The Omaha Skutt SkyHawks won their fifth straight Class B state championship on Saturday evening, sweeping Omaha Duchesne 25-14, 25-12, 25-16 at the Devaney Center.
For 2021 Nebraska commit Lindsay Krause, it was title number three while playing in her future home.
“It’s a lot of fun playing here,” Krause said after the match. “I was just thinking that, honestly, during the game. I think it was kind of towards the end of that third set and I looked up and I looked in the crowd and I was like ‘This is going to be full.’ It was super fun, I love playing here.”
Krause, an outside hitter, finished with 15 kills on .542 hitting, a match-high 14 digs, two blocks and two aces against the Cardinals. Creighton commit Megan Skovsende had a match-high 16 kills on .444 hitting.
The Devaney Center had Nebraska’s black alternate court down for the tournament. Consider Krause a big fan.
“I love it,” Krause said. “We thought we looked pretty cool with our black jerseys.”
The sixth-seeded Cardinals upset No. 5 Sidney and No. 2 Waverly on their way to the title match, but they were no match for the SkyHawks. Skutt allowed just 13 points in a sweep of No. 8 Hastings in the first round then took down No. 5 Norris in three sets in the semis. They hit .447 as a team on Saturday.
“They were really focused in serve and pass today,” Skutt coach Renee Saunders said. “They were a little nervous I think yesterday for that match, and so to get past that they needed to think they could just let loose and have a little bit of fun. But that’s 100% because they trust each other and then we have a really good setter that gets the ball to the right people and creates one-on-ones.”
The SkyHawks finished the season with a 30-4 record. Three of those losses came during the team’s first 13 matches while Krause was competing with the United States Junior National Team in the U-18 World Championships.
Krause was one of 12 players selected for the team. The Americans dropped just one match during pool play then avenged that loss to take home the gold medal.
“It was so much fun,” Krause said. “It’s so crazy to see what the game is like overseas and how different it’s played. Basically every country plays it differently. So it was super cool and it was good to get that experience.”
What made the experience even better is she got to share it with a pair of future teammates as fellow 2021 Nebraska commits Kennedi Orr, a setter from Eagen, Minnesota, and Lexi Rodriguez, a defensive specialist from Sterling, Illinois, were both on the team as well. In fact, Orr was named captain of the team and voted best setter of the tournament.
“It was so much fun,” Krause said. “We loved every second of it. We were just like ‘Oh my gosh, this is a preview for the future. We’re going to have so much fun.’”
After the tournament, Krause returned to Omaha and after a week to recover and catch up with school work, she was back in the lineup for the SkyHawks and they only dropped one match all season with her playing. The SkyHawks also competed in the ASICS Challenge in Chicago in early October, going 4-1, but that event does not count toward's Skutt’s overall record.
“They 100% played so hard together,” Saunders said about the team during Krause’s absence. “Everybody brought everybody up and it was almost like her absence helped us get stronger as a unit, and then when she came back it just made us stronger than what we already were … We had a lot of kids that really stepped up and made us do what we did. So when she came back, she just added an extra dimension to our team that was already really good.”
Krause averaged 5.6 kills per set on .437 hitting heading into state, and she stepped it up even more in big matches. She had 13 kills in the first round of the state tournament and followed that up with 26 in the semifinals. The championship match was the first time all season she didn’t lead the SkyHawks in kills. Skutt did not drop a single set against a team from Nebraska with Krause in the lineup (the only loss came to a St. Thomas Aquinas team who will compete for the Class 6A title next weekend down in Kansas). She hit below .333 just three times all season and never hit below .294.
Saunders is no stranger to winning titles. In addition to everything she's accomplished at Skutt, she also won a national championship as a player with the Huskers in 1995. Krause said she’s enjoyed playing for a former Husker.
“Oh my gosh, it’s so much fun,” Krause told Hail Varsity. “Even before I started school there, I committed, and Saunders had really no idea who I was. So it was kind of just like, ‘Oh, she’s good enough? She can do that?’ It’s just super fun and she knows what it’s like so I can ask her questions all the time.”
Like the Rolfzen twins before her, the Huskers offered Krause before she even set foot in a high school classroom. She didn’t have to think too hard about it. The coaches offered her at the start of Nebraska’s camp, and she pulled the trigger the day after the camp ended. What’s her favorite thing about the program?
“Just the winning culture and the culture of the love for the game,” Krause said. “Everyone that comes here loves it and they want to win for their teammates. I just love that so much.”
Between school, Team USA and Skutt’s season, Krause didn’t get many opportunities to make it down to Lincoln to see the Huskers play. However, she did make it to two of the biggest matches of the season, Stanford and Penn State. Krause said her relationship with Nebraska’s coaching staff is strong.
“I love them so much," Krause said. “They’re all so easy to talk to and I love them so much. We text all the time, so it’s super cool.”
However, Krause still has one more high school season left and she will look to continue Skutt’s streak as a senior.
“I think at there’s probably a little more pressure; obviously it’s going to be there,” Krause said. “But it fuels the fire to want to do it even more. You want to do it and you want to keep that streak going and you want to do it for the people that did it before you and keep on being able to do it. Next year we definitely lose some key parts of our team but I think we’re going to have a good chance next year too.”
At 6-foot-3, Krause is naturally gifted, but she credits her teammates at Skutt for driving her to become the player she is today.
“There’s a sense of an internal competitiveness,” Krause said. “It’s like ‘Oh, they’re going hard, I want to be better than them,’ and it just pushes each other and makes us so much better.”
Saunders said that competitiveness is what makes Krause so special.
“She’s so competitive,” Saunders said. “The biggest games, she becomes the best player. But then she’s still like a total kid, she’s fun to coach. She raises the level of play depending on the odds against her. So in the state championship, state semi, she just ups her level again.”
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.