VolleyballMag.com today completes its “Hunch” rankings of the top club volleyball teams in the nation with the 15s (Note: we do not cover teams younger than 15s; we want middle school teams to play for the love of the game and to get better, before entering into the fish bowl).
To understand why these rankings are based largely on hunches, we invite you to peruse our preamble to the 18s rankings, which we published last Tuesday. You can find them here: https://volleyballmag.com/february-2021-18s-rankings/. The 17s hunch rankings, published one week ago today, can be found here: https://volleyballmag.com/february-2021-17s-rankings/. The 16 rankings, published Tuesday, you can enjoy here: https://volleyballmag.com/march-2021-16s-rankings/
Today’s 15 rankings of the nation’s top 25 probably are unfairly labeled “hunch” rankings, when they should be called “hunch, hunch, maybe, possibly, perhaps, I dunno” rankings. I am so uncertain about the top 25, especially at the margins, that I wrote 32 team narratives for 25 spots. You’ll find the seven “just missed” teams in the Daily Dots to be published later this afternoon or evening.
For context, it is important to understand that I have NEVER covered teams in the 14s age division, let alone 13s, which is the age these players were the last time there was a prolonged qualifier season. I might be at a tournament and a coach might suggest I go watch a Lindsay Krause or Lexi Sun, but I don’t watch 14s or younger as a matter of practice. They’re too young and I have too much to do running around a convention center covering 3-4 other age groups as best I can.
What that means is I know next to nothing about these players other than what I’ve read or been told. I have never seen ANY of them. That’s why ranking team isn’t just a hunch, it’s a “hunch hunch.”
In preparing the 15s, I do want to thank the coaches of the teams in this age group immensely. Their assistance in diligently completing our forms (a big ask, I know!) and in providing input into the rankings draft I circulated was invaluable to shaping the top 25. Without them, I would have been in deep, deep trouble!
By the way, if you are a club coach (girls,15s-18s) and have yet to complete our form, whether you are top 25 or not, here’s the link to introduce your team to me: https://volleyballmag.wufoo.com/forms/mjjkdip02yxd7r/. The form will help as I read about or see the good things you do on the court and give me ideas for the Daily Dots, which are nuggets and notions that run five days a week.
Finally, while all the content at VolleyballMag.com is and will remain free to all, I am urging you to contribute what you can towards a sustaining membership to our site. It’s THE ONLY WAY I can get paid to do this job for you and THE ONLY WAY I can stay on providing the best national coverage of the club and high school scenes beyond March.
Here is the link to sustain all the exciting things we are doing here at VolleyballMag.com: https://volleyballmag.com/sustaining-membership/.
Don’t give if you cannot! I myself have lost two jobs during the pandemic and know that budgets are stretched thin. But if you can, please do so.
Thanks and, without further ado …
March 15s “Hunch Hunch” National Rankings
1. A5 15-Bob (Georgia) — From the south to the Midwest, when talking about the top teams in this age division, “What about Bob?” is a popular remark. It also is an exceptional film starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. (On second thought, exceptional may be too much of a superlative). There may not be enough superlatives to describe this A5 team though, which was second at Triple Crown and qualified Open at Sunshine last year before the shutdown. Ten return from that team, including middles Logan Wiley (6-1) and Mia Hood (6-4), setters Issa Boyd and 6-1 Jada Nelson, and 6-0 Grace Agoli, who can set or play on either pin. Head coach Bob Westbrook also has added three potential impact newcomers, 6-4 Molly Kate Patten, who has potential to be a big timer in the middle or on the right; fast outside Destiny McKenzie and fiercely competitive libero Taylor Zimmerman, who teams with Gaby Cornier to give A5 a plus plus back court.
2. Dynasty 15 Black (Kansas) — Imagine a team that won Triple Crown at 14s and year ago and adds a First Team All-State outside who happens to be one of the top five recruits nationally in the Class of 2024. That’s Dynasty 15 Black. Skyler Pierce, who touches 10-3, comes over from MAVS and can dominate matches. She and 6-0 OH Carlie Cisneros, who showed her stuff by making All-State in Missouri, give coach Brian Tate a pair of outsides like no other team in this age division. Another dominant pin, 6-2 RS Abigail Mullen, plus libero Ryan McAleer and a host of others, have Dynasty thinking that a podium finish at Junior Nationals is their … what’s the word for it? Birthright? No. Fate? No. I know … dynasty!
