By Craig Sager II
Walton was the only school to successfully defend its 2012 state crown this season, and a big reason for the Raiders’ Class AAAAAA title defense and current run of four straight state championships came because of Jessica Sloan. The outside hitter is committed to play at Dayton next fall and finished her senior season with 546 kills in 116 sets played. Sloan added 19 kills on 40 swings in the state championship.
Returning for the Raiders next season will be current sophomore Celeste Fitzgerald, Lindsay Seagraves and defensive specialist Ashley Dean. Fitzgerald recorded 1,341 assists in her second season as a starter and added a pair of aces, 16 digs and 48 assists in the state championship. Dean recorded 19 of the Raiders’ 76 digs in the title game and Seagraves notched 15 kills in the state championship. These young stars will be the key to the Raiders’ quest for a fifth straight title.
Class AAAAA-champion McIntosh will graduate twins Rhana and Rhegan Mitchell along with Miara Bryant, Mollie Michel, Kassandra Robert and Abbi Schelkopf. The Mitchell twins are bound for Virginia Tech and Schelkopf is hheading to Jacksonville State.
Columbus returned to the podium for the first time since 2007 with its 3-1 win over Marist and seniors Brianna Gogins and Brittany Griner will be the key departures. Gogins recorded 19 kills, four blocks and five digs in the state championship. Madison Fleming is a current sophomore and the daughter of head coach Donna Fleming and will return as the Blue Devils’ setter. Fleming posted 43 assists in the championship and fellow-sophomore Shardonee Hayes will be expected to be on the receiving end of the majority of Fleming’s assists moving forward.
Leah Hardeman, who finished the season with more than 500 kills and included a 35 kills performance in the state championship, led St. Pius X to the Class AAA podium. Setter Molly Gunn and libero Ryan Boykin are the future of the Golden Lions moving forward and a new finisher will be needed to compliment their exceptional defense.
Wesleyan has a lot of talent returning next fall. Senior Hannah Hoskins will be missed as the Wolves’ back line of defense, but Noni Thompkins, Kendra Koetter, Lauren Frerking and Emma Bivins all return, and the champs will be a favorite in Class AA. Koetter recorded 23 digs while adding 43 assists in the state championship game and Frerking finished with 17 kills.
Class A state champion Holy Innocents’ got clutch performances from sophomore Haley Collins, junior Sarah Joe and sophomore Sarah Porter in the Class A state title match. Collins added 22 kills to her team-high eight aces and tallied 11 digs. Joe helped close out the match with her 14 kills, two aces and six digs and Porter recorded 62 assists. Holy Innocents’ key departures will be libero Mary Hollis Schmidt and middle hitter Julia Wright.