VBM 2011 Girls’ High School All-Americans

Presented by Mizuno

Inky Ajanaku

First Team

Inky Ajanaku

Height: 6'4"
Position: MB
Year: Senior
High school: Bishop Kelley (Tulsa, Okla.)Quick stat: Piled up 537 kills, 127 blocks and hit .525 for a Kelley team that went 32-3 and won a Class 6A Oklahoma state title.

Jordan Burgess

Height: 6'
Position: OH
Year: Senior
High school: Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)Quick stat: 2011 Mizuno/VBM Girls’ High School Player of the Year. Helped Berkeley to third straight state championship.

Megan Courtney

Height: 6'2"
Position: Setter/OH
Year: Senior
High school: Archbishop Alter (Kettering, Ohio)
Quick stat: A Penn State recruit, Courtney recorded 451 kills, 316 digs and 426 assists in 2011.

Mackenzie Dagostino

Height: 5’10”
Position: Setter/Opp.
Year: Senior
High school: Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)Quick stat: Leaves as Berkeley’s all-time assists leader. Part of three Berkeley teams that won state championships.

Nicole Dalton

Height: 6'2"
Position: Setter/OH
Year: Senior
High school: Chaparral (Parker, Colo.)
Quick stat: Finished with 492 kills, 406 assists and 267 digs for Class 5A state-champion Chaparral (31-0).

Tayler Higgins

Height: 5’10”
Position: Setter
Year: Junior
High school: Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Quick stat: Higgins, the Interscholstic League of Honolulu player of the year, helped Punahou win the Division I state title. Averaged 31.7 assists per match in the state tournament en route to earning Division I state tournament MVP honors.

Molly McCage

Height: 6’3”
Position: MB
Year: Senior
High school: Klein Collins (Spring, Tex.)
Quick stat: One of the nation’s top players, McCage, a University of Texas recruit, hit .421 and racked up 260 kills and 67 total blocks for a 32-win Klein Collins team.

Amy Neal

Height: 5’10”
Position: OH
Year: Senior
High school: Lake Travis (Austin, Texas)Quick stat: Neal racked up 538 kills to help Lake Travis win its second straight Texas Class 4A state championship.

Amber Rolfzen

Height: 6'3"
Position: OH
Year: Junior
High school: Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.)
Quick stat: Rolfzen tallied 312 kills and 289 digs, playing a major role in the Titans going 41-0 for a second year in a row.

Kadie Rolfzen

Height: 6'3"
Position: OH
Year: Junior
High school: Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Neb.)
Quick stat: Rolfzen led Papio South with 440 kills, 382 digs and 53 aces, helping the team to a second state championship in a row.

Emily Sklar

Height: 6'2"
Position: OH
Year: Senior
High school: Presentation (San Jose, Calif.)
Quick stat: Sklar helped Presentation win the CIF Division II state championship (she was named the state-championship MVP). This Duke recruit finished the year with 584 kills and 487 digs.

Alexis Viliunas

Height: 6'1"
Position: Setter/OH
Year: Senior
High school: Lyons Township (LaGrange, Ill.)
Quick stat: Racked up 644 assists, 320 kills and 300 digs for a Lyons team that reached the Class 4A supersectional round. (She is) The Chicago Tribune player of the year.

Second Team

Name Height Position Year School

Katy Beals 6’1” S-OH Senior Lake Travis (Austin, Tex.)
Paige Brown 5’7” S Senior St. James (Lenexa, Kan.)
Madison Bugg 6’1” S-OH Senior Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.)
Katie George 5’10” S Senior Assumption (Louisville, Ky.)
Alyssa Goehner 5’10” OH Sophomore Lakeville (Minn.) North
Meghan Haggerty 6’3” MB Senior Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.)
Kaitlyn Hickey 5’9” MB-OH Senior Penn (Mishawaka, Ind.)
Megan McGehee 6’2” MB Senior Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West
Kelly Murphy 6’ OH Senior Walton (Marietta, Ga.)
Lauren Sieckmann 5’11” OH Senior Elkhorn (Neb.) South Hill
Rebecca Strehlow 6’1” S-OH Senior Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.)
Melanie Wade 6’5” MB Senior Palo Alto (Calif.)

