Before I go any further, THESE ARE NOT A HEAD-TO-HEAD RANKING, BUT A RANKING OF DOMINANCE BY CLASS. I am not saying I think the Class 1 schools on this list could beat all the Class 4-5 teams ranked below them or not ranked.
1. Willard (C4 – 17-1-1)
Willard has one of the area’s best records against one of the area’s toughest schedules. That is a recipe for the No. 1 spot in these rankings. Their loss and tie came against St. Francis Borgia in Borgia’s home tournament. The loss was in three sets in the title game. The only area team to even take a set from Willard is Kickapoo. The Lady Tigers are the source of Helias Catholic’s lone loss on the year. The most impressive win might be a three-set sweep of Nixa at Nixa on Sept. 22. Seniors Payton Van Veen and Maddy Bushnell are leading the Lady Tigers with each posting 183 kills. Bushnell’s hitting percentage is all the way up at .481 on 312 total attempts. Paige Gayer has orchestrated the offense well with 421 total assists.
2. Nixa (C5 – 9-2)
The defending Class 4 state champion Nixa Lady Eagles are now a Class 5 school under Missouri’s new classifications. They look to be contenders again this year with a 9-2 record to start the season. Their two losses were to Willard and Fayetteville to open the season. Fayetteville is unbeaten and ranked as the best team in Arkansas according to MaxPreps. Jaycee Fixsen has been an impact player in every facet of the game for Nixa. She leads the team in kills (125), aces (10), digs (107) and serve receptions (152). Senior Taylor Golmen hasn’t had a ton of opportunity to hit (162 attempts) but she puts the ball down when given the chance with 83 kills for a .438 kill percentage.
3. Cabool (C2 – 16-1-3)
This is a season Cabool has been building toward for a long time. Seven seniors and two juniors make up the entire varsity rotation for the Lady Bulldogs, and they are showing that they are ready to make a run to the program’s first final four. Cabool’s lone loss this year is to Class 3 Dexter. Wins over Licking twice and Liberty in three sets stand out for Cabool this year.
4. Kickapoo (C5 – 12-4)
Kickapoo has four losses, but all four have come to the No. 1 and 2 team on this list. The Chiefs have three losses to Nixa and one to Willard. They took Willard to three sets and have pushed Nixa to a fourth set in a best of five match and a third set in a best of three. Senior Melanie Cox leads the attack with 135 total kills, but Kickapoo is balanced after her with four players putting down between 66 and 80 kills. Lauren Faria orchestrates that versatile offense with 377 total assists. Kickapoo’s district has just four teams in their district, but it is a tough group featuring Nixa, Ozark and Republic. Nixa looks to have the No. 1 seed locked down based on season results, so Kickapoo will likely have to beat both Nixa and Ozark to win a district title.
5. Miller (C2 – 10-0)
Few teams got dealt a worse hand than Miller with the new classifications. According to 2019-20 enrollment figures, Miller had an enrollment of 135 students. Blue Eye had an enrollment of 126 students. Barring a massive jump in enrollment for the 2020-21 school year, Miller just missed out on being the largest enrollment in Class 1. Instead, the Lady Cardinals are one of the smallest enrollments in Class 2. The Lady Cardinals have run through their schedule so far with an undefeated record. Their best win came on Sept. 24 in a three set to one win over a quality Class 3 team in Mt. Vernon. Miller has the talent to make a run in Class 2.
6. Carl Junction (C4 – 15-2)
Carl Junction has won 12 consecutive matches since falling two sets to one to Kickapoo in the Springfield Tournament. The only other loss the Lady Bulldogs have suffered this year came in the first match of the season against Rogers (Ark.). Carl Junction has one of the area’s best hitters leading the way in Salma Lewis. Lewis has 180 kills on the season. She eclipsed the 1,000-kill mark for her career last night. Lewis far from the only threat for Carl Junction offensively. Jessa Hylton has put down 137 kills for Carl Junction with Jillian Kennedy having 71 kills. Logan Jones leads the offense with 405 assists. The rest of Carl Junction’s season will be challenging. The Lady Bulldogs have Willard, Webb City and Ozark in three straight matches starting tomorrow. The Ozark Grand Slam and a home match with Nixa to close out the conference slate also loom.
7. Skyline (C2 – 17-2)
Skyline has been dominant this year. The Lady Tigers dropped two matches to one-loss El Dorado Springs at the Strafford Tournament over the weekend. Outside of that, Skyline has not dropped a single other set to go 46-0 overall. Skyline will be a heavy favorite in their district.
8. Marshfield (C4 – 12-2)
Marshfield is off to a 12-2 start with the two losses coming to Willard to open the season and Fatima in the Hickman Tournament. The Lady Jays went 5-1 overall in that Hickman Tournament. They have picked up back-to-back high quality wins over Bolivar and Reeds Spring in the last eight days. Senior Brooklyn Crawford and Brianna Utecht lead the attack with 170 and 112 kills, respectively. Freshman Mollie Thomas (203 assist) and senior Ellie Whitehurst (155 assists) are executing well in Marshfield’s two-setter system. Marshfield travels to Mt. Vernon tomorrow in a key Big 8 East Conference match before travelling to Rogersville on Oct. 6 to face a Lady Wildcats team that has been dominant in the Big 8 and COC Small before that in recent years.
