The last time Lindsay Krause played in the Bellevue West Invitational, she was a freshman and the SkyHawks finished in fourth place. The last two years, Krause has been out of the country competing with the Unites States Junior National Team, and without her the SkyHawks finished as the runner-up in 2019.
On Friday and Saturday, with no Team USA responsibilities, the future Husker was out there with her teammates and Skutt swept its way through the tournament, winning all six matches in straight sets.
“I was so happy,” Krause said. “I was actually joking with my juniors on our team, Abby [Schomers] and Ava [Heyne], I go “Guys, this is our first Bell West together.’ I was just so excited because I love this tournament, it’s such a great tournament.”
As usual, the tournament field was loaded with quality teams from multiple classes as well as multiple states. The SkyHawks swept Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, Millard South and Bellevue West on Friday to win its pool. It knocked off Omaha Duchesne in the quarterfinals, Omaha Marian in the semifinals and Papillion-La Vista South in the championship on Saturday.
“It’s such a good tournament, such a good tournament,” Omaha Skutt coach Renee Saunders said. “Duchesne was great. Bellevue West was great, Papio’s great. There are just a lot of really good teams — Papio South … Just look at all these different teams. Everybody looks good this early on. It kind of goes back a little bit to they actually had a little bit of time to rest. I think when everything shut down they got to rest their bodies a little bit. We’re rusty on certain things, but they didn't get tired, and I think that’s important.”
The final pitted the reigning champions from Class A and Class B against each other, and the SkyHawks showed why USA Today named them the No. 1 team in the country.
The teams went back and forth early on as Papio South answered a Skutt run with three straight points to tie it up at 15-all. The SkyHawks took control from there with a 5-1 stretch and crushed from there to a 25-19 victory. Krause notched eight kills in the first set.
Skutt blew the game open midway through the second set as well, stretching an 8-7 lead into a 14-8 advantage. After trading blows, Papillion-La Vista South made a run to cut the lead in half at 18-15. The SkyHawks had too much firepower, however, and kept the Titans at bay as they secured a 25-17 win to complete the sweep.
Krause unofficially finished with a match-high 12 kills on .476 hitting and chipped in a block and an ace.
“We were really prepared for it, I feel like,” Krause said. “We came into the season really thankful we were having a season, but we knew if we were going to have a season we were going to play SkyHawk volleyball. So we prepared really well and I think that’s a credit to our coaches and just coming in to every practice and working our hardest.”
Skutt made short work of Marian in the semifinals, sweeping the Crusaders 25-18, 25-14. The SkyHawks flexed their muscles early with a 7-0 run to take a 10-3 lead in the first set and never looked back from there. Krause led Skutt with 10 kills on .348 hitting.
The SkyHawks faced their toughest test of the young season on Saturday morning in a rematch of the 2019 Class B state championship match. Omaha Duchesne jumped out to an 18-10 lead thanks to a sloppy start by Skutt. The SkyHawks dug in from there and battled back, however, tying it up at 24-all before pulling out a 30-28 win. Saunders said she didn’t know how they managed to come back.
“We were down 21-14 and I was like we’re just playing for momentum for the second,” Saunders said. “That’s what we were doing, and Lindsay was like ‘I didn’t think we were going to lose.’ I did. I was unsure; my heart was racing, I was nervous as all get-out. I’ve learned to just trust them. When they were younger, you have to get up and work them a little bit more and help them. But at the age they are now and with the experience they have, those seniors just get it. They know what it takes to come from behindhand they got it done.”
Krause’s confidence is well-founded. The SkyHawks didn’t lose a match against teams from Nebraska with her in the lineup last season and and they were riding a 14-match winning streak (dating back to last season) heading into Saturday morning.
“Sometimes when teams get down, they start to play as individuals a lot and I think we’re kind of a good team that recognizes that early and we try to just knock that down early,” Krause said. “I knew once we got together and started playing together we were going to come back. I had confidence in my team.”
Skutt used a 6-0 run with Krause at the service line to take an 11-6 lead in the second set and cruised to a 25-19 victory from there. Krause recorded 10 of her 15 kills in the first set and hit .478 for the match with three blocks and two aces.
The host Thunderbirds took down Omaha Marian in three sets to claim third place while Papillion-La Vista, who lost to Bellevue West in the quarterfinals, went on to win the consolation side of the bracket by beating North Platte in two sets.
“It’s a great indicator of where your team’s at this early in the season,” Saunders said about the tournament. “I don’t think we can say that we’re anywhere close to being in end-of-season or mid-season form, but I think the girls definitely — you could tell we were a more experienced team out there as a whole through the whole tournament. We just have a great group of kids back. They’ve all been there and done that; I think they’re tired of getting second. This is the second time Lindsay’s even been here for this tournament so having everybody here was nice and fun and hopefully we just keep getting better; that’s the goal.”
The 6-0 SkyHawks will return to action on Tuesday night with their home opener against Sioux City Heelan.
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.