By Jordan Burton
The O-Zone Volleyball Power rankings will be released on alternating Mondays throughout the volleyball season. Rankings are a measurement of dominance within class and not a head-to-head comparison. Coaches are encouraged to send any information, including stats, milestones and records to Chris Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jordan Burton (email@example.com).
1. Ozark (Class 4)
Water is wet and Ozark is good at volleyball. The Lady Tigers will be on the hunt for their 10th consecutive Final Four bid and this could be Adeana Brewer’s most talented team. Ozark returns all-staters Brynn Bonewell (Missouri State), Kenneee Anderson (Arkansas State) and Julia McCown (Missouri State). Katie Vorhies (Harvard), Holly Luginbill (Missouri State) and Haidan Baade (William Jewell) will also play college volleyball. Did I mention this might be Brewer’s most talented team?
2. Rogersville (Class 3: 30-5-1)
Coach Tammy Miller and the Lady Wildcats gave eventual Class 3 state champion Helias Catholic all it wanted last year in the Elite Eight, going three sets with the state power. Rogersville brings back All-Everything Birdie Hendrickson and senior Gabby Massengale also returns at the net. Allie Gipson and Maci McHenry give the Lady Cats even more scoring options. This is another program that will have one of its most talented teams in recent years.
3. Fair Grove (Class 2: 29-5-3)
Tonya Peck hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2013, but that could change with the bulk of her team’s production back from last fall. All-State senior and Drury hoops commit Alana Findley is back, along with All-Mid-Lakes selections Ryah Icenhower and Maranntha Holliman. Sidney Hill will also take on a larger role offensively. The Lady Eagles are loaded top to bottom.
4. Kickapoo (Class 4: 28-7)
Marci Johnson loses a pair of college-bound seniors and still returns enough to win the Ozark Conference and a district championship. Tayte Kozlowski was all-state as a sophomore – one of just three sophomores to earn the honor in Class 4 last season. Senior Azyah Green sets one of the best blocks in the Ozarks. Kickapoo is deep and versatile.
5. Willard (Class 4: 31-4-1)
Willard loses a great class, one of the winningest in program history, but Jamalee Hancock brings back enough talent to again win 25-plus games, led by Emily Terry and Pitt State commit Daisie Cruse. Hancock is also extremely high on junior Ashton Wildermuth. Then, there’s sophomore twin towers Maddy Bushnell and Payton Van Neen. The 6-footers are both Missouri State commits and give Willard size at the net that can challenge any high school hitter.
6. Clever (Class 2: 21-9-4)
Losing Lindsay Peebles hurts, but seniors Harper Little and Abi Menzies are two of the best in the area. They’re the reigning SWCL champs and lost to eventual Class 2 runner-up Strafford in Sectionals. This is part of a Clever run that is loaded with athletes in all sports, volleyball will be their first chance to make a deep run in what should be a great year for all girls sports at Clever.
7. Sarcoxie (Class 2: 28-6-2)
Sarcoxie nearly made a Final Four run last season and return enough to make another postseason run. Chelsea Evans was an all-stater last year and athletic/versatile senior Peyton Kisling is also another scoring threat. Senior Kierston Dodson returns to her setting spot. A new schedule and new conference will have the Lady Bears more battle tested come October.
8. Billings (Class 1: 21-9-1)
Billings returns everyone (literally) from last year’s district championship team, led by setter Liz Gearing and kills leader Bailey Groves. They’ll be looking for their fourth district championship in the last five seasons. Brandi Sullivan is sitting on a gold mine.
9. Strafford (Class 2: 32-5-3)
Unfortunately for everyone else in Class 2, losing two Division One players in Chloe Rear and Madi Bowles won’t be enough to derail Strafford Volleyball. Ashley Bough reloads with fresh faces, led by standout junior Mica Chadwell. The Lady Indians are looking for their fifth straight 30-win season.
10. Carthage (Class 4: 23-9-1)
There was an expectation that Carthage would maybe be rebuilding last season, so naturally the Lady Tigers won 23 games and nearly took a district championship. Junior standout Alexa Boyle is back and A.C. Crockford returns after sitting out all of last year with an injury. Gracie Fagg has plenty of hitting options. Already solid defensively, look for Carthage to have more scoring options around Boyle.
11. Crane (Class 1: 21-14)
Amy Medlin inherits a program that not only drops from Class 2 to Class 1, she also returns her leader in kills (Madison Hicks), assists (Sadie McMenamy) and digs (Mackinzie Funcannon). The Lady Pirates have supporting players that would be stars elsewhere. They’re a threat to make a run in Class 1.
12. MV-BT Liberty (Class 2: 23-10)
The Lady Eagles return nearly everyone from a 23-win team and add plenty of depth and versatility. Replacing Makayla Irvin will be a group effort, with Caitlyn Basham and Ally Smith shouldering more of the offensive load. Liberty is looking for its sixth 25-win campaign in the last seven seasons.
13. Winona (Class 1: 19-14-2)
Winona went to the Class 1 Final Four (again) in 2017, which may have been one of legendary head coach Francie McBride’s best coaching jobs. She returns seniors Kiley Counts and Lyndsey Rightnowar and will look to fill the shoes of all-staters Lilly Wright and Bridgette Rutledge. The Lady Cats are seeking their 15th Final Four run in under McBride.
14. Aurora (Class 3: 29-4-2)
Aurora was one of the surprise teams in the Ozarks last year, winning a district championship and nearly 30 games. All-Big 8 picks Julia McVey and Brooke Bellamy return. The new Big 8 will be a challenging league, but Aurora will again be one of the better Class 3 teams.
15. Rolla (Class 4: 19-13-3)
This is a sleeper team to win the Ozark Conference. The Lady Bulldogs run a 6-2 with Loran Pritchett and Sophie Parsons taking on the role as setter and hitter, but having three legitimate scoring options in Shelby Ply, Megan Brown and Rebecca Janke. They also have arguably the biggest, most athletic net presence with Ply (6-foot-3), Janke (6-foot-2) and Brown (5-foot-11). This was a 19-win team last year that finished the season with wins in five of their last seven.
Knocking on the door: Nixa, Carl Junction, Blue Eye, Wheaton, Glendale, Miller, Cabool, School of the Ozarks