The 2020 Nebraska high school volleyball season came to a close on Saturday as Nebraska crowned six state champions. If you missed any of the action, Hail Varsity has you covered with roundups from the first and second rounds plus a notebook from day one of the tournament. Here’s another look at a few extra storylines coming out of Saturday’s finals.
It Takes Two to Tango
After finishing up my Husker football duties on Saturday, I got a chance to cover the last three state championship matches in person — C1, B and A. One thing that all three of those champions —Wahoo, Omaha Skutt and Elkhorn South — had in common was the combination of a spectacular setter and a stud go-to hitter.
In the C1 state title match, the Wahoo Warriors put up a class record 75 kills. Senior setter Elle Glock, a USC commit, dished out 62 assists and did so despite having to sprint all over the court.
“We did not pass well,” Wahoo coach Trish Larson said. “We were out of system a lot and scrambling and Elle, she’s just amazing. She’ll take a ball halfway across the gym and she’ll put it right on the money. She’s a difference-maker.”
For St. Paul coach Matt Koehn-Fairbanks, however, the story was Gock’s favorite target: junior outside hitter Mya Larson. Larson took 88 swings and converted 41 of them into kills, hitting .295. If Larson was taller than 5-foot-11, I’m guessing she’d have some of the best programs in the country fighting for a commitment from her because she has every shot in her arsenal to go with terrific athleticism. Line, cross, tip, roll, back row attack… she does a great job of making the right play no matter what the defense throws at her or where she is on the court.
In Class B, everybody in the volleyball community has known about Lindsay Krause since before she even got to Skutt as she committed to Nebraska in July of 2017. PrepVolleyball.com has Krause ranked as the best outside hitter in the 2021 class and she finished her Skutt career with 1,479 kills (4.3 per set) on .414 hitting. She put an exclamation mark on her career with a career-high 30 kills in the state title match on .574 hitting. Krause is one of the rare phenoms who lived up to and exceeded immense early hype.
As talented as Krause is, however, she also had the benefit of playing alongside a phenomenal setter in Allie Gray, who started for the SkyHawks the past three seasons. The Arizona State commit had a season-high 57 assists on Saturday to finish with 3,306 in her career.
“I definitely guarantee I wouldn’t be the player I am today without having [Coach Renee] Saunders or Allie Gray,” Krause said. “Allie Gray is like the only person I’ve met that has the same drive to win that I do and hates losing just as much as I do. Getting to play with another person like that, it’s just been amazing.”
Not to be out-done, Elkhorn South’s setter-hitter duo has another season together as Madi Woodin and Kylie Weeks are both juniors. Woodin, a South Dakota commit, set a new school record for assists earlier this season and capped the year with 41 more in the title match.
Weeks, an Arkansas commit, posted a match-high 21 kills on Saturday to finish with 432 on the season. She surpassed the 1,000 career kills mark during Elkhorn South’s district final win against Millard North.
Weeks is only 5-foot-7, but she doesn’t let that hold her back. She’s an explosive athlete who is particularly adept at attacking from the back row, putting pressure on defenses no matter what rotation the Storm are in, and Woodin always knows where Weeks is.
Rylee Gray will soon head down to Lincoln to begin her career at Nebraska, and that is a massive loss for the Storm, but Elkhorn South returns everyone else from their championship rotation led by the dynamic duo of Woodin and Weeks.
Elkhorn South Weathers Storm of Adversity on Road to State Championship
Elkhorn South put together an incredible season, winning 30 of 31 matches en route to a Class A title, the first championship in school history. Making that feat even more impressive is the fact that the Storm roster features just two seniors.
Unfortunately, one of those two seniors suffered a season-ending injury just three matches in. Omaha commit Brilee Wieseler, who played a big role as both a hitter and back-row player last year, tore her ACL against Omaha Marian during the second week of the season.
Wieseler wasn’t able to contribute on the court, but she’s been doing all she can from the bench to support her team and the Storm have fed off her energy all season. Though she wasn’t able to play in the championship match, her teammates were happy they were able to send her out with a title.
“It means everything,” said Rylee Gray, the team’s other senior. “It was devastating when she went down against Marian. We really adjusted to the lineup that we put in. It was rough a first, but once we got used to it everyone just relied on each other, trusted each other. We trusted the coaches and who they put out on the floor, so that made it a lot easier too.”
Gray had to deal with some adversity herself as she tested positive for COVID-19 and had to spend some time in quarantine in mid-October, missing a match against Gretna.
Off the court, Madi Woodin had to deal with tragedy. Her father, Curt, passed away in his sleep suddenly in June at just 47 years old. Curt had a big impact on the entire team, and the Storm dedicated their season to him.
STATE CHAMPIONS. TrUSt was our theme all year. It was evident last night. And most importantly our favorite supporter, Curt Woodin. He was right there with us on the court last night and the whole season. This program is a family. So blessed to be apart of it. pic.twitter.com/EJYNIO36f6
— Rylee Gray (@ryleegray_) November 8, 2020
“I think each year, just the culture that we continue to build has just gotten stronger,” Woodin said. “All the girls that come in, we’re all just one family and we all just work really hard for each other and not as individuals. I think that’s one of the main things this year that has helped us through everything is working for each other and with each other, and that’s how we’ve gotten to where we were today.”
McCormick Models Championship Commitment
Omaha Skutt’s senior class led by Lindsay Krause put the finishing touches on an incredible four years with its fourth state title. However, this one meant a little bit more for one of those seniors in particular.
Senior outside hitter Shayla McCormick played an important role as a sophomore in 2018, averaging 2.1 kills per set on .280 hitting and 2.9 digs per set. However, she missed her entire junior season with a torn ACL.
McCormick, who committed to Omaha in May of 2019, worked hard to rehab and be ready for this season, and her reward was a healthy senior year as she didn’t miss a set.
“It was great to see her improvement over the summer, when she just started coming back,” Krause said. “She started in June and she wasn’t even jumping at all, she was just playing in the back row. So just to see how much she’s progressed and how much she’s gotten better and got back to where she was just over the course of like five months has been crazy. I’ve loved every second of getting to play with Shayla; it’s been amazing.”
Between McCormick still working back to her old self physically and the depth of talent Skutt had at the pins, McCormick played primarily a back row role this season. On Saturday, however, she got a chance to take some swings as well and finished with six kills, 13 digs and two aces. McCormick served the SkyHawks on a 13-0 run to start the second set against Norris after serving a 10-0 run against Grand Island Northwest in the first round of the tournament.
“I played club with Shayla, and I just know her spirit,” Allie Gray said. “She just has this very competitive edge and she’s going to do everything to win. I think a lot of people could see that today, just like an inner fire, like ‘I’m not holding anything back and I’m just going to go.’ So it was really cool to see her back on the court.”
According to Saunders, McCormick’s willingness to accept a different role and give an underclassman — in this case, sophomore Morgan Burke — an opportunity to play is a big part of what made this Skutt team so special.
“Her ability to embrace the role playing back row after being a six-rotation outside — she could have been stubborn and been against the grain but she bought in to what we were trying to do and if anything, she helped the sophomore out to do a better job so now all of a sudden we have a sophomore with H2 experience n the state championship,” Saunders said. “Championships aren’t made in one year; it’s a process and it continues to build.
“If the kids from the top don’t pass that down to the younger kids in whatever way that is, whether it’s role acceptance or physical play or work ethic or commitment or whatever that is, if they don’t buy in, then you don’t see what we’ve done. It’s something that takes time.”
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.