3. WAVE 15 Juliana (California) — Head coach Juliana Conn describes her team as a “well-trained bunch of fighters.” Nine are back from last year’s 14s team, which finished first in the SCVA and placed fifth at Triple Crown. The team excels at controlling the ball and has very strong middles in 6-2 Jenna Hanes and 6-1 Camden Bolane. Setter Amanda Saeger, libero Maya Evens, OH Ivanna Rivera-Vargas and RS Ayva Moi are other impact players on a team that won the first three Premier Volleyball League dates this club season.
4. Tstreet 15-Chris (California) — Tstreet was ranked second as 14s in the SCVA last year and, with the addition of 6-3 OH Gabriella Gubbins from Mizuno Long Beach, Chris Sisson’s team not only has designs on being No. 1 in the region, but also being No. 1 nationally. Besides Gubbins, players to watch include OH Sofia Williams, libero Annah Legaspi and S/RS Julia Kakkis.
5. Madfrog 15 National Green (Texas) — The Frogs won Crossroads a year ago and were expected to medal at Junior Nationals. It’s a dream deferred for Nicky Bramschreiber’s bunch. Seven return for another go and have 15 Green positioned currently as the No. 1 team in North Texas. Outsides Avery Jackson and Reagan Fitzsimmons are key to the team’s success. Others to watch include middles Lainee Pyles and Lillian Croshaw and libero Avery Baughman.
6. Texas Advantage 15 Black (Texas) — The Tour of Texas winners at 14s, TAV brings an extremely physical group to 15s that will only reach full potential with consistent ball control. Six players are back, among them 6-2 OH Jadyn Livings, 5-10 OH Mikala Young, 5-10 setter Camille Edwards and libero Gillian Pitts. The six newcomers include two 6-3 middles, Anna Boatner and Zoe Gillen-Malveaux. 6-1 OH Brianne Watson, from Drive Nation, is another to watch.
7. Sports Performance 15 Elite (Illinois) — Troy Gilb is bullish on his 15 Elite team, saying that it not only has the potential to medal at AAU Nationals in June, but also that the color medal can be Gold! Six players return from last year’s team, which competed well against older teams before the shutdown; including 6-2 OH Ava Novak, 6-2 MB Sophie Zanca, 6-0 middle Sidney Hamaker and libero Aniya Warren. Gilb also is very excited about his two newcomers, 6-2 OH Katie Scherer, who will be a dominant player nationally in this class; and 6-0 S/RS Becca Bellows, who has the skills to develop into a talented setter in the SPVB tradition.
8. KC Power 15-1 (Kansas) — KC Power finished second in power league as 14s last year and upgraded at every position. The club feels it now has a team with the ability to contend for a medal in every tournament it plays, including Junior Nationals. Coached by David Beach, the team showed off its newfound strength by winning the Asics Omaha President’s Day Classic against a good field. The team’s impact players include OH Alea Goolsby, middles Julia Headley, Zoe McDonald and Tatum Grimes, RS Hope Hickman and setter Janelle Green.
9. Milwaukee Sting 15 Gold (Wisconsin) — Sting 15 Gold was the top seed at Central Zones but fell to Circle City in the quarterfinals. Peter Netisingha’s team has since gone 9-0 to win President’s Day in St. Louis and finished second to FC Elite at the Badger Region Qualifier last weekend. The team is led by middles Anna Bjork and Rylea Alvin, both of whom stand 6-3. Pin Melia Johnson also is an impact player, as are setter Lilly Wagner and libero Claire Luoma. “The ability to run the middle from multiple places on the court sets us apart from other elite teams,” Netisingha asserted. Bluegrass awaits this weekend, with another opportunity for 15 Gold to prove itself as deserving of a spot among the nation’s elite.
10. Coast 15-1 (California) — Luis Cuatok’s team returns eight from a 14s team that finished near the top of the region a year ago. This is a strong ball control and defensive team with the ability to convert good setting and effective hitting into points. Pins Jaidyn Jager, Tiana Owens and Madison Triplett are players to watch along with MB Mackenzie Parsons, setter Kiki Remensperger and libero Sophia Meyer.
11. Tri-State Elite 15 Blue (Ohio) — First place in the Mideast Power League at 14s, Kelly Crowley’s team has picked right back up this year. It is 11-1in the MEPL, losing only to a 16s team; and took No. 1 A5 15-Bob to three, 15-12 in the third, in the semifinals of the Central Zone Invitational. Key players include outside Reese Wuebker, the team’s kills leader; outside Sophia Adkins, setter Maria Drapp, middle Faith Young and libero Kelsey Niesen.
