Omaha Skutt honored its four seniors before its match against Elkhorn on Thursday, and then those seniors proceeded to lead the SkyHawks to a sweep over the Antlers on Senior night.
“They did an awesome job,” Skutt coach Renee Saunders said. “It’s kind of special on senior night just to have them come out and play with all their hearts, and not worry about anything else. I thought everybody did a good job of doing their jobs, and that made them better in the process.”
Skutt took down Elkhorn 25-15, 25-18, 25-15 on Thursday. Unofficially, senior middle blocker Grace Kremer led the way with a career-high nine kills while senior outside hitter Ava Heyne, an Ohio commit, added eight.
Senior outside hitter Taylor Bunjer led Elkhorn with 11 kills.
Skutt used a 5-0 run to pull ahead 8-4 early in the first set and continued to extend the lead from there. Skutt used a 6-2 stretch to make it 14-8, then a 5-1 run made it 19-9 in Skutt’s favor. The SkyHawks cruised from there to take a 1-0 lead thanks in large part to some tough serving with seven aces.
“We had to find a weakness and just kind of get them on their heels, and then that just dictated what we did the rest of the match,” Saunders said. “So we had to go a little bit back and forth, but they’re a good team, so you have to find little ways that you can possibly get points out of them.”
Skutt finished with 13 aces including five from sophomore libero Paisley Douglas.
Elkhorn settled in between sets and took control early in game two. The Antlers led by as much as six at 16-10 and looked well on their way to tying up the match, but the SkyHawks had other plans. An Elkhorn service error gave Skutt life, and Douglas took advantage, serving an 8-0 run to turn a big deficit into a lead.
“[We came back] by not getting caught up in the score,” Saunders said. “The scoreboard’s there but it’s not our biggest worry. We have to worry about what we’re doing and to do our jobs and take care of things like that and if that happens, then hopefully the scoreboard turns itself around. But we did it with the service run, we always have to have someone who can serve.”
Bunjer finally broke the run with an emphatic kill, but a Skutt sideout sparked a 6-0 run to give the SkyHawks set point. Elkhorn scored the next point, but Heyne ended it with her fifth kill of the set.
Skutt got off to a much better start in set three, pulling ahead 5-2 early. Elkhorn made a couple of pushes from there but couldn’t get over the hump and a 6-0 Skutt run capped by a Kremer block extended the lead to 15-7. The Antlers tried chipping away but never truly threatened as the SkyHawks cursed to victory.
The win improved Skutt to 15-4, but it was just the ninth match (and seventh win) of the season against a Nebraska team. The SkyHawks opened September with a trip down to Florida to compete in a tournament, finishing 5-1, and they followed that up with a trip down the Kansas City area the following week, going 2-1.
“I love taking them out of Nebraska, and it doesn’t have to do with anything about the teams here,” Saunders said. “It gives us an opportunity to work on ourselves and not have to worry about anything else.”
The reigning Class B champions lost an incredible senior class led by outside hitter Lindsay Krause (now at Nebraska) and setter Allie Gray (now at Arizona State), but a pair of returners have stepped into their shoes and elevated their games to keep the SkyHawks flying high in Class B.
Senior Abby Schomers, a Central Florida commit, finished with 27 assists, a pair of kills and an ace on Thursday. With Gray running the show the previous few years, Saunders slid Schomers over to opposite hitter as a way to get her on the court. But this season, she finally has the opportunity to play her natural position.
“She’s been great,” Saunders said. “She’s a great setter anyway, so it was just getting her used to doing it for us. Because she hadn’t, she’d been a hitter. We have a really weird team; we have three setters on the floor, one sets and two hit. We have kids that can play everywhere, great athletes, and so it really helps us out.”
One of those setters who is playing out of position this season is junior Morgan Burke, who committed to Michigan in August. She’s stepped into the No. 1 option role with Krause moving on and is leading the SkyHawks with 4.0 kills per set on .349 hitting, and she’s one of the state’s leaders in aces with 40 heading into Thursday night. Burke had seven kills and two aces against the Antlers.
“She’s been huge,” Saunders said. “The kid’s a weapon out there and she hits a heavy ball. I always said since her freshman year, she’s hit the second-heaviest ball behind Lindsay. So now she gets a chance for everybody to really see that power that she has and the tons of shots that she has.”
Krause, Gray and the rest of the 2021 class may be off at college, but the SkyHawks, led by this year’s senior class, have their eyes set once again on a Class B state title.
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.