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The latest news and analysis on high-school sports around the Seattle area

September 7, 2009 at 2:45 PM

State volleyball rankings: Week 1

Ready to talk some volleyball? Now’s your chance as The Seattle Times’ Class 4A and 3A rankings debut here today (they run in tomorrow’s paper).

And I’ll look forward to your comments every Monday throughout the season as the rankings are updated. Not that you have to wait until a Monday. Please feel free to share your thoughts any time.

I’ve spent much of the past week and a half talking to prep volleyball coaches around the state. I touched base with at least one or two from every 4A and 3A conference (only call back I never got was from a coach of one of the Big Nine 3A teams). It’s almost been an information overload, believe me.

One thing is certain — there is going to be some great volleyball played in the Greater Seattle area again, especially in the Metro League. Three Metro teams start in the 3A top-10, led by top-rated Eastside Catholic, coming off last year’s second-place finish.

“Metro is going to be insanely good,” Bishop Blanchet coach Matt Chang said.

So good, I simply couldn’t resist starting the 3A top-10 this way: No. 1 Eastside Catholic, No. 2 Bishop Blanchet, No. 3 Seattle Prep. I hate coming off like a homer, but I really think those three teams are going to be that good, at least potentially.

It’s rare when a defending doesn’t return in the following preseason rankings, but I am taking a wait-and-see approach on Shadle Park of Spokane, which lost almost everyone from last year’s team due to either graduation or other choices.

Lakes of suburban Tacoma has a shot with hot-shot setter Deedra Foss, who originally committed to Washington last year but now plans to sign with Colorado State.

I think there are a number of teams that could win the 3A title — including some that are starting on the “others” list. And the same goes in 4A, where I’m starting with Mead of Spokane at No. 1.

The Panthers had their record string of championships snapped at five last year and wound up a disappointing seventh — sometimes with six underclassmen on the floor. They’ve got that added desire this year and also feature 6-foot-5 Alexis Olgard, who can be the most dominant player in the state. Olgard, who committed to USC last year, had an outstanding summer with the U.S. national team.

Lewis and Clark of Spokane, last year’s 4A champion, should be tough again despite losing several key players as well as coach Julie Yearout. Yearout unexpectedly resigned in late July, citing issues that apparently involved the actions of L-C coaches in another program. But assistant coach Heather Jackson steps in and the Tigers, who debut at No. 5 in the rankings, might not lose a beat.

Watch out for Curtis of University Place and Issaquah, although the Eagles’ fortunes might well depend on how quickly setter Riley Sorenson recovers from a back injury.

I’ll admit that the rankings are a bit of a crapshoot. I like all of these top-10 teams and some might deserve to be ranked higher, or lower. A few of those “other” teams just as easily could be in there to start (and some undoubtedly will be in there before all is said and done). For instance, I nearly ranked Graham-Kapowsin in 4A and expect the Eagles to be really strong this year. But I think they’ve got to prove themselves a bit first, having never been to state before.

So, what do you think? I’ll be anxious to hear.

And if you’re looking for a more detailed overview of teams around the state in 4A and 3A, you can check out a preview I wrote for PrepVolleyball.com. It’s a pay site ($25 per year), but I’d say it’s worth it for avid high-school volleyball fans.

Class 4A

1. Mead (Spokane)

Panthers have 6-5 Alexis Olgard (USC) and an attitude after disappointing ’08 finish

2. Curtis (University Place

Veteran Vikings have their eyes on the top prize this season

3. Issaquah

Availability of setter Riley Sorenson (back) could make or break Eagles’ chances

4. Richland

Bombers bank on 6-2 Chelsey Bettinson to help get them to state

5. Lewis and Clark (Spokane)

Defending champion will be back in the mix again under new head coach

6. Olympia

Graduation left holes, but others quickly plugging them for traditional contenders

7. Auburn Riverside

Hard-hitting Brooke Bray (Montana) gives Ravens a chance in any match

8. Monroe

The post-Kylin Munoz era (UW) still looks bountiful for Bearcats

9. Kamiakin (Kennewick)

Rebuild? Reload? Really, Braves seem to get it done one way or another

10. Skyview (Vancouver)

Even without star setter Leanna Ludes (USF), Storm still has sunny future

Others (alphabetically) — Bothell, Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma) Central Kitsap (Silverdale), Eisenhower (Yakima), Edmonds-Woodway, Gig Harbor, Graham-Kapowsin, Heritage (Vancouver), Kamiak, Kentwood, Marysville-Pilchuck, Newport, Puyallup, South Kitsap (Port Orchard), Roosevelt, Skyline, Southridge (Richland), Snohomish, Stadium (Tacoma), Stanwood, Woodinville

Class 3A

1. Eastside Catholic

Brooke Bachesta (Georgetown) one of many back for 2008 runner-up

2. Bishop Blanchet

Addition of big bash from Summer Nash makes Braves title contenders

3. Seattle Prep

Stockpile of talent gives Prep hopes of returning to prominence

4. Lakes

With setter Deedra Foss (Colorado State), Lancers will be no surprise this season

5. Camas

Papermakers didn’t lose a starter from last year’s state squad

6. Mount Spokane

Business-like group has power-point plan for state

7.Prairie (Brush Prairie)

Led by setter Camryn Irwin (Oregon), Falcons should avoid another late-season flop

8. Meadowdale (Lynnwood)

Defensive-minded Mavericks feature more fire-power this season

9. Kennedy (Burien)

Lancers can count on yet another D-I prospect in 6-foot junior Jennica McPherson

10. Shorecrest (Shoreline)

Dave Morehouse continues his golden touch with a green team

Others (alphabetically) — Auburn Mountainview, Capital (Olympia), Bonney Lake, East Valley (Spokane), Everett, Holy Names, Lynnwood, Mercer Island, Mount Si, North Central (Spokane), Shadle Park (Spokane), Shorecrest, Sumner.

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