Six state champions were crowned at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday as the 2020 high school volleyball season came to an end. Hail Varsity has you covered with a recap of all the action.
Two weeks ago, Elkhorn South and Papillion-La Vista South face-off in a five-set classic in the Metro Tournament championship with the Storm outlasting the Titans. On Saturday, they ran it back — this time with a state title on the line — and the top-seeded Storm closed out the 2020 high school volleyball season in dominant fashion with a sweep over the No. 2 Titans.
Elkhorn South defeated the reigning Class A champion 26-24, 25-22, 25-20 to win the first state championship in school history in just its second season since moving up to Class A.
“I’m super proud of our team tonight,” Elkhorn South coach Chelsea Potter said. “I’m super proud of everybody that was able to compete in this tournament and today at the state championship level. In a year that’s been so weird with everything, with COVID, all of the coaches kind worked together to make sure that we could have a season and have a successful season for our girls because they deserve it.”
Elkhorn South opened in 2010 and after that first transition year has only missed the state tournament once, in 2016. The Storm finished as runner-up 2013 and 2018 in Class B, then moved up to Class A last season. The Storm went 29-7 to earn the No. 2 seed, but the No. 7 Titans swept them in the first round on their way to the title.
“It feels great, and I have to give a nod to Briana Janda, our former head coach, because we wouldn’t be here without the foundation that she set for us the first nine years of running our program,” Potter said. “The culture that we’ve been able to create has pushed us to achieve new accomplishments. Think we focus on that culture, and the wins come along with that. So that’s what we’ve really been focusing on over the last couple years.”
Papio South jumped out to a 6-3 lead early in the first set, but Elkhorn South hit the Titans with a 12-4 run to surge ahead. Elkhorn South led by as much as seven before Papio South rallied with a 6-0 run to tie it up at 24-all. Rylee Gray smashed home a kill to end the run and then the Titans hit wide to see it.
Elkhorn South got off to a 7-2 start in game two and led the rest of the way. Papillion-La Vista South rallied to within two a few different times but couldn’t get over the hump.
After Elkhorn South took a 9-4 lead early in set three, the Titans rallied to tie it up at 14-14 and 15-15. A 5-1 run including three kills by Kylie Weeks gave the Storm a 20-16 lead. The Titans pulled within two three different times, but back-to-back kills by Gray, the future Husker, gave Elkhorn South match-point and Weeks closed it out.
“We know how strong our opponent is, we have a lot of respect for our opponent, especially with how we saw them in the Metro finals and went five sets with them,” Potter said. “They’re a very talented team and they have great coaches. We didn’t talk a ton about adjustments … We tried to take things in small chunks of five points at a time, control what we could control, especially in a weird environment, playing in a big arena for the first time, going from two courts for the first few nights to one court tonight, just tried to really visualize what we can control and focus on that.”
Weeks, a junior committee to Arkansas, led everyone with 21 kills on .281 hitting and 10 digs. Gray added 16 kills on .424 hitting, four blocks (two solo) and an ace. Junior setter Madi Woodin, a South Dakota commit, finished with 41 assists, 21 digs and an ace while junior libero and Missouri commit Estella Zatechka added 16 digs.
Freshman outside hitter Lauren Medeck led the Titans with 14 kills while sophomore outside hitter Stella Adeyemi added 13 kills on .314 hitting. Junior setter Ava LeGrand, a Kansas State commit, finished with 37 assists, 10 digs and four kills while senior libero Delanie Vallinch recorded 18 digs.
Future Husker Lindsay Krause put an explanation point on her legendary high school career on Saturday night as top-seeded Omaha Skutt took down No. 2 Norris in three sets to claim the program’s sixth straight state championship, tying a state record.
The SkyHawks dropped a set for just the fourth time all season but bounced back to take the last three for a 22-25, 25-13, 25-20, 25-21 victory.
Skutt used a 4-0 run to pull ahead 19-14 in the fourth set, but the Titans battled back to within two points at 22-20. Skutt scored two straight to earn match point, but the Titans got a kill to stay alive. On the next point, setter Allie Gray went to her best hitter and Krause did the rest, nothing her 30th kill of the match.
“They got that sideout and we were at 24, I turned to the bench and I’m like ‘Give it to Lindsay and let’s end with an exclamation point. Let’s get it over with,’” Skutt coach Renee Saunders said. “I’m going to give her the ball on game point; the kid’s a gamer.”