9. Catholic (C3 – 21-1-1)
Catholic is the only area team to hit the 20-win mark as of the writing of these rankings. The Lady Irish lost their first match over the weekend to Mt. Vernon in the Strafford Tournament, but the Irish also picked up a win over the Lady Mountaineers to even the series for the day. The Lady Irish have won both the Buffalo and School of the Ozarks tournament titles. The Lady Irish also handed El Dorado Springs its only loss so far this year and beat a Bolivar team that has lost just twice. Catholic has an overall record of 49-4 in sets. Catholic employs a versatile attack featuring Grace O’Reilly (181 kills), Cherie Sabini (162 kills) and Hallie Cook (152 kills). Seniors Emme Ast (340 assists) and Rylie Jeffers (169 assists) run the offense at setter.
10. MV-BT Liberty (C3 – 10-2-2)
Liberty moved into Class 3 this year and has yet to drop an in-class set. The Lady Eagles have only lost to Class 5 Branson in three sets in the West Plains Tournament title match and to Class 2 Cabool in five sets. Peyton Bush (119 kills), Kelstin Roy (102 kills), Leix Shumpert (82 kills) and Bre Daniels (79 kills) are all capable hitters for Liberty. Shumpert also sets up the attack with 180 assists on the season, which is just behind Lyla Cornman and her 208 assists. Liberty will face some strong competition in Class 3, but it is hard to bet against the Lady Eagles in a playoff setting.
10. Camdenton (C4 – 12-4-2)
Camdenton has played a tough schedule and played well against it. The Lady Lakers have four losses to Helias Catholic, Rock Bridge, Kickapoo and Webb City. Those four teams currently have a combined record of 52-10. Rock Bridge has just one loss and Camdenton took the Bruins to five sets. They also went to three sets with Webb City in a best of three set match after beating the Lady Cardinals earlier in the day at Hillcrest. Junior Payton Kincaid leads Camdenton with 140 total kills. Camdenton is scheduled to come down for the Mt. Vernon tournament this weekend where they will have a chance to face some high quality competition.
11. El Dorado Springs (C3 – 10-1)
El Dorado Springs has one of the best records of any area volleyball team over the past two years going 38-5-3 dating back to last year. The Lady Bulldogs lost their first match of the season at the Strafford tournament falling to one-loss fellow Class 3 team Springfield Catholic. They have several quality wins including beating previously unbeaten Skyline twice at the Strafford Tournament. Tevi Gurley and Reese Schaaf are again executing a two-player game. Gurley leads the team in kills (113) and assists (175). Schaaf is second in both categories with 105 kills and 144 assists.
12. Ozark (C5 – 7-6-2)
The record is barely above .500, but when you dig deeper, it is easy to see that this is a very dangerous team. Strength of schedule matters in these rankings and their strength of schedule is better than almost anybody. Ozark has lost to Kickapoo, Rock Bridge, Nixa (twice) and Carl Junction (twice). The Lady Tigers pushed Nixa to five sets yesterday. Rock Bridge has lost one match and tied one match so far this year. That tie was with Ozark. The Class 5 District 11 semifinals between two of Nixa, Kickapoo and Ozark is going to be about as good as it gets for a non-championship match. Ozark hasn’t made the final four in a couple years, but they are still Ozark. Five players have between 55 and 94 kills for Ozark. Nobody wants to see this team in the postseason.
13. Webb City (C4 – 14-4-1)
This is the fifth COC team on this list, but when you are hands down the best volleyball conference in the state, it is to be expected. Their losses are to Willard, Carl Junction, Camdenton and Ozark. The Cardinals have also beaten Camdenton. They are all-state senior Maddy Peeples leads this team as the top hitter with 164 kills. Sophomore Brenda Lawrence is just behind her at 121 kills. Peeples also leads the team in serve receives (215) and digs (148). They have a big week next week with another shot at Carl Junction on Tuesday and a match with Nixa on Thursday. That match with Carl Junction is huge for district seeding purposes.
14. Rogersville (C4 – 7-5-1)
Much like Ozark above, the record doesn’t tell the story. Rogersville’s five losses have come to: Willard, Nixa, Carl Junction, Ozark and Helias Catholic. There aren’t many teams in the area or the state that would come out of that gauntlet anything but 0-5. Rogersville did forge a tie with Helias Catholic in the Camdenton Tournament. Outside of Willard beating Helias, only one other besides Rogersville has managed to even take a set off Helias this year. Tammy Miller may be coaching at Rolla and Birdie Hendrickson may be playing at the University of Florida, but tradition doesn’t graduate. Six players have at least 30 kills and no more than 83 kills for Rogersville. They are the team to beat in the Big 8 East until they aren’t. Marshfield gets to take its shot on Oct. 6.
15. Licking (C2 – 14-5-2)
Licking was the area’s representative in the Class 2 final four last year. Two all-state players returned from that team, which has the Lady Wildcats as a threat to make another deep postseason run. Three of their five losses came to Class 5 schools Branson and Waynesville and Class 4 school Rogersville. The problematic losses were two losses to Cabool that saw the Wildcats drop four of five sets. They share a district with Cabool, so a return trip to the Final Four will likely go through a strong Cabool squad.