Tawa’s HS Dots: Honoring Lafayette’s Toomey, rising stars, Miami Westminster Christian wins

This is “Dots,” VolleyballMag.com’s weekly look at 10 things in high school volleyball, past or present, that interest me and hopefully will interest you. Look for Dots every Tuesday until the last high school state championship in November.

• A week ago Friday, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Lafayette High School honored Chris Toomey, a coach with the Lancers who passed away unexpectedly during the summer from a cardiac event.

He was just 46 years old.

“It was a very emotional but special night,” said Lafayette coach Zach Young.

Toomey, a very successful Division II college coach in Tennessee before moving to Missouri,  joined the program five years ago as a volunteer coach. 

Lafayette and Chris Toomey’s family gathered to remember their favorite son and beloved coach

“Chris came to watch us play a few times and reached out to me about helping out with our team,” Young explained.  “The connection was instant.  He developed a deep connection with our players and became like family with our coaches.  Chris’ loss has been devastating to all who knew him.  However, everyone that he came across felt his love.  We’re trying to take the example he set and all be better people.  This year our team is trying to, ‘Love Like Chris.’”

“Chris was one of those special people, once in a lifetime type of people, that when you met him you just knew he was different,” Young continued.  “He was so genuine, kind, and selfless. Our program has been really hurting with his loss.”

Proceeds from the match, which Lafayette won 3-0, went to the Dig Pink Foundation (Chris’ sister, Kelly, is a cancer survivor) and the Chris Toomey Mission Fund, which was set up as a scholarship fund through Pathfinder Church for youth to go on mission trips.

• Prestonwood Christian of Plano, Texas was always going to be good this fall. The Lions were 39-6 in 2021 and returning two outsides who logged more than 500 kills apiece, a terrific setter and superb libero. That was before Cari Spears showed up. Spears, a 6-3 sophomore outside and perhaps the most physical sophomore in the nation, transferred in from Flint Hill in Virginia. The daughter of former NFL defensive end Marcus Spears is averaging 4.7 kills and 2.0 digs per set for a Lion team that is 29-1 and ranked among the nation’s top five. The team is positioned for greatness this year and next, as ALL of its key players return again next year. A national championship might be in the offing, which would only be the second all-time for a Texas high school. Lake Travis won the first in 2011.

• I am in the process of compiling a state-by-state Watch List for VolleyballMag.com of the top players in the 50 states and Washington D.C. through the rough midway point of the 2022 fall season. Look for the Watch List in the beginning of next week, perhaps in several parts.

In doing the research for this list, I discovered that one of the best players in Wisconsin is Germantown OH Lily Wagner. The 5-11 senior attacker has 398 kills, 276 digs and 40 aces through 74 sets for the Warhawks.

I also discovered that another of Wisconsin’s best is Oconomowoc setter Lilly Wagner. The 6-0 junior setter has 721 assists, 161 digs, 61 kills, 43 blocks and 29 aces through 70 sets for the 30-1 Raccoons.

The two schools are 27 miles apart.

Need an easy way to distinguish between the two? The Lilly with two Ls has suffered just one “L” so far this year…

• Two of the top players in Iowa are twins Payton Petersen and Jadyn Petersen, outside hitters for Dike-New Hartford. DNH is 25-2 this year and 111-7 with two Iowa 2A titles since the Petersen twins set foot on campus starting in 2020. So far this year, Payton Petersen has recorded 243 kills and 16s digs, while Jadyn Petersen has accumulated 170 kills and 179 digs.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is: Between 2014 and 2017, Dike-New Hartford also had Petersen twins anchoring their lineup. Sydney Petersen and Baylee Petersen led the Wolverines to state titles in three of their four years.

Oh, by the way, the two sets of twins also are all sisters. And mom is none other than Northern Iowa head coach Bobbi Petersen!

• This weekend in the Greater Phoenix area, the 14th Nike Tournament of Champions Southwest will convene. The event, designed to host a maximum of 96 teams, will see 70 compete at the new $280 million Bell Bank Park in Mesa. Bell Ban Park is described on the ToC website as “a 320-acre, world-class family and sports entertainment destination that includes 32 hardwood floors — each with independent LED scoreboards — along with a 2,800-seat Championship arena.”

