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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

2024 Huskers Commit Olivia Mauch Leads Bennington to First-Round Win at State

November 02, 2022

The 2022 NSAA State Volleyball Championships began on Wednesday morning, and after one round of matches at Pinnacle Bank Arena, 2024 Nebraska commit Olivia Mauch is one step close to playing at her future home.

Mauch led the fourth-seeded Bennington Badgers to a 3-1 win against No. 5 Seward in the Class B quarterfinals Wednesday morning. The win improved Bennington to 28-7.

Bennington’s Olivia Mauch prepares to cover an attack against Seward during the first round of NSAA Championships Wednesday, November 2, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Bennington credited Mauch with 46 assists, breaking the school record of 38 (Note: I credited her with 28 digs myself based on the definition of a dig used at the next level; it appears Bennington grouped some combination of serve receptions, first touches on free balls or covering teammates hitting into the block with digs, which is when a players passes an opponent’s attack).

In addition to her defensive work, she served up four aces and delivered four assists. She was also perfect in serve receive, and after a busy first set it looked like Seward tried to keep the ball away from her as much as possible in sets two and three.

“Olivia is always great,” Bennington coach Lindsay Grant said. “She holds us together. She’s the anchor of both serve receive and defense, obviously, and they really rely on her vocally as a leader as well this year.”

Mauch set the one with an ace on her first serve of the match. The Badgers opened up a five-point lead midway through the set and maintained the advantage the rest of the way. On set-point, Mauch sent a back set cross court to Evie Howard at the left pin for the kill.

Bennington got off to a great start, scoring six of the first seven points including another Mauch ace, but Seward settled in and rallied to take the lead midway through the set. Bennington jumped ahead 21-17 with a 5-0 run served by freshman Even Olsen then earned set point at 24-20. Once again, Seward scrapped back into it, scoring five straight points to earn its own set point.

Bennington fended off that set point than earned another one of its own at 26-25. Seward tied it again, but Bennington closed it out from there to take a 2-0 match lead. Mauch served the final set point and Howard again delivered the winner from the left pin.

Mauch said the Badgers were a little nervous going in but found their confidence down the stretch to finish off the set.

“We were just tough, relentless, playing to win instead of scared to lose and just really pushing,” Grant said.

The teams went back and fourth in set three, but Seward eventually created some separation at 19-15. Bennington rallied to within one at 19-18 and 23-22, but the Bluejays scored the final two points to extend the match.

Heading into the fourth set, Grant said she told her team they needed to play at their pace and play up to their level, and the Badgers responded.

“I think we got tentative and we got almost too relaxed, so we kind of got into an odd flow,” Grant said. “Once we got back to our pace and our rhythm and our defensive crossing patterns and things of that sort where we’re communicating and just being excited for each other and playing for each other, that’s when we got to a better groove.”

Bennington raced out to a 7-1 lead in set four, and soon after Mauch showed off her considerable range with a diving pancake dig that her teammate transitioned into a kill. She had another pancake later in the set which the officials called down, but she was adamant that she kept the ball off the floor. After the first set, the Bennington student section rang out with chants of “She’s a 5-star!” PrpeVolleyball.com has the Nebraska pledge ranked 26th nationally overall and as at the second-ranked libero in 2024.

Bennington junior Olivia Mauch serves the ball against Seward during the first round of NSAA Championships Wednesday, November 2, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Seward cut Bennington’s lead down to two, but Bennington stretched it back out with a run that included back-to-back aces from Mauch, one up the right sideline and the other that dropped right in front of Seward’s libero.

“It felt really good,” Mauch said. “Serving is really important, the most important thing in the game. So I think I think it helped a lot.”

Benning stretched its lead out to seven at 18-11 before one final push from Seward to make it a three-point game at 22-19. Bennington won three of the last four rallies, however, to complete the sweep. Mauch served on set point again, inducting an overpass that teammate Lauren Buzbee slammed home for the match-point kill. Mauch said she was a little nervous at the service line, but the ball felt good as it left her hand.

With the win, Bennington punched its ticket to the semifinals where they will face top-seeded Elkhorn North. The Wolves swept No. 8 Grand Island Northwest 25-12, 25-21, 25-17 behind 14 kills from 6-foot-2 Purdue opposite hitter commit Grace Heaney.

“It feels amazing,” Mauch said. “I think it’s a good opportunity and we’re super excited.”

Bennington faced Elkhorn North twice during the regular season and fell 3-0 both times. However, they also ran into each other in the subdistrict final where the Badgers managed to take a set off the Wolves before falling in four.

“We need to be more consistent throughout the whole match,” Grant said. “That was a brutal, brutal turnaround in that subdistrict, going four with Elkhorn and flipping and playing four with Elkhorn North. So I think coming in well-conditioned and ready to play defense — we’ve got to defend Grace Heaney.”

The Badgers and Wolves will face each other in the semifinals Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena at 5 p.m. CT. Winner advances to the state championship match at the Devaney Center on Saturday, again at 5 p.m.

Regardless of the result, Mauch said she’s “super excited” to be a Husker.

Other notes:

>> Omaha Skutt’s quest for an eighth straight state title under former Husker Renee Saunders continues after the second-seeded SkyHawks beat No. 7 Waverly 3-1.

Waverly rallied late to steal the first set 26-24, but Skutt dominated the rest of the match 25-14, 25-11, 25-11. The SkyHawks feature a trio of Division I commits in seniors Morgan Burke (Michigan) and Ivy Leuck (Omaha) and junior Paisley Douglas (USC).

Skutt will face No. 3 Norris in the semifinals in a rematch of last year’s title match. Nebraska freshman Maisie Boesiger’s mom, Christina, is the head coach for the Titans who have now made it to the semis four straight times. Maisie Boesiger was the team’s setter for the first three.

>> Nebraska legend Jordan Larson was on the bench with Class B No. 1 seed Elkhorn North for the Wolves sweep of No. 8 Grand Island Northwest. Larson has spent much of her time back in Nebraska speaking to various high school teams and groups and serving as a volunteer assistant coach for Midland University in Fremont. She’s set to head overseas to resume her professional playing career in the near future.

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