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September 6, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Class 4A and 3A volleyball rankings — Week 1

I’ve spen the last hour arranging and re-arranging my preseason state volleyball rankings.

And I’m still not overly happy with them.

It’s not so much that I’m unsure about the teams I finally put in the top-10 for Class 4A and 3A, it’s just that there are some other teams that I feel should be in there, too. But at whose expense?

You tell me, OK?

It would have been easy to put Mead of Spokane at No. 1 in 4A. After all, the Panthers have won six out of the past seven state titles, including last year’s. Even without 6-5 Alexis Olgard (now at USC), they should be awfully good agian.

But I’m going with Richland for now. I was impressed with the Bombers at last year’s tournament, particularly Chelsey Bettinson, and she’s back. She has some knee issues, but if she can hold up I think they’ll be the team to beat.

I really like Woodinville and Jackson, too. And even though Auburn Riverside lost all-state hitter Brooke Bray (now at Montana), they’ve got all-state setter Brooklynn Bradbury back and coach Chris Leverenz is really high on junior Alison Wuerch.

If I had a top-12, the next two teams likely would be Lewis and Clark of Spokane and Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma, which has a freshman phenom I’ll look forward to seeing at the West Central District tournament, if not before. Those two teams probably deserve top-10 billing, but for now they’re on the watch list.

And speaking of the bubble teams, I made a vow to keep the list shorter than usual. Any of you who have followed by rankings in volleyball, basketball and softball know I tend to include a ton of teams there. This year, I decided it can only include one per league or division. I made an exception with WesCo 3A, because I just couldn’t choose between Everett, Lynnwood and Meadowdale. One probably should be in the top-10, and likely will be before long, but not right now.

And you won’t see a Big Nine 4A team on the bubble because there are just too many to choose from — Chiawana, Eisenhower, Walla Walla, Wenatchee??? I’ll wait until they play a bit and then add at least one.

In Class 3A, Mount Spokane debuts at No. 1. The Wildcats nearly won it all last year, but lost in the title match to Bishop Blanchet. They return a solid core, although staying healthy could also be an issue for them as two players won’t be up to full strength, facing post-season surgery.

Seattle Prep gets the nod at No. 2, thanks largely to Gabby Bird-Vogel. The Metro League will by mega-tough again. Blanchet lost all-everything Summer Nash (San Diego State), but still have all-state setter Chloe Sliger and will be a factor. I’m starting the Braves out at No. 8, and that might be too low.

I’d heard really good things about Camas and Mount Si, and both were impressive at Saturday’s Emerald City Invitational. So they get the 3-4 spots. And Kennedy Catholic sits at No. 5 with Jennika McPherson healthy again (she had a cancerous tumor successfully removed at the end of the 2009 regular season and without her the Lancers failed to qualify for state). Hiring Joanne Uhl after Tom Muckerheide left seals the deal, in my book. Those are two quality coaches.

Coach Momi Bowles is excited about her Auburn Mountainview team and maybe No. 10 is too low, but it will have to do for now.

I hope to cover the Adidas Invitational at Mountainview this Saturday to get a look at them, as well as some of the other ranked teams entered.

And if you are looking for a more expansive preview of volleyball across the state, you can check out the lengthy story I wrote for prepvolleyball.com, which I’m told should be posted on Tuesday. That’s a pay website you are probably familiar with and the $25 is well worth it, as far as I’m concerned. There’s a little info in there about the top 2A and 1A teams as well.

So, here are the initial rankings, for your discussion:

Class 4A

1. Richland

With Chelsey Bettinson, bet on a great season for Bombers

2. Mead (Spokane)

Defending champs have won 6 of the past 7 titles and could reign again

3. Woodinville

Trio of tall, talented hitters make Falcons a team to fear

4. Jackson (Mill Creek)

Eighth wasn’t enough as Timberwolves look to improve on ’09 finish

5. Auburn Riverside

Ravens have all-state setter Brooklynn Bradbury and a walloper in Alison Wuerch

6. Olympia

Coach Laurie Creighton churns out her usual contender

7. Skyview (Vancouver)

Storm warning – this should finally be a trophy year

8. Graham-Kapowsin

Look for killer seasons for the Kaitlyns (Malloy and Foster)

9. Puyallup

Allie Schumacher gives Vikings a chance in any match

10. Issaquah

With setter Riley Sorenson healthy again, Eagles could soar

On the bubble – Bellarmine Prep, Bothell, Curtis (University Place), Kamiak (Mukilteo), Kentwood, Lewis and Clark (Spokane), Marysville-Pilchuck, Monroe, Stadium (Tacoma), Union (Vancouver).

Class 3A

1. Mount Spokane

Even with health concerns, most agree Wildcats are the ones to beat

2. Seattle Prep

Gabby Bird-Vogel makes Prep the favorite out of the mighty Metro

3. Camas

Papermakers feature ace Stefani Sorensen and tons of depth

4. Mount Si

These Wildcats have a great go-to player in Zoe Gogan

5. Kennedy Catholic

Ace player (Jennica McPherson) plus ace coach (Joanne Uhl) equals success

6. Prairie (Brush Prairie)

Falcons feature plenty of firepower once again

7. Southridge (Kennewick)

Suns should shine in 3A after reaching 4A tourney last season

8. Bishop Blanchet

Defending champs lost Summer Nash, but still have all-state setter Chloe Sliger

9. Shadle Park (Spokane)

Missing last year’s tourney has Highlanders in a huff

10. Auburn Mountainview

Lions plan to return to state and roar once they get there

On the bubble – Bonney Lake, Columbia River, Eastside Catholic, Everett, Holy Names, Kamiakin (Kennewick), Lynnwood, Meadowdale, West Valley (Yakima).

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