After nine long weeks of competition, state tournament week has arrived for high school volleyball in Nebraska. Each of the six classes have been whittled down to a final eight teams, and starting on Wednesday each of them will get a chance to compete for a state title at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Among the players fans will see at the Vault are all five in-state Husker commits, though one of them won’t be suiting up because of a season-ending injury. The field is stacked with next-level talent beyond those five Husker commits as well, setting the stage for four days of great volleyball.
COVID-19 concerns have led to a change in format this year — all matches will be played at Pinnacle Bank Arena and the schedule has been expanded from three days to four with the first round taking two days. Each school was given an allotment of tickets to distribute or sell to their own fans, and a limited number of tickets for Wednesday’s three sessions will go on sale to the public on Wednesday night at 7:30. All ticketing will be digital.
The NFHS Network will stream the first three days of the tournament while NET will televise Saturday’s finals. You can find the brackets for the full tournament here.
Here’s what to watch for.
The only Husker commit in the state’s biggest class — Elkhorn South senior middle blocker Rylee Gray — led her team to a 27-1 record and the No. 1 seed. The 6-foot-4 middle blocker is averaging 4.7 kills per set on .451 hitting and 1.2 blocks per set this season, and Coach Chelsea Potter has been using her some at right side hitter recently as well.
Elkhorn South is loaded with talent beyond Gray as well. Junior Madi Woodin, a South Dakota commit, is a prolific setter averaging 12.9 assists per set this season. Junior libero Estella Zatechka, the daughter of former Nebraska football player Jon Zatechka and a Missouri commit, is leading the Storm defense with 6.9 digs per set. Junior outside hitter Kylie Weeks is the team’s top attacker at 5.0 kills per set and gives the Storm a dynamic attacker both at the net and in the back row. Weeks is committed to Arkansas.
The Storm will take on eight-seeded North Platte, who claimed the wildcard spot with a 21-11 record. Sophomore Carly Purdy leads the Bulldog attack with 4.0 kills per set.
The other half of the top side of the bracket features a rubber match for a pair of teams that split their regular season meetings in fourth-seeded Papillion-La Vista (21-9) and No. 5 Lincoln Southwest (21-9). The Monarchs won the first meeting in the title match of the Allison Weston Monarch Invitational in late September and the Silver Hawks evened the score a few weeks later.
Creighton commit Norah Sis is one of the best outside hitters not only in the state, but in the country. She’s averaging 5.4 kills per set on .325 hitting and 4.0 digs per set, both team-highs. Louisiana Monroe commit Logan Jeffus, a senior middle blocker, is a terrific complement to Sis, averaging 3.1 kills per set on .374 hitting and 0.7 blocks per set. Freshman setter Reagan Hickey has continued to improve throughout the season and is averaging 11.0 assists per set.
On the other side, junior outside hitter and Fresno State commit Shaylee Myers leads the way for the only team to beat perennial power Omaha Skutt this season. Myers is averaging 4.2 kills per set on .302 hitting and she led Class A in service aces with 57.
Second-seeded Papillion-La Vista South (27-5) has a terrific mix of veteran experience and talented youth. Kansas State commit Ava LeGrand, a junior setter, runs the show and is one of the more aggressive setters you’ll find in terms of both setting up her teammates (9.2 assists per set) and attacking herself (1.3 kills per set), and she’s good defensively as well (3.7 digs and 0.9 blocks per set). Sophomore Stella Aeyemi and freshman Lauren Medeck lead the offense with 3.1 kills per set apiece.
The Titans will take on another young team in Bellevue West, the No. 7 seed who went 19-12 this year. The Thunderbirds don’t have a single senior on the roster and feature one of the most talented sophomore in the state in outside hitter Destiny Ndam-Simpson (4.2 kills per set) as well as a versatile junior middle blocker/outside hitter in Kealy Kiviniemi (3.3 kills per set, 38 aces).
The final match-up features another Nebraska commit, though she’ll play a different sport in Lincoln. Senior middle blocker/outside hitter Alexis Markowski — the daughter of former Nebraska basketball player Andy Markowski and a 2021 commit for Amy Williams — leads No. 3 seed Lincoln Pius X (23-4). Markowski is averaging 3.8 kills per set on .331 hitting while senior outside hitter Kylen Sealock, a South Dakota commit, is chipping in 3.6 kills per set on .374 hitting.
The Bolts will take on No. 6 Millard West (22-8). The Wildcats feature the top two blockers in Class A in juniors Sadie Millard (2.0 blocks and 2.2 kills per set) and Kylah Brewer (1.4 blocks per set) while junior outside hitter Maddie MacTaggart leads the offense with 3.6 kills per set.
Class B has plenty of Husker flavor with three of the four first-round match-ups featuring a Nebraska commit.
Top-seeded Omaha Skutt (32-1) will begin its march to a sixth straight state title with a match against No. 8 Grand Island Northwest. Lindsay Krause, the best outside hitter in the country and a future Husker, has had a monster year (5.2 kills per set on .474 hitting, 2.9 digs per set and a state-leading 85 aces), but the SkyHawks have plenty of talent around her.
