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Cathedral Catholic volleyball opens season atop team rankings

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Bloomfield Hills Marian (Mich.) celebrates its state semifinal victory over Hudsonville on Nov. 18, 2021. Marian begins the season at No. 3 in the JWS volleyball high school team rankings. (Observer & Eccentric via USA TODAY NETWORK)

How do you top an undefeated season, achieved against some of the toughest competition in the country? Add in the loss of several key stars, and that is the problem confronting Marymount (Calif.) volleyball this season.

The Sailors passed their first test with flying colors in a 3-0 win in their season opener Monday. They don’t lack talent, with seniors Torrey Stafford (320 kills last season) and Dior Charles (123 kills) leading the way. Stafford, a University of Pittsburgh commit, is the 18th-ranked recruit heading into the season in the Just Women’s Sports volleyball high school player rankings.

But Marymount must replace five players who are now competing at the Division I level, including Elia Rubin, the MaxPreps National Player of the Year and an Under Armour All-American. That’s not an easy task, and playing in a volleyball hotbed like southern California doesn’t provide much room for error.

While the Sailors are off to a good start, they have simply lost too much talent to earn the No. 1 spot in the first JWS volleyball team rankings of the season. That honor instead belongs to Cathedral Catholic, another southern California school.

Check out the complete rankings below.

1. Cathedral Catholic (Calif.), 0-0

Cathedral Catholic didn’t win it all last year, but the program returns four seniors who each had more than 100 kills. That group is led by Stanford commit Julia Blyashov, who won a gold medal with Team USA at the U19 Pan American Cup in July.

2. Marymount (Calif.), 1-0

Not only did the Sailors lose Rubin from last year’s 35-0 squad, setter Kelly Belardi joined her at Stanford, Kerry Keefe is at Duke, middle blocker Rhiann Sheffie landed at Long Beach State and Megan Verbiest is the newest libero at USC.

3. Bloomfield Hills Marian (Mich.), 7-0

The Mustangs are coming off a 53-1 season that ended with a state championship, and they return setter Ava Sarafa, who racked up 1,443 assists last season and is committed to Kentucky.

4. Papillion-LaVista South (Neb.), 0-0

Coming off a 40-0 season, the Titans return senior Stella Adeyemi, who finished with 387 kills and 108 digs last season.

5. Wayzata (Minn.), 0-0

Not only did the Trojans go undefeated last season, they haven’t lost since 2019, winning 54 games in the process. Minnesota commit Stella Swenson is back at setter after racking up 936 assists last year.

6. Tompkins (Texas), 13-1

The Falcons have already beaten reigning Class 6A state champion Brandeis and have dropped just seven sets in 14 matches.

7. McCutcheon (Ind.), 4-0

The Mavericks enter 2022 hoping to defend their state title, and they return star hitter Chloe Chicoine, who had 440 kills and 189 digs last year. The Purdue commit is joined by setter Allie Shondell, who already has 126 assists through four games this season.

8. The Woodlands (Texas), 17-3

The Highlanders have beaten last year’s Class 6A finalist, Keller, and another semifinalist in Bridgeland. Claire Dewine leads the way with 266 assists and is second with 198 digs.

9. Dike-New Hartford (Iowa), 0-0

The Wolverines finished 54-1 last season and return their top five hitters, including the Petersen twins, Payton (583 kills) and Jadyn (402 kills). Madelyn Norton and her 1,209 assists are also back for the reigning state champions.

10. Mater Dei (Calif.), 2-0

The Monarchs’ 2021 season ended with a loss to Cathedral Catholic. They return three of their top four hitters, all of whom had 200 kills or more, from the 36-6 squad.

11. Byron Nelson (Texas), 15-1

Another Texas team that has gotten off to a fast start, the Bobcats are led by freshman Kylie Kleckner and her 182 kills.

12. Blue Valley North (Kan.), 0-0

The Mustangs lost plenty of production from last year’s state championship team that finished 40-2, but they return the team leaders in kills (Logan Parks, 324), digs (Nora Carlsen, 291) and assists (Janelle Green, 527).

13. Ponte Verda (Fla.), 1-0

The Sharks, looking to bounce back after falling in the Class 6A state championship game, return Cincinnati commit Zeta Washington (274 kills) and Jessica Shattles (896 kills, 199 kills).

14. Skyview (Idaho), 0-0

The Hawks are coming off a 36-2 season in which they won a state championship and will get back Oregon commit Alex Acevedo and Alex Bower, who had over 1,000 assists and 100 kills last season.

15. Sante Fe (Fla.), 1-0

The reigning Class 4A state champions bring back Florida’s Miss Volleyball in Jalyn Stout, who notched 392 kills last season.

16. Cardinal Mooney (Fla.), 1-0

Texas-bound Jordyn Byrd will make the Cougars a force to be reckoned with as she looks to build upon last season’s totals of 551 kills, 258 digs and 56 blocks.

17. Sequoyah (Ga.), 12-1

Sequoyah has unfinished business after a 50-4 season ended with a loss in the 6A state championship. The Chiefs return offensive firepower in seniors Sara Siefert, who has over 1,000 career kills, and Taylor Pecht, who will eclipse 4,000 career assists this season.

18. Mira Costa (Calif.), 8-2

Mira Costa opened the season by claiming a tournament title in Hawaii before being brought back down to earth in a four-set loss to Mater Dei.

19. Jackson Academy (Miss.), 15-0

Coming off a state championship last year, the Raiders keep winning. Auburn commit Lakin Laurendine already has 179 kills with a .454 hitting percentage.

20. Alpharetta (Ga.), 13-3

Another Georgia team that lost in the state championship last season, Alpharetta is looking to capture the state crown this year.

21. Laramie (Wyo.), 0-0

The Plainsmen have won consecutive 4A state titles, and Madeline Stuckey is back to pursue another after recording 736 assists and 172 kills last fall.

22. Buford (Ga.), 10-1

The Wolves knocked off Sequoyah to win the state crown last season. They return their kills leader, digs leader and assists leader.

23. Fayetteville (Ark.), 1-0

The Bulldogs are aiming for a three-peat and will be relying on Stanford beach volleyball commit Brooke Rockwell, who had 503 kills and 274 digs last year, and Florida State commit Kennedy Phelan, who finished with 1,123 assists in 2021.

24. Bishop Gorman (Nev.), 1-0

The Gaels have won the last three state titles contested in the state of Nevada and bring back star hitter Leilia Toailoa, who notched 491 kills last year.

25. Olathe Northwest (Kan.), 0-0

The Ravens have one of the top junior players in the country in Nebraska commit Skyler Pierce, who racked up 425 kills and 345 digs last year.

Phillip Suitts is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. He has worked at a variety of outlets, including The Palm Beach Post and Southeast Missourian, and done a little bit of everything from reporting to editing to running social media accounts. He was born in Atlanta but currently lives in wintry Philadelphia. Follow Phillip on Twitter @PhillipSuitts.