12. Mizuno Long Beach 15 Rockstar C (California) — Mizuno Long Beach won nattys as 12s and 13s, but had its goal to threepeat last year ended by COVID. The team, which is tall and athletic, has set as its goal to win Junior Nationals once again. “Who am I to disagree?” questioned head coach Carlos Briceno. The team returns 10 from last year’s squad, including setter Charlie Fuerbringer, the daughter of the directors; 6-3 MB Ayden Ames and 5-11 RS Halie McGinest. The team did lose a heavy hitter to Tstreet but added ridiculously athletic 6-2 OH Izzy Clark, a move-in from Northern California. The team also added Kate Martin, a smaller outside but one who is tremendously athletic. The team started slowly, thanks to the COVID layoff, injuries and getting to know one another, but recently put it all together to win the PVL President’s Day event.
13. K2 15-1 Adidas Jason (Tennessee) — K2 has high expectations for 2021, with a nice blend of veteran players and newcomers. The team has jelled quickly and has finished first in all four tournaments played this year, with notable wins over KiVA 15 Red, Munciana Lorax and Legacy Adidas 15-1. K2 also is undefeated against teams in its age group through two MEPL dates. Key players to watch include 6-0 OH Amanda Mack, 6-1 MB Autumn Holmes, 5-9 setter Kinslee McGowan and libero Kennedy Holley, all of whom were impact freshmen for their respective high school teams.
14. Team Pineapple 15 Black (Indiana) — It’s awfully bold for a club that has never EVER been ranked by me to proclaim that it “should be competing for a national championship.” But that’s just what they’re doing in Fort Wayne and, after reading the submitted form, I understand why. The club is directed by former men’s national team setter Lloy Ball; 15 Black is directed by 5-10 eighth grader Ava Harris, a setter who is rapidly becoming a dynamic leader and player that can keep the team in system from 12 feet! Pineapple also has a superb defender in Brenna Ginder, a 6-2 middle, Ella Boersma, who is an elite blocker and sensational behind the setter; and three elite pin hitters, led by 6-4 six-rotation outside Morgan Gaerte. In Pineapple’s only major outing to date, the team went 4-1 at Central Zones to tie for fifth, its lone loss to Tri-State Elite 15 Blue. This is a team that bears watching closely. The next big test comes at Bluegrass this weekend.
15. The Academy Boiler Juniors 15E Gold (Indiana) — Boiler Juniors won AAU Nationals in 14 Open last summer and has taken that momentum in 2021. Led by setter Allie Shondell, outsides Sienna Foster and Bella Humphrey and middle Riley Resmer, the team has finished top five or better in every tournament so far this club season, including making the finals of the Central Zone Invitational.
16. Lions 15-1 (Illinois) — Three attackers out over the past month contributed to a slow start for Laura Baetzel’s Lions team, but this is an experienced group that plays hard and has both size and athleticism. Players to watch include outsides Grace Nelson (6-0) and Lauren Hunter (6-3), MB/OH Marin Johnson, 5-10 S/RS Ellie White and libero Sam Falk.
17. Spike and Serve 15 Red (Hawaii) — Club director Kevin Wong has a good thing going on the Islands. It’s just too bad they’re so far from the Mainland that we only get to see them time and again. In this year’s 15s, Wong has the No. 1 team not just in the 15s age group but also the 16s. In the biggest Hawaii tourney of the year so far, SAS 15 Red went 10-0 in the U16 division without dropping a set! Coached by Jayce Ashment, 15 Red has great athletes, abundant skill and the height, usually a problem in Hawaii, to compete nationally. The key players to watch are setter Adrianna Arquette, another in a long line of great Hawaiian setters; 6-0 outsides Haumea Marumoto and Tia Kapihe, and 6-3 middle Rheanna Deen-Jackson, who possesses the kind of physicality rarely seen on Oahu. SAS will be traveling east for Red Rock in the hopes of qualifying in Open for Junior Nationals.
18. Alamo 15 Premier (Texas) — Debbie Gonzales, a 35-year coaching veteran and legendary figure in San Antonio coaching circles, has 15 Premier this year off to a 22-1 start, the only loss 17-15 in the third to Houston Juniors 15 Elite. Alamo blends six returning players with six new players for a team that is competitive, with good height and skill. Players to watch include 6-4 RS/MB Grace Carroll, 6-0 OH/MBs Isabella Rodriguez and Emma Converse, 5-10 OH Kalina Cavillo and 5-7 OH Alysa Walker. Gabby Reeves, who played 13s a year ago, is a very strong setter and leader poised to make an impact.