Gray said she didn’t even consider setting anybody else. The 30 kills were a career-high for Krause in her final match as a SkyHawk, and she did it on .574 hitting while adding seven digs, three blocks and two aces.
“She’s great,” Norris coach Christina Boesiger said. “There were times where we thought we had a big block up on her and she was still going over us. She’s so physical. She’s a great player, she’s going to do great things down the road. We got a few touches on her but she’s hard to stop.”
Krause was a force from the first serve, but the Titans didn’t back down one bit in the first set as they hit .303 with 17 kills to win the first set. Krause had nine kills, but the rest of the SkyHawks combined for just three kills on 21 attempts.
“I love that they came out not afraid,” Boesiger said. “They have a grit and they fight and they have heart. They didn’t come out afraid, they played aggressive and kind of did what we wanted to do.”
However, Skutt did what it wanted to do the rest of the mach as the SkyHawks opened game two with a 13-0 run featuring senior Shayla McCormick at the service line. Norris finally ended the run with a kill by Kalli Kroeker then played Skutt to a draw the rest of the way as Skutt cruised to victory. SkyHawks not named Krause — led by senior middle blocker Ava Heyne — stepped and produced 10 kills in the second set.
“I told AG before the game that it might be smart to throw a lot of balls to Lindsay early and then what happened is that opened up the middle and the right side,” Saunders said. “So then those people got active and they could get kills because they were cheating to go outside to double-block on her.”
The third set included seven ties and a couple of lead changes, but. 6-1 run by the SkyHawks broke a 13-all tie and gave Skutt a lead it would not relinquish. The fourth set included five more ties and three lead changes, but again, Skutt used a late run to pull away as detailed above.
Gray, an Arizona State commit, dished out 57 assists with five digs, three kills and a solo block in her final game as a SkyHawk. Heyne added 13 kills on .400 hitting while senior libero Are Skala led the defense effort with 14 digs.
Maisie Boesiger, a junior Nebraska commit, orchestrated a Norris offense that hit a respectable .266 against the SkyHawks with 44 assists. Junior Ella Waters had 17 kills on .308 hitting. Senior middle blocker Kalli Kroeker added 16 kills on .333 hitting, five digs and four blocks while junior outside hitter Sydney Jelinek chipped in 10 kills on .300 hitting.
The SkyHawks slipped up one time all season — against Lincoln Southwest in the Allison Weston Monarch Invitational semifinals — but finish 35-1 in a year marked with nothing but uncertainty.
“Something that we really emphasized this whole season was if the season got shut down tomorrow, how would you be remembered right now?” Krause said. “I think that was always a driving force for us is if we got shut down tomorrow, would you be where you want to be? If we got shut down tomorrow, did we win our last game? Just all that staff. It was kind of just always like nothing is certain at this time, so you have to be on your A game every time.”
The SkyHawks certainly were on their A game on Saturday, and now Krause will leave Skutt with four state titles in addition to her 1,479 kills, 602 digs, 140 blocks and 133 aces.
As for the other Husker commit in the match, Boesiger will get one more chance to compete for a state title alongside Waters and Jelinek in 2021.
“Mya Larson, Mya Larson, Mya Larson, Mya Larson, Mya Larson, Mya Larson, Mya Larson. End of story, that’s what it was,” St. Paul coach Matt Koehn-Fairbanks said after Saturday’s Class C1 final. “If you have eyes in your head, that’s what the difference was.”
The Warriors fed their stud outside hitter early, often and throughout the afternoon as she finished with a career-high 41 kills, leading Wahoo to five-set win over the Wildcats.
The Warriors took the match 22-25, 26-24, 20-25, 25-18, 15-12 to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Wahoo finishes 35-0 and took home the hardware for the third time in the last four years.
Wahoo made some uncharacteristic mistakes throughout the match but cleaned things up in time to close it out. They put down a class C1 record 75 kills, 23 more than the Wildcats did, and out-dug St. Paul 88 to 68.
“Today was hard,” Wahoo coach Trish Larson said. “We struggled passing and they passed really well and they were in system all the time. So we had to play really good defense and we had some really long rallies. It was hard. These girls Kelsie [Sears] and Mya, were able to finish some long plays and we have Elle Glock as our setter who just does an amazing job.”
Glock, a USC commit, dished out a career-high 62 assists while adding 17 digs and four kills in her final match as a Warrior.
