Four of the best high school volleyball teams in Nebraska got together on Saturday morning to test themselves against each other and compete for the LPS Classic title—er, at least one of them anyway.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s Classic was limited to four separate pools played at different locations on different days. Pool A took place at Lincoln Southeast on Saturday and it featured three of the top teams in Class A—Elkhorn South, Papillion-La Vista and Bellevue West—and one of the top teams in Class B in Norris, fresh off a five-set win over Waverly on Tuesday.
After all four teams had faced each other, Elkhorn South was crowned pool champion after finishing 3-0. Papillion-La Vista finished second at 2-1, Norris was third at 1-2 and Bellevue West went 0-3.
“We love to come to this tournament and get lots of tough competition,” Elkhorn South coach Chelsea Potter said. “They did a great job of adjusting with the protocols and with the challenges they were faced with, they did a great job of setting up the tournament.”
It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for the Storm, however. Elkhorn South entered Saturday’s event with a perfect 14-0 record including 14 sweeps. One of those sweeps came at home against the Monarchs on Sept. 10.
Papio got another shot at the Storm to open play on Saturday and the Monarchs delivered the first blow, taking the first set 25-19 behind eight big kills from senior outside hitter Morgan Hickey. For the first time all year, Elkhorn South faced a deficit.
Papillion-La Vista wasn’t satisfied with simply taking one set, however, The Monarchs continued to roll in the second set as Creighton commit Norah Sis took over. Sis’ ninth kill of the second set put her team up 26-25 in the best-of-three match. On the next point, it looked as if an Elkhorn South attack went long to finish the match, but an official called a block touch and awarded the point to the Storm, tying the set up at 26-all. Elkhorn South took the last two points for a 28-26 win, sending the match to a third set.
Papillion-La Vista took a lead late in set three as well at 23-21, but Nebraska commit Rylee Gray took over with a kill and a block to tie the match up. A Monarch attack error gave the Storm set point before a kill by Hickey tied it up again. However, a service error and an attack error by the Monarchs officially ended their upset bid as the Storm survived 26-24.
“The goal of the season is not to go undefeated; the goal is to play as long as we can, be grateful for the fact that we get to play when we get to play and to win at the right times,” Potter said. “I’m OK with dropping a set; like I said, it wasn’t the goal to go undefeated and I’m very happy with how we responded when those situations happened.”
Elkhorn South faced Bellevue West in its second game and made short work of the Thunderbirds, sweeping them 25-18, 25-14.
Elkhorn South closed out the day against Norris, and that match went the distance as well.
Led by 2022 Nebraska commit Maisie Boesiger, the Titans—following a three-set loss to the Monarchs—got off to a strong start against the Storm. Norris built up a 19-14 lead before Elkhorn South rallied to tie the match at 24-all. Four more ties followed before the Titans finally finished it off.
Norris seemingly didn’t have much in the tank left after pulling off that first-set win, however, as the Storm won the second set handily, 25-13.
Elkhorn South opened up a big lead in the third set as well at 17-10. Norris made a late run, cutting it to 19-16, but Elkhorn South finished off the Titans for a 25-21 win to finish 3-0 on the day.
“I was just telling my girls how proud of them I am for responding to our first-set loss against Papio and against Norris here,” Potter said. “Some tough competition, and how they were able to focus on our side, focus on our pace of the game, kind of check back into our characteristics of celebrating each other and helping each other out on the court. I’m proud of how they responded to making in-game adjustments, receiving feedback well and responding to some adversity. It was a good day for us with good competition and I’m proud of how we responded.”
Gray, the Storm’s 6-foot-4 senior middle blocker, had a strong day, averaging 4.0 kills per set on .400 hitting and 1.1 blocks per set. Against the Thunderbirds in game two, she terminated on almost every swing she took, recording 10 kills on 13 attempts without an error.
“She is pretty tough to slow down and I think our other hitters do a good job of opening things up for her and then she does a good job of opening things up for other hitters,” Potter said. “Madi Woodin, our setter, is very smart about choosing who to set and when to set them, especially knowing who we’re playing against and what our opponent’s strengths and weaknesses are.”
As effective as Gray was, the focal point of the Elkhorn South offense was junior outside hitter Kylie Weeks. She averaged 6.5 kills per set and 3.75 digs per set while taking 160 swings in the three matches.
“Kylie is a super well-rounded player and she’s very level energy, but it’s always really high energy,” Potter said. “So she is a great example of a lot of the girls on our team and what we want our program to be like. She’ll celebrate a big kill from her by pointing at Madi who set her that great kill, so I love that characteristic of our team of celebrating each other.”
Junior libero Estella Zatechka, a Missouri commit, totaled 53 digs (6.6 per set) in the tournament while junior setter Madi Woodin, a South Dakota commit, recorded a season-high 42 assists in the first match and averaged 13.3 assists per set overall.
Next up for the Storm is a rematch with Bellevue West at home on Monday.
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.