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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

State Volleyball Roundup: Skutt Wins 8th-Straight Title, Papillion-La Vista South Wins 2nd-Straight

November 05, 2022

After three days of fierce competition at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the 2022 NSAA Volleyball State Championship moved to the Devaney Center on Saturday to name six state champions.

CLASS A

No. 3 Omaha Westside gave top-seeded Papillion-La Vista South its best shot, but the reigning champion took it on the chin and fired back to capture its third state title in the last four years with a four-set win.

The Titans took down the Warriors 25-23, 20-25, 25-15, 25-17 in the final match of the high school volleyball season in Nebraska.

Junior Lauren Medeck (12) spikes the ball against Westside during the NSAA State High School Volleyball Championships Saturday, November 5, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

“Its’s a little emotional, Papio South coach Katie Tarman said. “These kids are something special. I can’t even explain how much heart they showed. I just hope that kids saw them play. This is what it takes to be a champion is putting hat kind of heart and soul onto this floor and playing with such love for one another. That’s kind of our thing and they’re just amazing people who worked really, really hard.”

Each team featured a pair Division I pin hitters, and all four of them showed out in the final.

For the Titans, junior Lauren Medeck (a South Dakota commit) put up 25 kills on .333 hitting, 13 digs and seven blocks. Senior Stella Adeyemi (a Hawaii commit) added 22 kills on .348 hitting and 13 digs.

For the Warriors, senior Destiny Ndam-Simpson (a Creighton commit) matched Medeck with 25 kills on .300 hitting and 23 digs. Senior Samantha Laird (another South Dakota commit) added 19 kills and 15 digs.

“Destiny and Sam are just very, very high-level players, and it’s an honor to get to play against that sort of level,” Tarman said. “But then on our side of the net, we have the capability and the depth and the luxury of having kids all the way across the net. We have two amazing outside hitters here who could hold us at this high standard throughout the whole year, but like I said, we have the luxury of having kids all the way across the net thatch add to that, and this is kind of what’s separated us.”

Westside didn’t have another player with more than three kills while junior middle blocker Morgan Bode (yet another future Coyote) flirted with a double-double with eight kills and nine blocks. The Titans got tremendous back-row play as well led by senior Kenzie Dyrstad (a Rutgers commit) with 27 digs. Junior Kyla Dyrstad (24 assists, 13 digs) split setting duties with sophomore Charlette Solomon (30 assists, 12 digs) while freshman Kami Dyrstad chipped in 10 digs.

Papio South got off to a great start, scoring seven of the first 10 points to put the pressure on the Warriors, but Westside settled in and gradually chipped away at the lead. The Warriors tied it up at 12-all after back-to-back kills from Ndam-Simpson who out her team on her back.

Westside used a 3-0 run to take its first lead of the night at 20-19, but the Titans responded with their own 3-0 run including a pair of kills from Bode and the teams traded sideouts the rest of the way, leading to a set-point kill from Adeyemi.

Westside senior Destiny Ndam-Simpson digs the ball against Papillion-LaVista South during the NSAA State High School Volleyball Championships Saturday, November 5, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Ndam-Simpson had 10 kills on 18 attempts in the first set, but it wasn’t quite enough as Medeck nearly matched her with eight kills of her own.

Papillion-La Vista South started fast again in set two, opening with a 4-0 run including back-to back aces from Solomon. The Warriors again showed resiliency, fighting back to tie it up five times before surging ahead with a 6-0 run late in the set. Papio South finally ended the run with a kill, but an error gave the Warriors set point and they finished it off two plays later to even the match at 1-1.

After terminating just once in the first set, Laird got going in the second with seven kills, including one on set-point and two more plus block during the 6-0 run.

Papillion-La Vista South jumped ahead 4-0 again and then 7-2, but this time Westside didn’t have a comeback in it. The Titans continued to expand their lead the rest of the way and crushed to a 10-point win and a 2-1 lead.

The fourth set was close early with seven ties, but Papio South hit the Warriors with a 7-1 run to open up a 14-8 lead. Westside pulled within three a few times, but three straight kills from Adeyemi pushed the lead to six at 21-15 and the Titans crushed to the finish. 

Adeyemi and Medeck combined for 26 kills ad just one errors in the last twi sets while the Titans found a way to slow down Westside’s dynamic duo enough to close out the match. After recording just one block in the first two sets, Papillion-La Vista South stuffed Westside nine times in the last two.

“It’s a momentum-booster,” Medeck said. “Those blocks give us so much energy and it’s awesome.”

Saturday was the fourth match between the two teams this season and the fourth win for the Titans, though the Warriors took them to five sets in their first meeting. The Titans also faced seven teams from outside of Nebraska including the top-ranked team in the country in San Diego Cathedral Catholic, which hasn’t dropped a single set all season.

“Those moments prepared us for this,” Medeck said. “Nothing was getting in our way. Those moments gave us so much trust and we played with so much joy because we knew that we could do it.”

CLASS B

Omaha Skutt’s reign atop Class B will continue for another year as the No. 2 SkyHawks outlasted No. 1 Elkhorn North in five sets in the state championship.

The Skyhawks have won eight straight state championship under former Husker Renee Saunders.

