The Omaha Skutt SkyHawks, the No. 1 high school volleyball team in the country according to USA Today, went 6-0 this weekend to capture the 2020 Bellevue West Invitational.
And they did it all while wearing masks during play. That’s a decision the team made well before the season started, and it’s one the SkyHawks are sticking to.
“We wear them every day in practice,” Skutt coach Renee Saunders said. “We wear them all the time. It’s real simple to me — if there’s a chance that we would have to sit out for two weeks, it’s not worth risking it in my opinion. We made a commitment that we were going to stay healthy. We made a commitment that we would do anything it takes, whatever it takes to be on the floor all season long and if that means we play in masks… We want to play. We want to get to November and we wish that everybody would do that so we can.”
Skutt was one of four teams — the others being Omaha Marian, Papillion-La Vista and Papillion-La Vista South — in the championship bracket of the Bellevue West Invitational that wore masks during the matches. North Platte had coaches and players on the bench wearing them but the players took them off when they took the court.
Lindsay Krause, Skutt’s senior outside hitter and a future Husker, said it took some getting used to.
“It was actually like really weird,” Krause said. “We went through summer conditioning and stuff and we weren’t wearing masks at all, and then we kind of were just like we’re going to commit to our season, we want to have our season so after like the first week of practice, we got used to it. We’re not going to complain about it because there’s nothing you can do and we want to be able to play.”
The masks didn’t seem to have any negative effects on the SkyHawks as they didn’t drop a single set all tournament long.
Other Notes and Observations:
>> PrepVolleyball.com has Krause ranked second nationally in the 2021 class behind only her future teammate, setter Kennedi Orr (Eagan, Minnesota), and when you watch her play it’s not hard to see why.
Krause towers over most of her teammates and opponents at 6-foot-4 and her length and athleticism make her almost impossible to stop at the high school level. When Skutt was in system and Krause got a good set, it was almost an automatic point on Saturday. She had one set with 10 kills and another with eight, and she recorded double-digit kills in all three matches. She’s still working on her defense and passing, but she showed a lot of promise in the back row as well.
Krause has a bright, bright future in front of her and Husker fans should be thrilled she’ll be wearing the Scarlet and Cream at the next level.
>> As good as Krause is, Skutt is far from a one-person show. Arizona State commit Allie Gray is a terrific setter who does a great job of spreading the love around rather than just force-feeding Krause on every play. Senior outside hitter Shayla McCormick, senior middle blocker/opposite hitter Cameron Cartwright, junior opposite hitter Abby Schomers who committed to UCF earlier in the week), junior middle blocker Ava Heyne and sophomore outside hitter Morgan Burke all showed up and made an impact at different points throughout Saturday’s matches. Senior Bre Skala and sophomore Anna Weberg controlled things in the back row all day as well.
Good luck to anybody who has to take on the SkyHawks this season.
>> Papillion-La Vista South didn’t have enough firepower to ground the SkyHawks on Saturday, but the Titans have a terrific young core that should only get better and better as the season progresses.
Sophomore Stella Adeyemi showed off an incredible amount of power on Saturday, leading the Titans with eight kills in the title match. PrepVolleyball.com has Adeyemi outside its top-75 for the 2023 class but included her in the 75-player watch list, making her a top-150 recruit nationally. Papio South also has a freshman in the lineup in outside hitter Lauren Medeck, who led the team with 16 kills in its three pool matches on Friday night.
In addition to the young duo, Papillion-La Vista South also returned one of the more versatile players in the Metro in Ava LeGrand. She’s listed as a setter, but she is also the team’s returning leader in kills with 300 last season. She finished with 10 assists and five kills against Skutt on Saturday.
>> I didn’t get to sit down and watch a full Bellevue West match, but I couldn’t help but notice sophomore outside hitter Destiny Ndam-Simpson making some noise on the far side of the gym. PrepVolleyball.com has her rated as the second-best 2023 prospect in Nebraska and No. 41 in the country. She’s an explosive athlete with a cannon for an arm and on Saturday she led the host Thunderbirds to a third-place finish in the invitational.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.