Special Mention

Bianca Arellano (S, Xavier College Prep., Phoenix, Ariz.); Mary Hannah Arrington (OH, Pope, Marietta, Ga.); Breanna Atkinson (OH, Madeira School, McLean, Va.); Alexis Austin (MB, Cy-Falls, Houston Tex.); Martenne Bettendorf (OH, Central Catholic, Portland, Ore.); Sarah Burrington (MB, Riverview, Fla.); Hannah Butler (Lib.-DS, Clovis West, Fresno, Calif.); Elizabeth Campbell (MB, Chaparral, Parker, Colo.); Sara Connell (S, Catholic Memorial, Waukesha, Wis.); Adrianna Culbert (S-OH, Kellogg, Delton, Mich.); Julia Doyle (S, Wayzata, Plymouth, Minn.); Annie Drews (Opp., Penn, Mishawaka, Ind.); Cassie Effken (OH, Pius X, Lincoln, Neb.); Kate Elman (Lib., Marian, Omaha, Neb.); Lauren Greskovics-Fuller (S, Marymount, Los Angeles, Calif.); Manon Greskovics-Fuller (OH-MH, Marymount, Los Angeles, Calif.); Macey Gardner (OH, Gilbert, Ariz.); Abby Gilleland (S, Marian Central, Woodstock, Ill.); Kierra Holst (MB, Coppell, Tex.); Andie Malloy (S-OH, Lovejoy, Lucas, Tex.); Madeline Meyers (MB, Bishop Dwenger, Ft. Wayne, Ind.); Katie Mitchell (MB, College Park, The Woodlands, Tex.); Taylor Morey (Lib.-DS, Muncie [Ind.] Burris); Caitlin Nolan (Lib., Carroll, Southlake, Tex.); Tai Manu-Olevau (OH, Punahou, Honolulu, Hawaii); Emily Podschweit (Lib., Chaparral, Parker, Colo.); Kyley Reed (Opp., Rocky Hill, Conn.); Alex Reid (OH, Grandview, Aurora, Colo.); Sara Schwarzwalder (MB, North Royalton, Ohio); Alexa Strange (S-OH, San Clemente, Calif.); Shelby Workman (OH, Bishop Miege, Shawnee Mission, Kan.); Sheridan Zarda (Lib.-DS, St. James, Lenexa, Kan.)

Awards

by Mike Miazga

Player of the Year

Jordan Burgess

Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) senior outside hitter Jordan Burgess experienced an eye-opening moment this past summer. Burgess, the 2011 Mizuno/VBM Girls’ High School Player of the Year, was part of the U.S. girls’ youth national team that played in the world championships in Turkey.

“I found out what high-level competition is like,” she said. “All of the players that went, we didn’t realize how different the international game can be. You have bigger blocks and they hit high hands. You have to mix up shots. You can’t just go up and down. Being able to see those kinds of things was very helpful.”

The additions to her already uber-talented repertoire only spelled misery for Berkeley opponents this year. The 6-foot Burgess, who is headed to Stanford next season to play for the Cardinal and study to become a doctor, racked up 553 kills, hit .457 and had 366 digs en route to leading Berkeley to its third straight Florida state championship. Berkeley finished second in the state Burgress’ freshman season.

“She’s the most determined athlete I’ve ever played with,” Berkeley senior setter/opposite hitter and fellow All-American Mackenzie Dagostino said. “She has the determination to be the best she can be. She’s the very first in the gym and the very last to leave. You don’t see that attitude in a lot of players. That sets her apart from everybody else.”

How determined is Burgess? Dagostino, who will play at the University of Maryland this fall, reveals Burgess continued to play despite breaking a pinky finger at the beginning of the season.

“She just played through it,” Dagostino said. “Most athletes would have stopped and taken time to heal. Nothing will stop her from being on the floor unless she pretty much can’t walk.”

“My passing has made me more competitive,” Burgess said. “I can be that six-rotation player and be that anchor in the back row and be a defensive weapon. I’ve worked very hard at it. I decided I wanted to be very good at it. It’s something I put my all into.”

Dagostino’s dad, Randy, is the head coach at Berkeley and also coaches Burgess in the Tampa Juniors club program. He feels Burgess’ passing prowess puts her on an elite territory.

“There are so many really good outside hitters in the country,” Randy Dagostino said. “She is, and I say this with all the confidence, the best passing outside hitter in the country for junior high school-age players. That is what has always separated Jordan from the really good outside hitters in the country.”

Couple that versatility on the floor with an unwavering intensity and you get a player whose best days are most definitely still ahead.

“She’s a workaholic,” Randy Dagostino said. "She’s also that way in the weight room. She’s totally committed to being the best volleyball player she can be.”

Burgess, who sports a 4.0 grade-point average at Berkeley (there is no weighted GPA system at the school), isn’t one to rest on her laurels, although with the resume she totes around, she could make a case for doing so.

“Someone is always going to be there to take your spot,” she said. “I never think I’m good enough.”

Coach of the Year

Gwen Egbert

When former University of Nebraska standout Gwen Egbert left Papillion-La Vista High School to start the girls’ volleyball program at Papillion-La Vista South, she endured a bit of a shock. Egbert had directed Papillion-La Vista (located in the Omaha suburb of Papillion) to three Nebraska state championships. Her final team there went 34-7 and won a state title. The next year at new Papillion-La Vista South, her first team there went 7-21.

“It was a rough first year,” she said with a laugh.
Things aren’t so rough anymore. Egbert, who has coached for 16 years between the two schools, including nine at the helm of the Papio South program, has directed the Titans to a combined 82-0 record the last two seasons (back-to-back 41-0 seasons), which includes a pair of Nebraska Class A titles. The Titans are the first state-champion in Nebraska to go undefeated in a season since 1972.

