The 2021 class of volleyball players was truly special in Nebraska, but there is still plenty of talent left in the state.
A couple of future Huskers lead the way for state title contenders in Class B, but competition should be fierce throughout the other classes as well, starting with Class A.
Star middle blocker Rylee Gray is now sporting the scarlet and cream down in Lincoln, but Elkhorn South returns everyone else from last year’s Class A champion (current Omaha Maverick Brilee Wieseler was the only other senior, but a torn ACL ended her season seven matches in).
Arkansas commit Kylie Weeks, a 5-foot-7 senior outside hitter, is back to lead the Storm’s attack after averaging 5.1 kills per set on .279 hitting and 3.7 digs per set. Madi Woodin, a South Dakota commit, is one of the most prolific meters in the state as she has 3,378 career assists heading into her senior season. She averaged 13.1 assists and 3.0 digs per set as a junior. Elkhorn South also returns one of the top liberos in the state in Missouri commit Estella Zatechka, the caught of former Nebraska football player Jon Zatechka, who averaged 7.3 digs per set last season.
“We’re lucky this year,” Elkhorn South coach Chelsea Potter said at the NebPreps Fall Media Days. “I have six seniors and they’ve all been really good impact players, really influential throughout their four years. I’m really excited to see what these girls can do as they’ve had Rylee and Brilee and our former players as mentors over the past years. Now it’s their turn to take the rest of the group under their wing and let them shine. I’m excited.”
Elkhorn South will face significant competition for the Class A title this season, and Papillion-La Vista South looks to be the primary challenger. The Titans return a lot of firepower led by a standout setter and their top three kills leaders.
“Even though we did lose some seniors we have some underclassmen that are willing to step up and take those roles, so we’re excited about their opportunities and we really brought them in and showed them what it’s like,” senior setter Ava LeGrand said. “We’re excited to be able to compete.”
LeGrand, a Kansas State commit, is a versatile setter who averaged 9.5 assists, 3.8 digs and 1.3 kills per set last season. Outside hitter Lauren medic was one of the top freshmen in the state last season and led the team with 3.2 kills per set. Stella Adeyemi, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter, was right behind Medeck at 3.1 kills per set and is poised for a big junior year.
Harlei Cole, a senior defensive specialist committed to Iowa, will step into a larger role this season with the graduation of the team’s digs leader, Delanie Vallinch. The Titans also benefitted from a couple of transfers as Kenzie, a junior, and Kyla Dyrstad, a sophomore, transferred over from Bellevue West.
“We know that everyone is going to give us their best effort so I think us giving it back to them is what’s fun and it’s competition that we like to have,” Cole said.
Millard West is one of those teams that will likely be gunning for Papillion-La Vista South after seeing its season come to an and against the Titans in the state semifinals. The Wildcats went 23-9 last season and return three of their top four attackers. Maddie MacTaggart led the team with 3.6 kills per set on .261 hitting as a junior. Ella Hazen chipped in 2.2 kills per set and a team-best 3.6 digs per set. Sadie Millard was a Terrific defensive presence at the net for the Wildcats despite playing as an undersized middle at 5-foot-9, averaging 2.1 bocks per set, 2.2 kills per set on .280 hitting and 2.7 digs per set.
Skylar Walters gained valuable experience at setter as a sophomore this season, playing in 32 sets and averaging 7.2 assists, and is poised to step in full-time for the departed Bridget Smith. Millard West also added a key transfer in middle blocker Alanna Bankston who averaged 2.7 kills per set on .298 hitting and 0.9 bocks per set as a sophomore at Millard North last season. She recently committed to Dani Busboom Kelly at Louisville.
Omaha Westside made a big transfer addition as well as outside hitter Destiny Ndam-Simpson transferred in from Bellevue West to join a Warriors team that went 15-17 last season. Ndam-Simpson led the Thunderbirds with 4.2 kills and 2.9 digs per set as a junior and recently committed to Hawaii.
Ndam-Simpson will join with Montana State commit Madilyn Siebler (3.9 kills and 4.3 digs per set) and junior Samantha Laird (3.8 kills and 3.0 digs per set) to form a potent trio of pin-hitters for the Warriors. Libero Jocelyn Healy also returns after averaging 5.7 digs per set as a sophomore.
Lincoln Southwest, another state tournament qualifier from a year ago and the only team to beat Omaha Skutt last season, should be in the mix as well as the Silver Hawks return Fresno State commit Shaylee Myers (4.2 kills per set on .292 hitting and 2.8 digs per set) at outside hitter. Southwest used two setters a year ago and one of them returns, senior Karly Symonsbergen (5.3 assist, 2.1 digs and 1.2 kills per set last year).
Gretna libero and Creighton commit Skyler McCune and Papillion-La Vista sophomore setter Reagan Hickey are among many other players to watch in Class A as well.
As far as the smaller classes, junior outside hitter Karli Heidemann will take on an even bigger role for Diller-Odell with her sister Addison off to Iowa State. Superior outside hitter Shayla Meyer, the younger sister of Nebraska sophomore middle blocker Kalynn Meyer, is a senior committed to Kayla Banwarth at Ole Miss. Senior setter Ellie Baumert (a Texas Tech commit) and junior outside hitter Grace Baumert form a tough duo for Howells-Dodge. The list goes on and on.
All the action begins on Thursday night, and Hail varsity will look to bring you coverage throughout the high school volleyball season.
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.