Teams from nine different states will compete in the 32-team premier division, including Cornerstone Christian of Texas, ranked second nationally in the USA Today/AVCA Super 25; and three California teams ranked among the state’s top 10: Mira Costa, Marymount and Mater DeiCorona del Sol (17-1), Hamilton (22-2), Millennium (15-1) and Horizon (14-4) are the top Arizona teams. Horizon has two of the nation’s top attackers, senior Kendal Murphy and sophomore Teraya Sigler, who missed the first 17 matches of the season.

Miami Westminster Christian won the Nike Tournament of Champions Southeast in early September and remains undefeated

• Earlier this month, the third Nike Tournament of Champions Southeast convened in Tampa, with Miami Westminster Christian stunning Cornerstone Christian, 17-25, 30-28, 15-12 in the championship match to complete a 6-0 run through the tournament.

Emily Matias had 14 kills and 13 service points, Gaby Arroyo contributed 11 kills and nine digs, Gigi Artiles had 11 kills, Alyssa Cadavid rang up 27 assists and 10 digs and Zoey Matias amassed 26 digs for the Warriors in the final.

“We went 6-0 and really had a nice weekend, with all of the girls having some personal best moments,” noted coach Julie Doan Kurenuma. “Our vibe is right and the girls worked hard to do something special. It was a lot of fun to see us compete and be successful at that level.”

Westminster, which counts Alex Rodriguez among its alumni, currently sits 12-0, but national ranking services are not convinced that the Warriors are truly an elite national team. They are No. 15 in the USA Today/AVCA Super 25, 13 spots behind the team they defeated in the championship match. MaxPreps does not have them in their Top 25…

• The Asics Challenge in Chicago also is this weekend, with 24 teams representing six states taking part in the two-day event. The host school, Mother McAuley, is the top seed. The Mighty Macs are 17-1 and just over two weeks ago defeated Louisville Assumption to win the LIVT.

Assumption, which won the Asics Challenge last year and seems to own this event given how many times it has raised the trophy, is the second seed. Notre Dame of Northern Kentucky, which is 16-3, is the third seed; followed by Omaha Skutt (14-4), Milwaukee’s Divine Savior Holy Angels (26-4) and Marist of Chicago (13-4), which swept McAuley, 25-19, 25-22, at home last Thursday.

Undefeated local team Huntley and Metairie Park Country Day, of Louisiana, round out the top seeds. Country Day, a small school power, was 10-1 before being swept yesterday by big-school power Mount Carmel Academy.

• Rouse High School, located in Texas near Austinis 27-8 on the season and regularly takes on the best of the Lone Star State, with all of the tall timber underscoring that “everything is bigger in Texas.” The only thing is, Rouse’s leading hitter stands just 5-5.

That’s right!

Senior Kayla Lopez has more than 300 kills in 2022 and that’s nothing new. She’s been a mainstay on the left for the Raiders since her freshman year and has amassed more than 1,250 career kills.

Lopez also has almost 1,700 career digs, which is why San Jose State recruited her hard. She’ll probably play back row for the Spartans, but don’t count Lopez out of taking a few swings as well. She’s always proved the doubters wrong.

• Last year, sophomore McKenzie Calhoun led Howard County in kills (404), while also adding 218 digs, 66 aces and 22 assists. She was a force on Glenelg’s Maryland 2A championship team.

Calhoun, who stands 5-9, is now at River Hill and setting her Hawks teammates. She apparently has the magic touch. River Hill is 5-0 so far on the season and ranked fourth in the area by the Baltimore Sun.

• At Dots, we’re on the lookout for players who put up outrageous single-match stat lines. We are asking coaches on our list to let us know if any of their players achieved any of these benchmarks:

55 assists in a match
35 kills in a match
35 digs in a match
10 blocks in a match
10 aces in a match

Do you have any players who have met these benchmarks? Let me know at [email protected].

Until next time …

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