When I started researching and compiling nominations for the 2016 All-O-Zone Volleyball Team, I had in my mind to pick out 21 players. Seven each on a first team, second team and honorable mention.
I couldn’t do it. We have no shortage of volleyball talent in these parts, so let’s spread the spotlight.
Four teams make the state championships in Cape Girardeau for each class, so why not have four groups for 2016 All-O-Zone Volleyball? We’re not lacking for players.
This year, we’ve got four teams: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.
Selections were based on a few criteria: my own observations during games, season stats and postseason accolades (I’m a little partial toward versatile players who contribute in a lot of areas), and feedback from area coaches.
I tried to comprise all four teams based on what an actually volleyball lineup would look like: at least one libero/defensive specialist, a primary setter, and then a mixture of outside hitters and middles.
Good thing is, with the talent like this, most of these girls are six-rotation players.
Versatility, athleticism and talent abound on this first group. Most of these girls can play any position on the court and excel doing so.
Birdie Hendrickson, freshman, Rogersville (Player of the Year)
She looks and plays like she’s in college. Unfortunately for local high school teams, and Class 3 volleyball in Missouri, she’s got three more years of high school left. There MAY be (although it’s unlikely) players with more athleticism, there MAY be players with more technical skills and fundamentals, but no player – at least around the Ozarks – has Birdie Hendrickson’s combination of both. And she’s got a fiery passion and competitive nature to go with it. She’s a go-to hitter when playing the front and covers a lot of ground in the back. I emailed every coach in the area on which players stood out to them to the most this season. No player received more comments/nominations than Hendrickson, who coach Tammy Miller said is a team-first player that always wants what’s best for the Wildcats. A no-brainer for Player of the Year.
2016 stats: First team all-state (Class 3), 340 kills (4.4 per set, 44.5% kill percentage, 34.6 hitting percentage), 40 aces, 222 digs.
Opposing coach comments:
“WOW on all accounts. She can do it all and brings awesome intensity to matches.”
“One of the most dominating players to come through our area in a long time. And she’s just a freshman.”
“Unbelievable court presence for a freshman. Really fun to watch as long as you’re not playing against her.”
Kaelyn Faria, senior, Kickapoo
A popular pick for the area’s top full-time setter. Faria directed attacks to a rather young arsenal of Kickapoo hitters, but still managed to help the Chiefs win more than 20 games (again) and come within one set of ending Ozark’s final four streak in districts. After becoming Kickapoo’s full-time setter in 2015 following an injury to Rachel Rippee, Faria finishes her career with over 1,000 assists.
2016 stats: Honorable mention all-state (Class 4), 118 kills (36% kill percentage), 27 blocks, 187 digs, 582 assists.
Opposing coach comments:
“Top setter in the area. Athletic enough that you think she could also be a productive hitter if that was her main role.”
Lexie Johnston, senior, Ozark
Outstanding efficiency and a superb blocker. Johnston, who played sparingly on a deep Ozark team as a junior after previously playing home school, was the area’s breakout player this season. The 6’1” senior, who recently signed to play at Division II Arkansas Tech, led Ozark in blocks and formed a potent one-two attack with Macey Putt that kept opposing defenses off-balance.
2016 stats: Honorable mention all-state (Class 4), first team all-region, 229 kills, 51.5% hitting percentage 96 blocks
Opposing coach comments:
“Outstanding defender at the net. Really takes pride in scoring points off the block.”
Macey Putt, junior, Ozark
Fireball. Rocket launcher. Bazooka. Whatever you want to call that right arm of hers, Putt’s swings just feel, sound and look different. But she’s not solely reliant on that attribute. Putt, an outside hitter, can mix it up and get crafty with her attacks, keeping opposing defenses on their heels. The recent Arkansas State commit is also a viable six-rotation player, second on Ozark in aces and second in digs, and can launch some great balls from the back.
2016 stats: First team all-state (Class 4), 298 kills (.268 hitting percentage), 316 digs, 55 blocks
Opposing coach comments:
“Powerful. Athletic and can play all the way around.”
“Such a strong and physical hitter. Has the ability to hit a variety of shots, which makes her tough to defend.”
Chloe Rear, junior, Strafford
Intensity, IQ, talent. Rear’s the total package and a master with the ball. She shifted to more of a hitting role this season for Strafford due to need, injury and the emergence of Gracie Morton at setter, but Rear remains one of the elite setters in the state when she’s playing that position. The Missouri State commit is still chasing an elusive state championship, but if you’ve seen her play, it’s not for a lack of effort or desire.
2016 stats: First team all-state (Class 2), 51 sets, 251 kills (4.9 per set, 50.7% kill percentage, 41% hitting percentage, 29 blocks, 154 digs, 130 assists)
Opposing coach comments:
“She has a high IQ of the game and is a natural leader.”
