Last season, Waverly swept Ashland-Greenwood in the district semifinal. A week later, the two teams faced off again in the first round of the state tournament and the Bluejays got their revenge in four sets, ending the Vikings’ season.
Bekka Allick could only sit and watch from the bench during both matches as a leg injury ended her junior season 18 matches in. The future Husker was in uniform on Tuesday night, however, and she led the Vikings to a 25-13, 25-13, 25-10 sweep over the Bluejays in Ashland-Greenwood’s season opener.
“Honestly, it was just a lot of fun,” Allick told Hail Varsity. “We were able to finally have our student section, so it was a little bit distracting at first, but once we got our groove and talked to each other we took care of business.”
Allick got off to a hot start, notching four kills early as Waverly raced out to a 6-2 lead in set one. The Bluejays pulled within one, but the Vikings outscored Ashland-Greenwood 18-7 the rest of the way as the Bluejays struggled to keep the ball in play.
The teams battled to a 5-5 tie early in set two, but the Bluejays had no answer for Allick as the Vikings ripped off a 5-0 run. Allick had five kills and a block during the 10-5 start and Waverly controlled the action the rest of the way.
The Vikings scored the first five points of the third set with thee aces and two kills and stretched the lead out tot 16-3 after back-to-back aces by Hannah Allick, Bekka’s twin sister and Waverly’s starting setter. With Waverly leading 20-5 late, Neujahr sent in sophomore setter Caylee Rowley to finish it off, and she set Kara Kassebaum for a kill on her first point.
Waverly coach Terri Neujahr said she was most proud of two aspects of her team’s performance.
“One of them was our mental approach to the game, that we were really on point the whole game, and I really was trying to stress that. Every single point we tried to refocus, refocus, refocus and just be in the moment and not hold onto anything that’s been in the past and not look ahead into the future, but in the moment. The other thing was man did we hit our spot on serve tonight. We served so well, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen us do that to a team. But boy did we hit our spots.”
Waverly kept Ashland-Greenwood off-balance all night and finished with 15 aces including five from sophomore defensive specialist Joslyn Rice and four apiece from Hannah Allick and senior libero Karsen VanScoy.
Bekka Allick led the way with 16 kills on .500 hitting, two blocks and two digs. The Allick family moved from Lincoln to Waverly after the twins’ sophomore year and Bekka only got to play in 18 matches with her new teammates before the injury ended her season. She’s fully healthy now and has taken a big step forward for the Vikings.
“Oh my goodness, it was unreal,” Allick said. “I remember coming in here and trying to think of all the different ways I can help the team, and the fact that I now get to play for them, playing my favorite sport and actually getting to play for the school, it almost feels unreal. I almost don’t want to talk about it too much because I feel like it’s taboo but, honestly, like it just feels great to be back.”
Allick played middle blocker last year as Waverly ran its offense through Nebraska freshman Whitney Lauenstein at the pin. She averaged 2.3 kills on .406 hitting, and 1.4 blocks per set with 21 digs in 52 sets. This season, Allick is playing all six rotations and hitting some from the left pin, and she averaged 5.3 kills per set on .244 hitting, 38 digs per set and 1.0 blocks per set.
“She’s playing some outside for us and she usually generally plays middle, so that is a big adjustment for her,” Neujahr said. “But we’ve worked with that all summer and she’s just really blossomed and she’s embraced it because she knows that it’s just another way that she can get on the court and another way she can contribute and just a little more experience. Her words were ‘Wow, I didn’t really realize how hard it is to pass and then go hit every ball; I’ve never had to do that before. That’s really challenging sometimes.’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ But she’s really grown as a leader as well and embraced that and is just being a really positive role model with positive words of encouragement.”
Allick said her new role will help her “tremendously” and will allow her to mature as a player physically and mentally. On the court, Allick is trying to provide leadership and energy for a team that lost a lot with last year’s senior class moving on.
“My biggest thing is just trying to think about giving, because obviously I’ve had a lot of blessed opportunities come my way with USA, and just with college in general,” Allick said. “So I think my biggest way is giving that to them, because it’s really easy for the attention to kind of gravitate to someone like myself. So I’m trying to think of how can I give them that mojo, how can I make them feel like that A dog on team.”
Allick will get a chance to compete with Team USA in the FIVB U18 World Championships in Durango, Mexico, Sept. 20-29. She’ll join three other Husker commits — juniors Harper Murray (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Caroline Jurevicius (Gates Mills, Ohio) and Bergen Reilly (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) — on the team.
“I am so pumped,” Allick said. “I love my country and I love volleyball and I get it all in one. We get to go compete in Mexico with some of my favorite people I’ve ever met. So the fact that we finally get to go play with each other, what, since 2019? I think we’re going to tear it up in Mexico so I’m excited.”
Allick will fly out on Sept. 15. In the meantime, she’ll continue to to compete for the Vikings who are sitting at 4-3 after going 3-3 in the Bellevue West Invitational last weekend. The three losses came against three of the best teams in Class A in Papillion-La Vista South (2-0), Millard West (2-1) and Omaha Westside (2-1).
“There’s a reason that I put us in that tournament last weekend at Bellevue West and this was exactly it,” Neujahr said. “There were two teams that we lost to in three sets — Millard West and Westside, which are two, what, top-five, six teams an Class A? And it’s two points, it’s two errors, two people change two things, one thing that they do and then we win. And we walked out of that tournament feeling really, really good because we know that we’re on the right track and we’re doing a lot of really good things right now.”
After a year of playing in masks in front of limited crowds, the Vikings are grateful to be back competing like normal.
“The whole team this year, the feel is just really embracing each other and being in the moment,” Neujahr said. “Boy, we laugh a lot this year and last year we were all behind masks and nobody knew anything, anybody’s emotions hardly. But, man, we’re having a lot of fun this year in practice and in matches.”
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.