The teams alternated wins in the first two sets, setting the stage for a winner-take-all game five. St. Paul jumped out to a 5-2 lead then stretched it to 11-7.
Then the game turned.
Senior outside hitter Kelsie Sears got the comeback started for Wahoo with a kill, then stepped back to the line and served Wahoo to a 7-0 run and match point at 14-11.
“She went out there strong,” Glock said about Sears. “She’s been serving hard all season, she’s really been aggressive and that’s paid off toward the end because she really got them out of system even though it obviously can be very nerve-wracking being out there. She went back there and was aggressive. I’m really proud of her.”
St. Paul saved one set point, but Larson closed it out on the next rally. Sears finished with 16 kills and 15 digs. Senior opposite hitter Lauren Kavan added 10 kids and 11 digs and junior libero Taylor Luben led he defensive effort with 21 digs.
“We never really had a handle on it because, oh, what was her name again?” Koehn-Fairbanks said. “Oh, Mya Larson. Mya Larson, Mya Larson, Mya Larson. I mean, come on, let’s be real: she is amazing. There’s no place to hide from her because she’s just as good in the back row, she’s just as good serving, she’s just as good hitting from the front row. The have other players that do a nice job, they’re a good team, they have a great coach, blah blah blah. It’s Mya Larson, Mya Larson, Mya Larson, and she is just amazing.”
Senior outside hitter Josie Jakubowski led the Wildcats with 20 kills, 15 digs, three blocks and two aces.
“To do well at state, you need some player to kind of be your go-to when times are tough, and she really stepped up to be our go-to,” Koehn-Fairbanks said. “She has as much experience as anybody as a four-year starter on our team. She wanted the ball here at the end and she took some good swings at the end I thought to try to keep us alive in that fifth set.”
Senior middle blocker Teegan Hansel and sophomore Jenna Jakubowski chipped in 10 kills apiece while junior setter Olivia Poppert finished with 43 assists, 11 digs and four kills. St. Paul finishes 34-1.
The two D2 finalists set a high bar for the rest of the day as the 9 a.m. match went the distance, but top-seeded Diller-Odell narrowly pulled out a win in game five to claim their second straight state championship.
The Griffins, who took home the Class D1 title in 2019, outlasted No. 2 Chambers/Wheeler Central 26-24, 25-20, 14-25, 22-25, 16-14.
Sophomore standout Karli Heidemann led Diller-Odell with 29 kills on .377 hitting, 20 digs, three blocks and an ace. The rest of the Griffins combined for 15 kills. Senior setter and Iowa Stet commit Addison Heidemann put up 35 assists, 13 digs, three blocks and two aces.
CWC recorded 17 more kills than Diller-Odell, but the Griffins doubled the Coyotes up in blocks, 12 to six. Senior outside hitter Tessa Metschke led the Coyotes with 17 kills on .371 hitting and 19 digs. Senior middle blocker Morgan Ramsey added 17 kills, 14 digs, six blocks and three aces.
Top-seeded Pleasanton put the finishing touches on a perfect season with a sweep over No. 3 Fremont Bergan in the second match of the day. The Bulldogs asserted control early en route to a 25-12, 25-17, 25-20 sweep.
Senior middle Katy Lindner led the Bulldogs with 21 kills on . 625 hitting, recording just one attack error in the match. Senior outside hitter Isabelle Paitz added 17 kills on .560 hitting while senior setter Natalie Siegel had a double-double with 44 assists and a team-high 11 digs.
Lauren Baker led Bergan with 13 kills on .312 hitting while Kaitlyn Mlnarik added 10 kills.
No. 3 Norfolk Catholic backed top-seeded Norfolk Lutheran into a corner, taking the first two sets, but the Eagles rallied to tie it up then dominated the fifth set to win their third state championship.
Lutheran won 19-25, 25-27, 25-19, 25-18, 15-4.
Senior outside hitter Becca Gebhardt led the Eagles with 31 kills, 24 digs and three aces. Running a 6-2, Lutheran got a combined 50 assists, 38 digs and 11 kills from senior setters Chloe Spence and Madeline Becker. Junior outside hitter Lauren Buhrman chipped in 12 kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Channatee Robles led the Knights with 19 kills and 27 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Addi Corr added 10 kills, 23 digs and three aces while senior middle Mary Fennessy chipped in 13 kills, eight digs and seven blocks.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.