The Norris Titans rolled into Tuesday night with a 26-2 record, fresh off an EMC Tournament title. Their first loss came to the No. 1 team in the state in Class A’s Papillion-La Vista South.
Their second loss was to Elkhorn North at the Lincoln Pius X tournament on Oct. 25, 2-1. The Titans got a chance to avenge that loss on Tuesday night at Elkhorn North and that’s exactly what they did, taking down the Wolves 25-22, 16-25, 25-22, 25-14.
The win also clinched the EMC regular season title for the Titans.
“That was one, looking back at the Pius Tournament, we didn’t feel like we played great and they played really well,” Norris coach Christina Boesiger said. “They have a really good team. I thought they played great tonight, so we knew it would be a battle but definitely one that we wanted back. It was playing for the season championship tonight for EMC conference, so you know the girls, that was kind of one of their big season goals as well.”
Senior Ella Waters, a Washburn commit who recently broke Norris’ career kills record, had a monster match with a career-high 30 kills on .361 hitting. The rest of the Titans hit just .047.
“It was big,” Boesiger said about Waters’ performance. “They put up a big block when [Grace] Heaney is up there in the front row and just knowing that she, a lot of times, had four hands in her face. I think for our DSes to keep battling to get us an opportunity to get us in system and I thought our outside really worked through it as the night went on and they finished playing strong.”
Senior setter Maisie Boesiger, a Nebraska commit, finished with 37 assists, nine digs, two blocks and two kills. Boesiger recently broke the school’s career assists record and is now over 3,100. She also recently broke the Titans’ career aces record with over 200 and counting.
Elkhorn North junior Grace Heaney, a Purdue commit, led the Wolves with 13 kills, but the Titans held her to .105 hitting. Freshman Shay Heaney added 11 kills and junior Hannah Nadgwick chipped in 10. The Waves out-blocked the Titans 9-8 behind seven blocks (one solo) from Ava Spies. Spies also served a match-high six aces while Norris sophomore Alivia Hausmann nearly matched her with 10.
“I thought our blocking game improved,” Elkhorn North coach Jenny Gragert said. “Obviously Ella Waters is one of the best hitters in the state, so you’ve got to respect that, but I thought we got some good blocks against her and some touches.”
Freshman libero Anna Jelinek led a rangy back row for Norris with 23 digs. Sophomore Sydney Guthard added 17 and Hausmann chipped in 11 as the Titans racked up 86 digs.
“They got better as the night went on,” Christina Boesiger said. “I think we started well and then I think we sat back, but then, man, our players were flying everywhere and that’s, I think, what we’re capable of. Our back row, their goal is to be the scrappiest team in the state and we challenged them a little bit because at first we didn’t feel that they were and then they picked up at the end. That really, I feel like, kind of swung it and made a difference. On both sides they were really scrappy. It was great volleyball.”
Elkhorn North was strong defensively as well with 79 digs led by Sophomore Haylee Wolf with 18. Grace Heaney added 113 digs, Shay Heaney had 12 and Morgan Going added 11. Sophomore setter Reese Booth, the daughter of Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth, chipped in 12 digs to go with her 36 assists and four blocks.
After trading shots early, Norris took control of the first set with a 5-0 run served by Hausmann that put the Titans up 10-5, and they continued to roll from there. Norris pushed its lead to eight on set point at 22-16, but Elkhorn North showed some fight late. The Wolves ripped off six straight points including four blocks before Shay Heaney missed long on an attack to seal it.
Elkhorn North rode that late-game momentum into the second set, using a 9-0 run featuring Spies at the service line to turn a 3-3 tie into a 12-3 advantage. Elkhorn North pushed the lead all the way to 11 at 23-12 before the Titans scored four in a row. It was far too little, way too late, though, as Elkhorn North finished it off a few rallies later to even the match at one set apiece.
“Volleyball is such a crazy sport, right?” Gragert said. “It’s all about momentum, and we talked about that before the game, having stamina to withstand some of those momentum shifts. We even knew when we had the momentum that it was probably going to fall back again and how do we just push through it? I was really proud of them that they had that run and that they capitalized on that in that set.”
The lead changed hands a few times throughout the third set until Norris pulled ahead for good with a 4-1 run that made it 20-17 Wolves. After four straight sideouts, Elkhorn North made one last push to pull within one at 23-22, but an errant attack by the Wolves and a kill by Anistyn Rice closed it out.
Norris opened the third set with a 3-0 run and never looked back. Elkhorn North cut its deficit to two at 13-11, but Norris delivered a knockout blow with a 9-1 run and finished it off from there. Boesiger closed it out with a setter dump on match point.
“I was glad in that set, I think we were down 16-3, and they came back and made it a game 25-16,” Christina Boesiger said about the second set. “So I think gradually getting out of that funk that we were in and kind of what happened to Elkhorn South too, we won the first, lost the second, so just kind of like ‘Hey, new game. Remember, you play three-out-of-five for a reason.’ They just regrouped and I think kind of had to go back to the discipline part of the game. We weren’t very disciplined in set two and it really showed.”
The loss dropped Elkhorn North to 14-8, but five of those losses were to Class A schools and the other three were to Waverly (twice) and Norris. The Wolves have certainly been battle-tested as they head into the stretch run of their second season after the school opened in 2020.
“I wanted to play them again, I wanted to play them in a five-set match versus what we beat them in at Lincoln Pius with three, so it’s good just to get a good measuring stick of where we are,” Gragert said. “I’m really excited that we have a big weekend this weekend. We play in the Westside tournament and playing those high-level teams down the stretch is going to be important for us.”
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.