“Supreme ball control.”
Molly Taylor, senior, Ozark
A true floor general. Taylor was the area’s top libero by consensus in the responses I received from area coaches. If you’re just watching the ball, you can miss some of the attributes Taylor brings to the floor for coach Adeana Brewer: communicates serving styles to the back row and dictates defensive changes against certain attackers, taking the second ball that’s out of system if first contact is made by the setter, lets hitters know whether the defense has dropped or is stationing themselves behind the block, and a lot more. Basically, she orchestrates a lot of the organized chaos that goes on during a rally.
2016 stats: Second team all-state (Class 4), 505 digs
Opposing coach comments:
“One of the area’s best liberos. Great passer and defender, high knowledge of the game.”
“Top two defender in the area, along with Kickapoo’s Kamryn Artale.”
Reserve/utility: Alana Findley, sophomore, Fair Grove
Athleticism and lots of it. The multi-sport standout excels no matter which sport she’s playing, and she’s developed into one of the area’s best on the volleyball court. She’s a dominating middle blocker/hitter, despite often being triple-blocked, and possesses a quick and elite vertical leap. Findley missed a tournament (six games worth of stats) due to a family wedding but still posted great numbers.
2016 stats: Class 2 all-state (second team), 242 kills (3.6 kills per set, 46.4% kill percentage, 33.8 hitting percentage) 72 blocks, 219 digs.
Opposing coach comments:
“Alana is probably the best sophomore volleyball player I have faced. She is unbelievably athletic and elevates herself at the net like a Division I middle. I do not look forward to trying to defend her the next two years.”
Koty Cooper, senior, East Newton
Cooper may be a bit unknown to some around the Springfield area, but the reigning Big 8 Player of the Year is a force on the court. She has a devastating top-spin jump serve to unleash when she’s not in the front. Cooper, a Missouri State-West Plains signee, led the Patriots in every major statistical category except for assists and figures to dominate the same way on the basketball court this winter.
2016 stats: Honorable mention all-state (Class 3), 259 kills (9.6 kills per match, 42.3% kill percentage), 41 aces, 279 digs, 75 blocks
Daphne Dinsdale, senior, Camdenton
As polished as they come. She’s part-setter, part-hitter, part DS, and 100 percent volleyball player.
2016 stats: Four-time all-region, four-time All-Ozark Conference, 209 kills (36% kill percentage 22% hitting percentage), 263 assists, 38 blocks, 140 digs, 263 digs.
Rilie Vote, senior, Strafford
Teams knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop it. Vote had one of the highest kill percentages of anyone in the area this season and a fantastic hitting percentage for an outside hitter. She’s signed to play at Arkansas Tech.
2016 stats: First team all-state (Class 2), 296 kills (56.9% kill percentage, 44.6% hitting percentage), 171 digs
Julianna Cramer, junior, Harrison (Ark.)
We got to the Natural State for this selection and our second Arkansas State commit. Cramer was the best player for a Goblins team that made it to state. Her stats are a bit inflated because Arkansas teams play best-of-five sets instead of best-of-three like in Missouri, but make no mistake: the S/RS hybrid can play.
2016 stats: 184 kills (36.3% kill percentage, 30.9% hitting percentage), 43 blocks, 252 digs, 766 assists
Kiley Tiller, senior, Carthage
Provides a huge block at 6’2” and can put down most any ball that’s directed her way. Tiller, who recently signed to play at Arkansas, played a large role in Carthage winning its first volleyball district title in more than 30 years.
2016 stats: Honorable mention all-state (Class 4), 367 kills (58.1% hitting percentage), 55 blocks
Kamryn Artale, senior, Kickapoo
The co-captain alongside Faria, Artale was Kickapoo’s vocal leader and was the centerpiece of the defense at libero.
2016 stats: First team all-region (Class 4), 455 digs (13 per match), 312 serve receives (8.9 per match)
Reserve/utility: Hanna Hendrickson, senior, Rogersville
Volleyball versatility no doubt runs in the Hendrickson family as the recent Western State Colorado signee took on many roles for the Wildcats this season, including team leader.
2016 stats: First team all-state (Class 3), 185 kills, 217 digs, 31 blocks, 275 assists
Brenley Stearns, senior, MV/BT/Liberty
The lefty RS keyed Liberty’s run to state and posted quality numbers despite always being the top target of opposing defenses.
2016 stats: First team all-state (Class 2), 278 kills, 40.2% hitting percentage, 63 aces
Azyah Green, sophomore, Kickapoo
The “Great Wall” of Azyah was named by many coaches I polled as the area’s top blocker. I won’t argue with them. Green’s blocking numbers are absurd and I’d expect her hitting output to take a jump over the next two seasons.
