahlert in 4A, Carroll Kuemper in 3A and Grundy Center in 2A.

Centennial was a three-time 5A champion from 2014 through 2016, then was ousted in the semifinals last year. The Jaguars (30-8) return strong hitters in senior Ari Winters and junior Devyn Robinson.

West Des Moines Valley (41-8) was the team that ousted the Jaguars last year and opens at No. 2 this season behind hitter Madi Kubik. The next three teams are from the Mississippi Valley Conference — Cedar Rapids Jefferson (39-7), Linn-Mar (31-11) and defending champion Cedar Falls (43-2).

Wahlert (22-9) repeated in 4A last year in a five-set thriller over Sergeant Bluff-Luton (42-4). The Golden Eagles and the Warriors start 1-2 this year, followed by Cedar Rapids Xavier (32-10), Independence (33-9) and Pella (33-7).

Junior hitter Aliyah Carter leads the Golden Eagles.

Kuemper (39-3) is the pick in 3A after a semifinal run last year. The Knights lost a five-set heartbreaker to Waterloo Columbus (36-8), which went on to win the crown.

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Top hitter Aimee Adams returns for Kuemper, as does setter Maci Overmohle. Tipton (32-7), which brings back virtually its entire roster after making its state debut last year, is No. 2, followed by Iowa Falls-Alden (31-6), Osage (26-10) and Columbus.

With perennial powers Dike-New Hartford and Western Christian in the mix, 2A is stacked. Grundy Center (37-7) is the pick behind the setter/hitter combo of Sydney Mathews and Kylie Willis. Unity Christian (24-11) opens at No. 2, then it’s DNH (50-3), Dyersville Beckman (31-13) and Western (39-7).

DNH has won state titles six of the last seven years. Western owns 15 titles. Beckman is down a class from 3A.

Janesville’s top challengers in 1A are LeMars Gehlen (28-7), Starmont (30-6), Fort Madison Holy Trinity (38-6) and North Tama (29-8).

Class 5A

1. Ankeny Centennial (30-8)

2. West Des Moines Valley (41-8)

3. Cedar Rapids Jefferson (39-7)

4. Linn-Mar (31-11)

5. Cedar Falls (43-2)

6. Ankeny (22-13)

7. Iowa City High (16-17)

8. Dubuque Hempstead (28-8)

9. Indianola (29-10)

10. Iowa City West (22-16)

11. Waukee (26-21)

12. Pleasant Valley (28-5)

13. Urbandale (24-14)

14. West Des Moines Dowling (34-10)

15. Johnston (15-21)

Class 4A

1. Dubuque Wahlert (22-9)

2. Sergeant Bluff-Luton (42-4)

3. Cedar Rapids Xavier (32-10)

4. Independence (33-9)

5. Pella (33-7)

6. Dallas Center-Grimes (27-8)

7. Clear Creek Amana (23-20)

8. Waverly-Shell Rock (42-6)

9. Lewis Central (33-6)

10. West Delaware (25-20)

11. Bondurant-Farrar (21-13)

12. Sioux City Heelan (33-11)

13. Fairfield (24-9)

14. Western Dubuque (22-13)

15. Fort Madison (25-8)

Class 3A

1. Carroll Kuemper (39-3)

2. Tipton (32-7)

3. Iowa Falls-Alden (31-6)

4. Osage (26-10)

5. Waterloo Columbus (36-8)

6. Center Point-Urbana (32-11)

7. Red Oak (23-14)

8. Davenport Assumption (25-8)

9. Camanche (32-9)

10. West Liberty (22-14)

11. Sioux Center (34-6)

12. Mount Vernon (26-11)

13. Spirit Lake (21-17)

14. Roland-Story (28-11)

15. (tie) Union Community (19-18) and West Burlington (25-8)

Class 2A

1. Grundy Center (37-7)

2. Unity Christian (24-11)

3. Dike-New Hartford (50-3)

4. Dyersville Beckman (31-13)

5. Western Christian (39-7)

6. Sidney (31-6)

7. Council Bluffs St. Albert (28-4)

8. Tri-Center (27-3)

9. Wapsie Valley (21-16)

10. Treynor (30-6)

11. Ridge View (20-12)

12. Belle Plaine (18-10)

13. Lake Mills (39-4)

14. Lisbon (25-12)

15. Central Decatur (16-13)

Class 1A

1. Janesville (37-7)

2. LeMars Gehlen (29-7)

3. Starmont (30-6)

4. Fort Madison Holy Trinity (38-6)

5. North Tama (29-8)

6. Tripoli (25-14)

7. East Mills (24-9)

8. Harris-Lake Park (21-12)

9. Westwood (23-9)

10. HLV (16-8)

11. Montezuma (31-6)

12. Edgewood-Colesburg (16-16)

13. Iowa Valley (28-11)

14. Southeast Warren (25-8)

15. Seymour (23-10)

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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