Papillion-La Vista got off to a rough start in the Allison Weston Monarch Invitational on Friday afternoon. The host Monarchs got swept by powerhouse Omaha Skutt on their own court, dropping them to 9-7 on the season.
The Monarchs apparently have a short memory, however, as they bounced back from the loss to win their next four to keep the Monarch invitational crown at Papillion-La Vista.
The Monarchs didn’t get another crack at the SkyHawks in the final, however, instead playing the Silver Hawks of Lincoln Southwest who upset Skutt in the semifinals. Southwest wasn’t satisfied, however, and the Silver Hawks let the Monarchs know they were for real by taking the first set.
Papillion-La Vista stepped up from there, however, dominating the second set then pulling away late in the third to take the match 22-25, 25-11, 25-21.
“It was a good team victory,” Papillion-La Vista coach John Svehla said. “They came together and defensively I thought we did some nice things, keeping the ball alive. We took advantage of some opportunities within that and were able to squeak out some points here. They did a nice job. They played confidently, which is something we’ve been working on all year, and that makes a big difference for our girls.”
Lincoln Southwest closed the first set on a 3-0 run to take the early lead. The second set was all Papio as the Monarchs jumped out to a 4-0 lead, expanded it to 12-4, blew the game wide open at 18-7 and finished strong to tie the match up at one set apiece.
Game three featured several ties and a few lead changes until a 5-1 run made it 19-17 and gave the Monarchs the lead for good. The two teams traded points until Papio star and Creighton commit Norah Sis took over and closed out the match with three kills in the last five rallies.
“It helps having Norah in the front row, and we got some big touches on our block too and some big digs,” Svehla said. “That’s really what the difference was is we were able to capitalize on a few points and take advantage.”
Sis finished with a match-high 20 kills on .386 hitting. Nine of those kills came in the third set.
“We couldn’t control Norah,’ Southwest coach Mark Novotny said. “We tried a couple defensive things, we tried a couple different blocking things, but she kind of took over in both passing — her passing got much better as the game went on — and her offense is great.”
Junior Shaylee Myers led an otherwise balanced Southwest attack with 12 kills.
“Southwest is a good team, and they earned their opportunity here in the finals,” Svehla said. “It was back and forth and we had to earn what we got and capitalize here and there, and we were able to do that fortunately and came out on top.”
Southwest went 2-1 on Friday to finish in second place in Pool B and advance to the semifinals against previously unbeaten Skutt, who went 3-0 in Pool A. The SkyHawks entered Saturday with a 13-0 record with all 13 wins in straight sets.
The Southwest punched them in the face. The Silver Hawks used some tough serving to put together an 11-2 run and take a 23-16 lead in the first set. They cruised to a 1-0 lead from there.
Skutt responded well to dropping a set for the first team all season, dominating game two 25-12 to tie it up. However, they couldn’t keep it going in set three. Southwest pulled ahead 12-7 with a big run and never looked back. Skutt cut the deficit to three a couple of times but the Silver Hawks answered the second push with a 4-0 run to take their biggest lead at 22-15 and that was enough of a cushion for them to cruise into the final.
“Some shock, some screaming, some tears just because they knew they really worked hard for that game,” Novotny said about his team’s reaction. “We’ve had a lot of serving problems in some matches and this morning we served very well, which gave us an opportunity to defend their in-system balls and a lot of block touches. Our middle blocks worked crazy hard against Skutt and did not give them any boom stick balls right down the middle of the court.”
Nebraska commit Lindsay Krause led the Skyhawks with 15 kills on .389 hitting and three aces, but it wasn’t enough. Myers led Southwest with 11 kills.
The other semifinal featured Pool B’s winner, Papillion-La Vista South, against the Monarchs, the second-place team in Pool A. The Titans won a five-set thriller back on Sept. 1, but the Monarchs settled the score in round two with a 2-0 sweep (25-23, 25-17).
Papillion-La Vista pulled ahead 16-12 with a 5-0 run in the first set and staved off a couple of Titan runs. Sis painted the back corner on set point to seal it. The two teams battled back and forth early, but the Monarchs gradually pulled away later in the set to punch their ticket to the final.
“That was another testament to the girls and their resiliency,” Svehla said. “They’ve been playing confidently and they came into the South match feeling pretty confident. Thankfully we got off to good starts in both sets and they didn’t let off the gas. That’s such a big rivalry there, and they were pretty motivated to not lose there.”
Sis led the Monarchs with 13 kills while senior middle blocker Logan Jeffus added eight kills on 13 swings (.615 hitting). Sophomore outside hitter Stella Adeyemi led the Titans with 11 kills on .647 hitting.
Skutt and Papio South — the two No. 1 seeds — faced off in the third-place game and the SkyHawks bounced back with a 25-23, 25-21 sweep. The Titans entered the tournament with just one loss — to the SkyHawks during the Bellevue West Invitational in week one — and have now lost two straight. Krause led the way with 14 kills on .423 hitting.
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.