Her efforts this year in particular have earned Egbert the distinction of being the Mizuno/VBM Girls’ High School Coach of the Year.

“This is a really good bunch of kids,” Egbert said. “They not only are physically talented, but they work hard in the gym.

Egbert also pegs a good majority of success on playing fundamentally sound volleyball.

“We had good ball control and good setting,” she said. “Because the ball was in a good location, we cut down on our hitting errors. This is a very dedicated group. They were ready to go every time they needed to be.”
Coming off an undefeated state-championship season with the majority of the roster intact created natural pressure for the Titans—something the squad handled quite well.

“It’s only the pressure the girls put on themselves because they wanted to do it so much,” Egbert said. “It’s not anything we talked about. Winning a state title again was something they wanted to accomplish as a goal.”

Egbert saw her team take things to the next level when it played a hotly contested match against St. James from Lenexa, Kan.—another team that has generated national headlines this season.

“We played them in Kansas City and it was a tough match (five sets) in a packed gym,” she said. “We started out really slow and had to compete. It’s important to them to compete in every match and to meet their goals.”

Titans’ senior middle blocker Rachel Nelson heaps major praise on the job her coach did this season.

“Coach never takes a day off. It’s nice to have someone that cares like that,” Nelson said. “That makes you want to play harder. She always makes sure we are prepared. She plays a big part in what we do here.

Junior setter Kelly Hunter said Egbert’s past playing experience also factors heavily into the equation.
“She’s been around volleyball a long time and she loves volleyball. It helps when you have done something before like she has done and then you try and teach it,” she said. “That puts her above other coaches. And Egbert made sure her players understood what it meant to be a defending state champion.

“She prepared us for every situation this year,” Hunter said. “She told us because we won last year that we would have a target on our back.”

Egbert admits she has already heard talk of a three-peat. Papio South had five seniors on a 16-player roster this year and will return four starters in 2012, including Hunter and fellow standout twins Kadie and Amber Rolfzen.

“Yes, there has been some talk about it,” she said. “Right now, I’m enjoying back-to-back [titles].”

Team of the Year

Lake Travis High School

Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) High School had a rather impressive run in 2010.

The Cavaliers won a state title and finished with a 49-3 record.

So what can be done to top that?

Try a perfect 50-0 season, which included a 127-1 run in sets and a second Texas Class 4A state title in a row. And on top of that, Lake Travis is the 2011 Mizuno/VBM Girls’ High School Team of the Year—an honor given to the country’s top team.

“At the beginning of the season, the ultimate goal was to win the state title,” Lake Travis senior outside hitter Amy Neal said. “We started winning matches and we started laughing about it a little and talked about going undefeated in sets.”

Lake Travis almost did that. Its lone setback in a set came in the state semifinals against Foster (Richmond, Texas). The Cavaliers won that match and won the big one after that—a 25-13, 25-16, 25-14 blowout of Pearce (Richardson, Texas)—to become the first girls’ volleyball team in the state of Texas to go 50-0. Lake Travis is the first undefeated state champion since Windthorst in 2004 and the 12th overall in Texas history.

“We were pretty angry after we lost that set,” said Lake Travis setter Katie Beals. “We shook it off and focused on winning the next two sets and then the finals. Losing the set wasn’t as bad as I thought. We’ve been playing together as a group for the longest time. We went out this year and had fun and played our best.”

When checking off all the superlatives of Lake Travis, depth is at the top of the list.

“We had such a big variety at every position,” said Neal, who earned state finals MVP for a second year in a row, and will continue her career at the University of Texas in the fall. “We were deep at every position. We had some good chemistry on the court. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how each other plays helped us out a lot.”

When Neal says the team is deep and talented she isn’t kidding. Lake Travis sported a roster that featured eight players who have committed to Division I schools. The list includes: Neal, right-side/outside Sierra Patrick (Texas A & M), outside-middle Kaci Eaton (North Texas), setter Cassie Wang (Wash. U), Beals (Washington), libero Mackenzie Mayo (Baylor), outside Piper Toler (TCU) and outside Gabby Bienkowski (Great Falls). Beals, Neal and Patrick were named to the state all-tournament team.

“There were a number of things that contributed to our success: the level of athletes we had on the team, the experience they carried, their mentality and focus and their determination,” first-year Lake Travis coach Jennifer Kazmierski said.

Kazmierski, previously an assistant coach at Magnolia High School, had the tough chore of taking over a program that was coming off a state-championship season. She replaced Julie Green who left to coach the Coppell High team that won the Texas Class 5A state title this season.
To say the least, Kazmierski’s players gave her high marks for her efforts.

“I love her,” Beals said. “She’s an awesome coach. I learned a lot from her this season. She really clicked with the team. It worked out great.”

Neal added: “She came in and did an awesome job. She bonded so quickly with us. This is a really special group. We’re one big family.”

And one big family that can say it did something no other Texas girls’ high school volleyball team has ever done: go 50-0 in a season.

Originally published in February 2012

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