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Three-time reigning district champions Saxony volleyball moving up to Class 3

Saxony Lutheran volleyball senior middle hitter Paige Seibel will replace 2022 Class 2 All-State selection and current Maryville player Josey Wahlers. Seibel returns as her team’s leader in kills at 201 and also had 59 blocks. Photo by Jay Forness

Over the past three seasons, Saxony Lutheran volleyball has accomplished what no other team in program history had ever done before — winning a district championship.

The Crusaders also recorded their most wins in single-season history last fall with a record of 26-9-3 while finishing one set shy of reaching the Class 2 Final Four. All of this success has pushed Saxony to Class 3 due to MSHSAA’s championship success factor for private schools.

On top of that, the Crusaders lost three key players to graduation, one of which was all-state selection and current Maryville middle blocker Josey Wahlers. Josey ranked fifth in all of Missouri for total blocks with a career-high 137, while she also had a team-high 315 kills, .381 hitting percentage and 69 aces.

Another key player Saxony graduated was the team’s three-year starting libero Anna Mueller, who is now playing soccer at Jefferson Community College. Mueller was an all-district honoree along with Wahlers after recording a team-high 386 digs.

The Crusaders third and final starter to have graduated was Emma Hinze, and she now plays volleyball collegiately for Division-III SUNY Cobleskill. Hinze was one of Saxony’s six players to record triple-digit kills and finished fourth in blocks at 34.

However, the Saxony faithful should have no need to worry as the team returns plenty of talent from last season that includes five all-district selections in senior outside hitters Clara Brune and Graze Ozark, senior middle blocker Paige Seibel, senior libero Callie King and junior setter Isabel Brown.

Seibel, Brune and Ozark return as Saxony’s leaders in kills as they finished second, third and fourth, respectively, behind Wahlers last season. Seibel came up with 201 kills and 59 blocks of her own (third on team) and is set to take over the starting middle blocker position.

Coach Brown noted that Seibel has very much been reminding her of how dominant Wahlers was last season. “People are going to be like, ‘Oh, wait a minute — we thought Josey was gone,’” Brown said. “‘Now we have to contend with Paige.’ I think she’s going to step up and do a really, really good job for us.”

Brune will continue solidifying one of the outside hitting positions after producing 195 kills and paced Wahlers with a career-high 87 blocks her junior campaign. Clara also finished second behind Wahlers in another category as she finished with a .277 hitting percentage.

Ozark will also continue to only add more firepower to Saxony’s front row as she comes back from a junior campaign where she recorded 170 kills. Another returning outside hitter who produced 100 or more kills in 2022 will be senior Annie Adams, who had 119.

“My hitters have been working on not just killing the ball but making smart shots,” Coach Brown said. “If they see there’s a spot open, they’re going to go for that spot. It’s just not about hitting the ball as hard as you can — it’s about ball movement and keeping the defense on their toes.”

One Crusader who was snubbed from being named to the all-district team following Saxony’s historic season was future John A. Logan volleyball setter senior Landre Hoehne.

Both Brown and Hoehne will continue to share setting duties for Saxony as they combined for 954 assists one year ago as Isabel led the way with 579 assists to Landre’s 375. They will also both continue to be crucial defensively since Brown returns as the Crusaders leader in digs from last year, having recorded 265 while Hoehne produced 159.

“If one of them is in and the other one is out, they’re cheering the other one on,” Coach Brown said. “They set a lot of the same girls, and I think they’re both doing a really good job. Both of those girls are just players and having them on the court as much as possible is good for us.”

King paced both Mueller and Brown in digs with 232 and will be joined by junior Camille Richey, who helped lead the girls soccer team to the Class 1 Final Four and was named all-state for the second time as a sophomore.

Richey is not the only player on the volleyball team who was a part of the Crusader soccer team’s state final-four run. Brune, Adams, Ozark, Brown and senior defensive specialist Katie Swain all played huge roles for Saxony soccer as well. Coach Brown is hoping that success can translate to the volleyball court.

“The soccer girls that have experienced state will want to go back and experience it with volleyball,” Coach Brown said. “Then the girls who don’t play soccer that experienced the quarterfinal loss last year will drive them even more this year as well.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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