19. Houston Skyline 15 Royal (Texas) — Only five return from last year’s 14 Royal team that recorded a top 10 finish at the Sunshine Qualifier. Coach Amy Burk says the newcomers give this team, which has several players “who will be great at the next level,” the potential to be among the nation’s top 15. The roster has physicality, great defenders and setters who know how to distribute. Those to watch include 6-1 S/RS Cayley Hanson, 5-9 S/RS Reese Animashaun, 6-3 MB Zoe Humphrey and libero Macy McPartland.
20. Premier Nebraska 15 Gold (Nebraska) — The 14 Gold team qualified third in Open at Crossroads a year ago and were just getting started when the COVID shutdown hit. Nine of 10 are back for head coach Shannon Smolinski, who says consistent passing will be key to the team’s staying on the court with anyone in any field. 15 Gold is a versatile team with hitters that can play pin or middle and setters and defenders with great touch and energy. Key players to watch include setter Reagan Hickey, libero Sierra Pokharel, OH Lauren Medeck and MB Mia Tvrdy. Newcomer Morgan Bode, a 6-0 middle from California, also figures prominently with her length and big arm.
21. NORCO 15 Black (Colorado) — NORCO went 7-1 in Omaha over President’s Day Weekend, losing only to Premier Nebraska 15 Gold, 16-14 in the third. This is a team with a roster of high-level kids that’s been regularly beating 18s teams locally. Lefty setter Maddy Stucky, who led her HS team to a Wyoming state title in the fall, is a focal point in this team. The daughter of a former Division I head coach, Stucky also is terminal as a right side attacker. Others to watch include 6-2 middle Avery Pearson, a natural blocker with big arm; 5-10 Julia Bohlinger, who is playing six rotation as a middle but can play anywhere; and eighth grader Kadence Marsh, a tremendous six-rotation talent with supreme terminating ability.
22. Metro 15 Travel (Washington D.C.) — Metro just acquitted itself very well playing in the Black (16s-18s) Division at MAPL in Raleigh last weekend. Club director Silvia Johnson said this team has Power 5 Conference talent on it. The team is both tall, with five 6-0 or taller; and athletic. Among the returning players are 6-1 OH Emerson Sellman, who is special; 6-4 RS Renee Jones and 6-2MB Ryla Jones. The team added three newcomers, including experienced setter Clara Yu and 6-2 OH Cari Spears, a six-rotation deep impact eighth grader. Spears is a move-in from Texas who played on TAV 14 Black a year ago. “She would be my best player,” said TAV 15 Black head coach LJ Sariego. “She’s amazing.”
23. NKYVC 15 Tsunami (Kentucky) — Defense is the calling card for this NKYVC team, both in the back row and at the net. Tyler Collins’ team runs a fast offense helmed by setter Abby Yoder. Libero Elizabeth Tabeling and DS Kaleigh Frietch handle the floor defense, Alivia Skidmore and Lilly Gillespie are effective on the outside and Julia Hunt, a 6-1 middle who touches 10-2, is that workhorse all-everything player at the net that every elite team needs. “This team has all the pieces to be a top 15 Open team,” someone from the club said. “They have great ball control on serve receive and defense and an offense that can be hard to stop. They also block and serve extremely well. They have been known to serve some teams off the floor.”
24. Dallas Skyline 15 Royal (Texas) — Skyline is a team with great potential and a coach, Sangyong Yun, with the ability to squeeze every last ounce of potential from it. The team brings back five core players from last year’s 14s, which was third in the region behind Madfrog and TAV. It has great passing and ball control, serves tough and has players who can put the ball away. OH Lolo Lambert and MB Shelby Burriss are players to watch among the returnees, while OH Lauren Perry, defenders Mckenna Brand and Lindsay Keith, RS Loren Winn, MB Ashby Daniel and setter Carter Fouche are newcomers with the potential to take this team to the next level.
25. Colorado Juniors 15Sherri (Colorado) — Great size and a multifaceted offense have coach Sherri Hawkins thinking that her charges will qualify in Open and could be even better than that with consistent ball control. Two 6-4 players, OH Avah Armour and MB Addie Kanouff, catch your eye off the bat on this team. But the team is more than tall. 6-2 OH Paityn Chapman and 5-11 MB Grace Woodring, who also played 15s a year ago; are very dynamic, while libero Ella Vogel holds down the back row.