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Prep Volleyball Notebook: LPS Classic Pool A Standouts

September 22, 2020

Lincoln Southeast played host to a terrific day of volleyball on Saturday as Elkhorn South was named champion of Pool A at the LPS Classic.

Papillion-La Vista, Norris and Bellevue West rounded out an incredibly talented field, and I was there for most of the action. Four of the six matches went to three sets in a best-of-three format.

First read my recap of Elkhorn South’s path to a 3-0 day, then come back here for my additional notes on all four teams.

Back-Row Baller

As I wrote in the recap, junior outside hitter Kyle Weeks was the focus of the Elkhorn South offense all day with 160 sets in three matches. For such high volume, her .244 hitting percentage on her 6.5 kills per set is pretty impressive.

At 5-foot-7, Weeks isn’t your typical high-flying pin hitter. At her height, she has to get creative.

“She’s just a great little player, I love watching her,” Norris coach Christina Boesiger said after her Titans fell to the Storm in three sets. “She has so many shots. She’s small, but she can hit a line, she can hit cross, out of the back row, so she’s smart. She’s impressive.”

It’s that back row part that really stood out to me on Saturday. Elkhorn South gets her plenty of sets in the back row and she knows what to do with them, cracking 20 kids in both of the Storm’s three-set matches on Saturday. Good luck trying to account for Nebraska middle blocker commit Rylee Gray in the front row at the same time as Weeks is coming at you out of the back row.

“It is a good option because then people are defending three hitters in the front row plus Kylie as our fourth hitter in the back row,” Elkhorn South coach Chelsea Potter said. “So it keeps us more in balance and other teams out of balance because they have to be able to defend lots of hitters.”

Titans Stood Tall

Norris was the only Class B team in a tournament with three of the top teams in Class A, and though the Titans finished in third place with a 1-2 record they showed they could go toe-to-toe with some of the best regardless of class.

Norris was just the second team to take a set off unbeaten Elkhorn South, joining Papillion-La Vista who did it first in the first set of the day on Saturday. Norris also took a set off the Monarchs, but in both matches they couldn’t sustain that first-set effort the rest of the way, something Boesiger said they’re going to have to work on. Before those losses, however, the Titans took down Bellevue West 25-22, 21-25, 34-32 in a marathon match.

“I think we feel OK coming out of this,” Boesiger said. “We don’t want to come out 1-2, but we got better as a team and we know things that we have to work on … I think all four of these teams expose your weakness. It really shows you ‘this is what we have to fix’ much better than if you’re playing a team you’re not a match with.”

Maisie Boesiger, the junior setter committed to Nebraska as a defensive specialist, had another good weekend, averaging 11.5 assists and 3.9 digs per set, and junior outside hitter Ella Waters was her go-to hitter all weekend, averaging 4.9 kills per set on .293 hitting. Waters posted a season-high 18 kills in the win over Bellevue West, her second-straight 18-kill match after posting that same total in five sets against Waverly.

Learning on the Job

Quick note before I dive into the last two teams: I wasn’t able to stay to watch the sixth match of the day between Papillion-La Vista and Bellevue West, so I only saw each of those teams play twice.

Papillion-La Vista had a lot to replace from last year’s team that tore through the regular season, and so far this year has been a bit bumpy early on as the Monarchs figure things out against some really tough competition.

I saw them a bit the first weekend during the Bellevue West Invitational, I saw them again at home against Bellevue West on their senior night and I saw them again at Elkhorn South last week, so Saturday was my fourth look at the Monarchs already this season.

One thing that’s stood out to me is the growth of freshman setter Reagan Hickey. Early on in the season, Papio was running a 6-2, splitting the setter reps between Hickey and a senior setter. However, over the last couple of weeks they’ve shifted towards letting Hickey take the job and run with it, and she’s played better each time I’ve seen her.

By my amateur count, she totaled 85 assists in the two matches I saw, a three-set loss to Elkhorn South and a three-set win against Norris. Her decision-making and placement have gotten better and better and it seems like she’s starting to build up a better connection with her hitters.

Making things a little easier is the Monarchs have a pair of dynamic hitters for her to set. Creighton commit Norah Sis is one of the better outside hitters in the country and she had a very good day again on Saturday, averaging 6.0 kills per set on .322 hitting by my tracking. Senior middle blocker Logan Jeffus, a Louisiana-Monroe commit, is a reliable target at the net as well, averaging 3.5 kills per set on .347 hitting including a 13-kill performance against the Storm. She already had a pretty good connection with Papio’s other outside hitter as well even before she became a Monarch — her older sister Morgan Hickey is third on the team in kills.

Bright Future for Bellevue West

Bellevue West’s loss total double on Saturday as the Thunderbirds went 0-3 in the LPS Classic and fell to 11-6 overall. However, those six losses have come against Omaha Skutt, Papillion-La Vista South, Papillion-La Vista (twice), Norris and Elkhorn South — five of the best teams in Nebraska regardless of class. The Thunderbirds also don’t have a senior on their roster.

The key for Bellevue West taking the next step is going to be finding consistency, because they have some talented players.

That starts with sophomore outside hitter Destiny Ndam-Simpson, a powerful athlete and one of the best players Nebraska has to offer in the class of 2023. When she’s locked in, she’s hard to stop. However, she also has a lot of polishing to do on her game.

Against Norris, I counted 14 kills but also 12 errors on her 46 swings, with a lot of those errors relatively unforced. She can’t afford to give away points at that rate with wild swings. To her credit, she did clean it up in the second set against Elkhorn South, which the Thunderbirds had to turn around and play right after their match against Norris. In the two-set loss, Ndam-Simpson had eight kills and just two errors.

I was also impressed with junior middle blocker/outside hitter Kealy Kiviniemi. Kiviniemi put up a career-high 18 kills in the five-set loss to Papillion-La Vista I covered earlier this season, and she played well again against Norris with 12 kills and just one error on 29 attempts (.379 hitting).

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