In what was her first season as a starting middle blocker, the basketball star out of Oak Ridge junior Reagan Howe was named to the Class 1 All-State Team after leading the Blue Jays volleyball team to the Class 1 District 4 finals.
To earn all-state, not only did Howe take Oak Ridge to its first district title match in recent history, but she was one of the leading hitters in all of Missouri throughout all classifications. Reagan, who is the first all-state selection for Oak Ridge in recent memory, produced the eighth-best hitting percentage in the Show-Me State at .399, which ranks 121st nationally.
Additionally, Howe led Oak Ridge in two other major categories with a career-high 365 kills and 59 blocks. These totals were both the best in her district and top 15 in Class 1.
“Being named all-state is an honor for sure, especially considering all the other outstanding athletes in Class 1 I played against throughout the season,” Howe said. “I feel like my floor IQ improved, I learned how to place the ball and made smarter plays.”
To record one of the best hitting percentages in the entire state, Reagan finished with a percentage above .400 13 times as ended up with a .818 and .800 in two tournament games. The best hitting percentage Howe had in a regular-season matchup with .750 with 16 kills off 20 attempts while having zero or just one error in 11 matches.
Reagan recorded double-digit kills in a total of 19 matches this fall with her season-high being 21 with a .486 hitting percentage in a 3-0 win over Crystal City. This win sent Oak Ridge to the district title match.
To end the season, Reagan went on a 10-game streak of having double-digit kills as the Blue Jays recorded a record of 7-4 in the span. Howe recorded 18 kills in two matches and 17 once, while registering eight times.
Outside of taking over for Oak Ridge in the front row, Howe finished with a 92.4 serve percentage and was third on the team in aces with 44. Reagan also played in the back row defensively, coming up with 202 digs.
“This year I was more of a force on the court,” Howe said. “Our team has had multiple great athletes this year and last, but this year I made my presence known and connected really well with my setters.”
Setting the ball to Howe was a combination of setters in all-district and all-conference selections senior Alivia Schilling and sophomore Kinsley Bogenpohl. The two combined for 822 assists as Schilling led the way with a team-high total of 446.
Schilling and Bogenpohl were also Oak Ridge’s second and third leaders in kills to pace Howe with 143 and 142, respectively. The fourth and final Blue Jay to record triple-digit kills this season was Reagan’s backup middle blocker sophomore Jayleigh Price, who was also named all-district, at 127.
All of these players, including Howe, were under a brand new head coach after last year’s coach Julie Ward stepped down to focus on being the school’s athletic director and girls basketball head coach.
“I also have been blessed with good coaches throughout high school,” Howe said. “Coach [Starla] Pulley was always pushing me to be better, and I really believe she saw potential in me that I didn’t even see.”
Coach Pulley took over the program this season after spending the past few seasons at Dexter. The Bearcats won The Class 3 District 1 Championship back in 2020 under Pulley.
With Howe in the starting lineup and Coach Pulley at the helm, Oak Ridge finished with an above .500 record for the seventh-straight season along with making it to the district finals this fall.
The Blue Jays ended up falling to No. 1 seeded St. Vincent for the district championship as the Indians went on to fall to eventual state champions Advance in the sectional round.
“The feeling of making to a district championship game is like no other,” Howe said. “While I think our nerves were really high when we got there I am so proud of our team effort to set the goal of making it that far and accomplishing it. Even with the nerves, I think we still played our hearts out in that game, and I hope to be in another district championship game before I graduate.”
While Howe has hopes of playing college basketball since that’s her favorite sport, she now sees volleyball as a valuable option at the college level. Reagan’s older sister Maggie Howe played college volleyball at Stephens College in Columbia.
Three other of Maggie’s classmates at Oak Ridge played collegiately as well in Mollie and Sophie Thompson (Stephens) and Brittany Showmaker (Frontier Community College). Interestingly enough, none of these players earned all-state honors in their career like Reagan did as only a junior.
“It’s great that I was able to reach this goal, and I think it will show other athletes at Oak Ridge that they can accomplish any goal if they have enough determination,” Howe said. “If I was able to do this the sky is the limit for what future Oak Ridge volleyball players will be able to achieve.”
Reagan and the Blue Jays will hope to build off a district runner-up finish after this fall as fellow postseason honorees like Bogenpohl and Price will be back with Howe as well. Two other key returners will be juniors Madyson Ruehling and Madalyn Schemel, who each played in at least 79 of Oak Ridge’s 85 sets this season.
“For next season, I hope to improve my blocking abilities,” Howe said. “If I can move my feet quicker and read opposing setters I’ll have a better chance at getting more blocks.”