Allie Gray is one of the best setters in the state and will play her college ball at Arizona State. She’s averaging 12.2 assists per set and outside of Krause, Gray spreads the ball around pretty evenly with four hitters averaging between 1.4 and 2.1 kills per set with three of the four hitting better than .300.
At 16-15, Northwest upset Seward in the district final to qualify for state. Junior Sophia McKinney leads the Vikings defensively with 5.7 digs per set, third in Class B.
The next match-up is a replay from the B-3 subdistrict final where No. 4 Waverly (22-6) swept No. 5 Ashland-Greenwood (23-6). Senior outside hitter and Nebraska commit Whitney Lauenstein has had to step her game up even more after fellow Nebraska commit and junior middle blocker Bekka Allick went down with a broken leg. Lauenstein is averaging 5.5 kills per set on .336 hitting and 3.7 digs per set. Allick was averaging 2.3 kills on .406 hitting and 1.4 blocks per set.
Ashland-Greenwood is a pretty well-balanced team with three primary attackers and two rotating setters. Senior Saige Craven, a Midland University commit, belongs to both of those groups as she is averaging 2.3 kills and 4.9 assists per set filling a dual role.
Led by junior Nebraska commit Maisie Boesiger, Norris secured the No. 2 seed with a 27-4 record. Boesiger will play defensive specialist at Nebraska, but for Norris she’s a terrific setter, averaging 10.5 assists and 2.8 digs per set with 60 kills on .392 hitting and 65 assists.
Boesiger has two pins and a middle hitting better than .300 this season. Junior outside hitter Ella Waters is her favorite target as she’s averaging 4.2 kills per set on .370 hitting while senior middle blocker Kalli Kroeker is chipping in 2.7 kills per set on .366 hitting.
The Titans will take on seventh-seeded Aurora (22-12), who is second among Class B tournament teams with 2.5 blocks per set. The Huskies have two players averaging 1.0 block per set in senior Jaylee Schuster and sophomore Lexi Jones.
The final matchup pits No. 3 Elkhorn (22-9) against No. 6 York (27-8). Senior Abbie Nadgwick leads the Elkhorn attack with 11.0 assists per set while feeding top attackers Abby Wolfe (3.6 kills per set) and Addie Thomas (3.1 kills per set).
On the other side of the net, junior outside hitter Masa Scheierman — the younger sister of former Aurora multi-sport star and current South Dakota State basketball player Baylor Scheierman — will lead the Dukes after averaging 5.2 kills per set on .290 hitting and 3.1 digs per set.
Two undefeated teams headline the C1 field as both No. 1 Wahoo and No. 2 St. Paul competed the regular season at 32-0.
Wahoo features one of the best setter-hitter duos in the state in senior Elle Glock and junior Mya Larson. Glock, the daughter of former Nebraska basketball player Jason Glock, is averaging 11.1 assists per set this season and will continue her career at USC next year. Larson is uncommitted but is averaging 5.7 kills per set on .418 hitting.
Senior outside Josie Jakubowski led the wildcats with 320 kills.
Norfolk Lutheran is the top seed in C2 with a 33-1 record. The Eagles’ only loss was to Columbus Lakeview, the No. 5 seed in Class C1. Senior outside hitter Becca Gebhardt led Norfolk Lutheran with 403 kills and was second with 540 digs.
The No. 6 seed, Superior, features the most prolific hitter in the class in junior Shayla Meyers, the younger sister of Nebraska freshman Kalynn Meyer. The younger Meyer is averaging 6.5 kills per set on .342 hitting.
The top seed in D1 is Pleasanton, the only undefeated team in the class at 30-0. Senior middle blocker Katy Lindner is a force at the net, averaging 4.7 kills per set on .450 hitting and 0.8 blocks per set.
The Bulldogs will take on No. 8 Johnson-Brock (20-11) in the first round. Junior outside hitter Jadyn Hahn, the younger sister of Nebraska freshman wide receiver Ty Hahn, leads the Eagles and is among the top-10 in the class at 3.9 kills per set on .268 hitting.
The top three seeds in D2 have a combined two losses.
Top-seeded Diller-Odell (30-1) features arguably the best one-two punch in the class in the Heidemann sisters. Senior setter Addison Heidemann, an Iowa State commit, is averaging 9.3 assists and 1.0 ace per set while sophomore outside hitter Karli Heidemann is second in the class at 5.3 kills per set on .415 hitting, and she’s also leading the Griffins with 3.1 digs per set.
Chambers/Wheeler Central earned the No. 2 seed with a 31-1 record behind senior Morgan Ramsey’s 439 kills.
No. 3 Maywood/Hayes Center is the only undefeated team in the class at 28-0 and features one of the top attackers in senior Jaycee Widener (5.7 kills per set on .398 hitting).
Nebraska basketball commit Allison Weidner, a 5-foot-10 senior opposite hitter, led Humphrey St. Francis to a 26-2 season and the No. 5 seed while averaging 3.3 kills and 3.9 digs per set.
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.