Prep Volleyball

Preseason volleyball Super 10: Cedar Rapids Jefferson begins 2018 on top

After first state tournament in 20 years, J-Hawks have their eyes on more

Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Maddy Baxter (right) high-fives teammates as they celebrate their Class 5A regional-final win over Johnston last season. The J-Hawks are No. 1 in the preseason area volleyball Super Ten. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Maddy Baxter (right) high-fives teammates as they celebrate their Class 5A regional-final win over Johnston last season. The J-Hawks are No. 1 in the preseason area volleyball Super Ten. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The prep volleyball season opens today with practice throughout the state, so here is The Gazette’s preseason area Super Ten:

1.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson

Last year: 39-7, 6-0 MVC Mississippi (1st), 5A state qualifier

The J-Hawks made a big breakthrough last year, advancing to state for the first time since 1997. Maddie Slagle has moved on to the University of Iowa, but the rest of this veteran roster is largely intact. Setter Maddy Baxter runs the show, and UNI recruit Kaylee Donner anchors the back row. Even with Slagle departed, the J-Hawks bring back four hitters that averaged at least 1 kill per set, led by Sydney Kloubec (2.58). If it stays healthy, Jefferson is one of the top challengers for the Class 5A state championship, along with Ankeny Centennial and West Des Moines Valley.
 
2.

Linn-Mar

Last year: 31-11, 3-3 MVC Mississippi (4th), 5A state semifinalist

Setter Megan Renner, a Purdue University commit and the 2017 Gazette area player of the year, leads a strong core of returners. A 6-foot-2 lefty, Renner averaged 7.9 assists per set, and is a threat to attack, as well. She has plenty of weapons to choose from, including Ellie Von Lehmden and Anna Gorsich. Teresa Bair begins her 30th year as a high-school coach and has 721 career wins under her belt. The Lions advanced to the 5A state semifinals last season, and a return trip to the U.S. Cellular is more than possible.
 
3.

Tipton

Last year: 32-7, 6-0 River Valley South (1st), 3A state qualifier

The Tigers made their state-tournament debut last season, and that may have been just the beginning for something bigger this fall. Junior setter/hitter Sommer Daniel has a Pac-12 college scholarship coming; she has committed to the University of Utah. She led the team in kills (4.04 per set) and also posted 4.23 assists and 2.55 digs per set. Amanda Smith is similarly versatile, and Kamryn Chapman and track star Jamie Kofron both posted kill efficiencies of .300-plus. The Tigers will be pushed hard in the RVC South by Wilton, West Liberty and Iowa City Regina.
 
4.

Independence

Last year: 33-9, 5-2 Wamac West (3rd), 4A state qualifier

The Mustangs were somewhat of a state-tournament surprise last year, sweeping Center Point-Urbana in the regional finals. A return trip to state would be no surprise at all. First-team all-stater Madison Larson is the third-leading returner in kills among 4A players at 4.11 per set. She had a .413 kill efficiency last season. She’s not the entire show, though; four other Mustangs posted at least 1 kill per set. Holly Cooksley and Abby Davis share the setting duties. The Mustangs are the clear favorite in the Wamac Conference West Division.
 
5.

Dyersville Beckman

Last year: 31-13, 6-1 Wamac East (2nd), 3A state qualifier

Todd Troutman returned to the bench last season, and the Blazers took off, winning 16 of their final 20 matches, reaching the championship match of the Wamac Conference tournament and advancing to the state tournament. Like the other teams high on this list, Beckman is a veteran outfit. The Blazers’ top four attackers from last season are back, and they’re all seniors, led by Isabelle Bennett. Setter Sydney Steffen (7.88 assists per set) also is a senior. The Wamac East is traditionally deep, and the Blazers look like the favorite. They move down a class to 2A for postseason play.
 
6.

Starmont

Last year: 30-6, 7-0 Upper Iowa (1st), 1A state qualifier

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The Stars have reached the state tournament each of the past two years. Now, it’s time for them to make some noise. Starmont is short on size, but long on experience and skill. This team is senior-dominated now, led by Hayley Goedken (3.49 kills per set, .429 kill efficiency) and Madilyn Vaske (3.21 kills per set). Starmont moves from the Upper Iowa Conference to the Tri-Rivers, and with Springville hit hard by graduation, the Stars should rule their new home in their first year back.
 
7.

Iowa City High

Last year: 16-17, 3-3 MVC Valley (4th), 5A regional semifinalist

The Little Hawks have been down somewhat by their standards in recent years, and Craig Pitcher won’t be on the sideline this season (Tricia Carty is in charge on an interim basis). Still, the roster returns virtually intact and City should be improved this season. Statistically, the Little Hawks lost no kills, no assists and four digs to graduation. Kelsey Law, Mackenzie Murphy and Ellie Evans all averaged more than 2 kills per set. City could be a sleeper in the MVC Mississippi Division race.
 
8.

Iowa City West

22-16, 2-4 MVC Mississippi (5th), 5A regional finalist

Top hitter Colby Greene has graduated, leaving Cailyn Morgan and Claire Overton as the focal points offensively. The Women of Troy return both of their setters (Rylee Fay and Katie Severt). The MVC deck has been reshuffled, and West has been assigned to a stacked Valley Division that also features Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Linn-Mar, Dubuque Hempstead and Dubuque Wahlert. A first-division finish would be deemed a success.
 
9.

Cedar Rapids Xavier

Last year: 32-10, 4-2 MVC Mississippi (3rd), 4A state semifinalist

This seems too low, and probably is. After two straight trips to the Class 4A state semifinals, the Saints suffered significant graduation losses, the most of any of the 10 teams on this list. That includes the 4A player of the year, Charlotte Richards. On the other hand, attackers Olivia Richards and Akeela Jefferson are back, as is setter Jazmine Yamilkoski, who is part of a sophomore class with great potential. Don’t be surprised to see the Saints climb from this spot quickly.
 
10.

North Tama

Last year: 29-8, 7-0 Iowa Star South (1st), 1A state qualifier

The Redhawks advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history, and there’s every reason to believe they will return this November. Coach Channing Halstead returns one of the best small-school 1-2 attacks in junior Katie Kopriva and senior Karly Jans, who averaged 4.69 and 3.39 kills per set, respectively. Isabel Sierra (8.26 assists per set) returns at setter and Takoa Kopriva anchors the back line. Both are juniors. Expect two more years of volleyball fun in Traer.
 

Dropped out: Springville (4), Center Point-Urbana (7), Marion (8), Mount Vernon (9).

Area class rankings

Class 5A — 1. Cedar Rapids Jefferson (39-7), 2. Linn-Mar (31-11), 3. Iowa City High (16-16), 4. Iowa City West (22-16), 5. Cedar Rapids Prairie (20-16).

Class 4A — 1. Independence (33-9), 2. Cedar Rapids Xavier (32-10), 3. Clear Creek Amana (23-20), 4. West Delaware (25-20), 5. Western Dubuque (22-13).

Class 3A — 1. Tipton (32-7), 2. West Liberty (22-14), 3. Center Point-Urbana (32-11), 4. Union Community (19-18), 5. Mount Vernon (26-11).

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Class 2A — 1. Dyersville Beckman (31-13), 2. Belle Plaine (18-10), 3. Lisbon (25-12), 4. Iowa City Regina (28-9), 5. East Buchanan (21-11).

Class 1A — 1. Starmont (30-6), 2. North Tama (29-8), 3. HLV (16-8), 4. Montezuma (31-6), 5. Edgwewood-Colesburg (16-16).

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

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