Skutt fell behind 2-1 but bounced back in a big way to win the match 25-20, 23-25, 14-25, 25-15, 15-11, and they did it by playing SkyHawk volleyball, according to Saunders..

“We trained for it all year long and then you’ve just got to believe you can do it when it comes down to a game like that,” Saunders said. “You get into a 15-point game and the bottom line is they just have to believe. We’ve played to 15 lots because this team has gone up and down.”

Senior Morgan Burke (a Michigan commit) led Skutt with 18 killsand 14 digs. Senior Ivy Leuck (an Omaha commit) notched a triple-double with 21 assists, 14 kills and 13 digs in Skutt’s 6-2 offense. Junior Paisley Douglas (a USC commit) led the defense with 35 digs.

Elkhorn North senior Grace Heaney (3) spikes the ball against Omaha Skutt’s Morgan Burke (25) and Kiera Link (18) during the NSAA State High School Volleyball Championships Saturday, November 5, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John S. Peterson.

Purdue commit Grace Heaney led the Wolves with 28 kills on .267 hitting, 27 digs and six blocks in a monster performance, but nobody else cracked double digits.

“The kid’s good,” Saunders said. “She’s going to Purdue for a reason … She had a fantastic match.”

After trading sideouts early on, Skutt ripped of a 10-3 run to take control and four points was as close as the Wolves would get the rest of the way. Abbie Hagedon blocked an Elkhorn North attack on Skutt’s third set point attempt.

The second set went back and forth with Skutt leading by as much as three and Elkhorn North leading by as much as four. The set featured 12 ties and six lead changes, but Heaney took over down the stretch with a personal 4-1 run including three kills and a block on set point.

The third set was all Elkhorn North as the Wolves ripped off a 10-2 run including five straight to take a 14-6 lead, and the Wolves continued to roll from there. Ava Spies and Shay Heaney teamed up for a block on set point to give Elkhorn North a 2-1 match lead.

Saunders said she switched up some matchups heading into the fourth set and her players responded.

“We just took that upon ourselves,” Burke said. “She’s prepared us so much to be in this and at the end of the day it comes down to how we want to play and how we want to execute the plan that she gives us. So we kind of all just leaned into each other and said this is not the way we want to go down and we’re going to go down fighting.”

Skutt used a 4-0 run to build up a 12-7 lead in set four, and that advantage swelled to nine a few different times as the SkyHawks held the Wolves to minus-.024 hitting in the set. Elkhorn North saved a pair of set points, but on the third try Ivy Leuck found a touch on her swing for the kill to send the match to a fifth set.

The SkyHawks raced out to a 5-1 star in set five, but Elkhorn North rallied to within one at 10-9. The teams traded sideouts until the champs delivered the knockout blow, closing the match on a 3-0 run. Burke took the final swing and the Wolves weren’t able to get it back over the net.

The Skutt senior class is going out on top and will get to take four state championships with them.

“It’s indescribable,” Burke said. “The last dogpile, the dogpile that you get in, it’s just the best feeling ever and it’s something that I already miss. I already miss that feeling of game point, you’re waiting to dog-pile, and it’s just a family here that is so amazing to be a part of. To go out on top is always amazing.”

Other Classes

>> Class C1: No. 3 Grand Island Central Catholic (32-2) def. No. 5 Gothenburg (33-4) 25-12, 23-25, 25-17, 25-17.

Senior Lucy Ghaifan posted a match-high 28 kills on .327 hitting while fellow senior Gracie Woods added 29 digs and 12 kills as the Crusaders captured the program’s 11th state title in four sets.  Junior Caroline Maser contributed 46 assists and 13 digs as well.

Clara Evert finished with a double-double of 13 digs and 12 kills as the Swedes earned their first runner-up finish in just their second state tournament appearance.

>> Class C2: No. 1 Lincoln Lutheran (40-0) def. No. 2 Fremont Bergan (33-5) 25-18, 25-22, 25-15.

Senior Abby Wachal led the Warriors with 18 kills and nine digs as the Warriors completed an undefeated season and captured their third state title in the last four years. Senior Elecea Saathoff added 35 assists and 24 digs, both match-highs.

>> Class D1: No. 7 Hartington Cedar Catholic (27-10) def. No. 1 Norfolk Catholic (30-5)26-24, 20-25, 25-17, 18-25, 15-8.

Senior Laney Kathol led Cedar Catholic with 26 kills on .236 hitting, eight digs and three aces while sophomore Malayna McGregor added 16 kills on .243 hitting as the Trojans captured their third state championship.

Senior Channatee Robles led the Knights with 23 kills on .333 hitting and nine digs as Norfolk Catholic finished as runner-up for the second time in three years.

>> Class D2: No. 1 Howells-Dodge (29-4) def. No. 2 Overton (30-5) 25-16, 24-26, 22-25, 25-23, 15-12.

Senior outside hitter Grace Baumert posted a ridiculous 42 kills on .311 hitting, 29 digs and nine blocks to lead the Jaguars to their second straight state championship. Howells-Dodge took home the title in D1 last year.

Junior JoLee Ryan led Overton with 28 kills and nine digs while fellow junior Natalie Woods added 21 kills on .296 hitting, 19 digs and seven blocks.

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