2016 stats: Honorable mention all-region (Class 4), 102 blocks (52 solo, 1.3 blocks per set, 2.9 blocks per match), 181 kills (42.5% kill percentage, 26.8% hitting percentage)
Elizabeth Quinn, senior, Glendale
Quinn was the star and veteran leader on a really young Glendale team that improved tremendously throughout the season and ended up as Ozark Conference champions.
2016 stats: Honorable mention all-region (Class 4), First Team All-Ozark Conference, 343 kills, 151 digs, 115 blocks
Lexi Miller, junior, Carl Junction
The outside hitter missed two weeks of the season due to a stress fracture, but still led the team in total kills. Miller along with sophomore Grace Southern and junior Olivia Lewis will form a terrific front line for CJ next season.
2016 stats: First team all-region (Class 4), First Team All-COC-Large, 252 kills (3.9 per set, 43.2% kill percentage, 24.9% hitting percentage), 53 blocks
Taylor Gregory, junior, Nixa
It can’t be easy taking over for Rielly Dobbs, who recently was named conference setter of the year and conference freshman of the year at College of the Ozarks. Gregory, a setter, helped ease Nixa’s transition to a 6-2 scheme and, like Dobbs, contributed in all aspects of the game.
2016 stats: Second team all-region (Class 4), 108 kills, 275 digs, 387 assists
Kara Finkbiner, junior, Willard
Despite missing five matches, Finkbiner still led Willard in kills and packs a big swing and leap in her 5’9” frame at outside hitter.
2016 stats: All-state honorable mention (Class 4), 179 kills (41.7% kill percentage, 30.3% hitting percentage), 167 digs
Utility/reserve: Ellie Smith, senior, Nevada
Smith captained Nevada to an upset run through the district tournament that culminated in a title and a spot in the Class 3 state playoffs. She contributes with hitting, passing and defense.
2016 stats: 200 kills (40.7 kill percentage, 30.9 hitting percentage), 199 digs, 423 assists
Anna Wolf, junior, Bolivar
Wolf’s athleticism allows her to play anywhere on the court effectively. She drove a big turnaround season for the Liberators, who went from six wins last season to 20 this year.
2016 stats: All-state honorable mention (Class 3), 300 kills, 57 blocks, 191 digs.
McKenna Miller, junior, Rogersville
Steady and smart, Miller ran the offense and directed Rogersville’s attacks at a high level.
2016 stats: Second team all-state (Class 3), 631 assists, 184 digs
Morgan Henning, senior, Seneca
The MH/OH was a driving force behind one of Seneca’s most successful seasons in recent years; helping the Indians reach their district championship match for the first time since 2007. The 6-foot Henning owns a powerful swing and makes her presence known defensively as a blocker.
2016 stats: 228 kills (35.8% hitting percentage), 47 aces, 60 solo blocks, 288 digs
Faith Alwardt, senior, Lebanon
Alwardt bounced back strong from a knee injury that took away her junior season. An MH, she led Lebanon in kills, blocks and was voted unanimous team MVP.
2016 stats: First team all-region (Class 4), 234 kills, 67 blocks
Emily Killion, senior, Wheaton
A big part of Wheaton getting back to its past glory days of the 2000s (six district titles) and 1980s (four Final Four appearances), Killion formed a lethal middle tandem with fellow senior Karlee Mason. Few Class 1 and Class 2 teams that faced Wheaton could account for the Bulldogs’ size and talent at the net.
2016 stats: Second team all-state (Class 1), 321 kills (40.9 hitting percentage, 47.8 kill percentage, 427 digs
Madison Keeling, senior, Eminence
It’s hard to pick just one girl for Eminence because the Redwings were so balanced, but Keeling was by all accounts the team MVP. She was second in kills, first in blocks and also contributed a bit defensively in the back.
2016 stats: First team all-state (Class 1), 268 kills (pre-state), 103 digs, 70 blocks.
Utility/reserve: Christine Stellwagen, Pierce City
She’s a libero/DS at heart, but Stellwagen made the rare position switch to OH for Pierce City by necessity the past couple of seasons and still thrived. Only 5’6”, she led Pierce City in kills and every other statistical category except for assists and blocks.
2016 stats: First team all-region (Class 1), 11 kills per match, 15 digs per match, 11 serve receives per match
Disclaimer: Obviously, there were some outstanding players that didn’t land on All-O-Zone list. I particularly had trouble singling out just one player from the deeper, balanced teams like Aurora, Sarcoxie, Clever, Winona and Miller, who had multiple deserving candidates.