The 2020 Nebraska state volleyball tournament began on Wednesday with the quarterfinals for classes A, B and C1, all at Pinnacle Bank Arena. A handful of future Huskers took the court with state championship dreams and Hail Varsity was there to recap all the action.
No. 1 Omaha Skutt 3, No. 8 Grand Island Northwest 0
Omaha Skutt began its quest for a sixth straight title with a bang, sweeping Grand Island Northwest 25-6, 25-18, 25-16.
Senior Shayla McCormick served Skutt to a 10-0 run right out of the gates as the SkyHawks dominated the first set, much like they did in the first round against Hastings last season with a 25-2 first-set win.
“I was happy,” Skutt coach Renee Saunders said about the start. “I told Shayla to try to break [Megan Skovsende’s] record from last year — I think Skov had 21. I didn’t know if it would happen, but obviously that’s a good goal to have. Then as soon as it kept going, I was like ‘Oh, yeah, let’s do this.’ We knew they would make adjustments after the first set and really, they made all the adjustments and we kept playing the same game. So they trickled back in, and third set we had to adjust and I felt like we ended on the upper hand.”
Northwest kept it close early in the second set until Skutt blew it open with a 7-2 run then crushed to the finish. The SkyHawks used a 6-1 run early in the third set to break a 5-5 tie and never looked back.
Unofficially, Nebraska commit Lindsay Krause led the way with 13 kills on .550 hitting, nine digs and three aces while 2022 UCF commit baby Schomers and senior Ava Heyne added eight kills apiece.
Claire Casperson led the Vikings with six kills.
No. 2 Norris 3, No. 7 Aurora 0
The second-seeded Titans faced a stiff test in the first round as the huskies gave them all they could handle, but Norris closed each set strong in a 25-21, 25-19, 25-21 win.
“Their defense and passing, and they were in system, they were super scrappy,” Norris coach Christina Boesiger said. “I think we started a little tight, just some nerves and they were adjusting I think to the atmosphere. So we started off a little slow but then we finished a lot stronger, kind of getting into a rhythm, getting into a groove and then they played really well.”
Looking to extend the match, Aurora took a 16-14 lead in the third set. The Titans settled in from there, however, ripping off a 7-1 run to take control and finish it out.
Junior setter Maisie Boesiger, a Nebraska commit, led the Titan offense with 36 assists and four kills, and she added 13 digs as well. Junior Ella Waters finished with a match-high 16 kills.
Kassidy Hudson led Aurora with nine kills.
No. 5 Ashland-Greenwood 3, No. 4 Waverly 1
One week ago, Waverly swept Ashland-Greenwood in its own gym in the B-3 subdistrict final. On Wednesday, the fifth-seeded Bluejays turned the tables and sent the fourth-seeded Vikings home early with a 25-21, 25-21, 15-25, 25-22 win.
The Bluejays began the season with a 3-1 loss at Waverly as well, but Ashland-Greenwood got the win that mattered most.
“We’ve just played each other tough every time we’ve played and I just think the confidence, from point one — I could just tell the girls’ confidence was through the roof,” Ashland-Greenwood coach Megan Rossell said. “They had no fear and that was just awesome to see.”
The Bluejays had the Vikings out of sorts from the start as Waverly struggled to pass and their setters had a tough time getting on the same page with their attackers. Ashland-Greenwood used a 6-2 system with two setters equally capable of attacking as well as spreading the ball around to their other options.
“We’ve played them twice, they know our tendencies,” Rossell said. “We have such a versatile team. Jess Stander is a middle for us, but she could play all the way around. Same with Carly [vonRentzell], she used to play middle for us. We just have so many girls that can do so many different things on the court. I think mixing it up and allowing those girls to show what they’re made of really kept them out of system.”
Nebraska commit Whitney Lauenstein took over for the Vikings in the third, recording six kills on 12 swings without an error as Waverly extended the match to a fourth set. The Vikings continued to fight throughout the fourth and had the match tied late at 20-all, but a 4-0 Bluejay run gave Ashland-Greenwood match point. Waverly saved two set points, but the hole was too big.
“It’s huge,” Rossell said. “We have 12 seniors this year. We have a lot of girls that are little that play and just to see something like this and be a part of this is pretty special and I think it will continue to grow as we grow because Ashland’s only getting bigger.”
vonRentzell led the Bluejays with 12 kills while Stander dded 11. Saige Craven did. Bit of everything with 25 assists, 15 digs and five kills.
Lauenstein unofficially finished with 26 kills on .339 hitting, two blocks and an ace. Senior outside hitter Bailey Jeffers added 15 kills.
Ashland-Greenwood will take on Omaha Skutt in the semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday.
No. 3 Elkhorn 3, No. 6 York 0
The Dukes gave the Huskies all they could handle in the first set, but Elkhorn held on to win and controlled the action the rest of the match in a 28-26, 25-15, 25-10 win.
Senior outside hitter Abby Wolfe led the way with 11 kills and three aces. Senior outside hitter Addie Thomas had a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs. Junior middle blocker Sydney Raszler chipped in 10 kills while senior setter recorded 38 assists, 10 digs and two aces.
Junior outside hitter Masa Scheierman accounted for more than half of York’s kills with 13 and also led the team with 11 digs.
Elkhorn will face Norris in the second semifinal on Friday night.
No. 1 Wahoo 3, No. 8 Hastings Adams Central 0
The top-seeded Warriors got off to a slow start in the first match of the afternoon window, but after pulling out a close win in set one they rolled through sets two and three to advance to Friday’s semifinals. Scores in Wahoo’s favor were 25-23, 25-18, 25-12.
“We knew they were a good team,” Wahoo coach Trish Larson said. “They beat GICC who is also a good team, so we knew we’d get challenged. I think we came out really tight. Just adjusting to this environment is always kind of hard. We’ve been here before, but it’s a big place, a lot of distractions and it takes a while to get used to. So adjusting to that I think was a big part of it. I think second set we started to relax a little bit, we started to pass better, serve better and then stay in system which helped a lot.”
An error-filled first set allowed the Patriots to claw back into the game after falling behind 18-14. They tied it up at 19-all then pulled ahead 21-20. Wahoo star Mya Larson took over form there as the Warriors closed the set on a 5-2 run including three kills from the junior outside hitter.
“That was huge,” Coach Larson said. “I think the experience from our team and our seniors — I think Elle Glock does a great job of just staying poised and that carries on to the rest of our team. In stressful situations, when your team is staying calm and poised, usually you’re in a better spot. I’m proud that we were able to end that the way we did.”
Wahoo used a 6-0 run midway through the second set to turn a 14-12 deficit into an 18-14 lead and rolled through the rest of the set from there. The Warriors carried that momentum over into the third set as well, jumping out to an 8-1 lead and never looking back.
Larson finished with 22 kills on .439 hitting, 16 digs and two aces. Glock, a USC commit, orchestrated the Warriors’ offense with 43 assists and two aces. Josie Sutton added 9 kills and Lauren Kavan chipped in eight kills and a team-high 18 digs.
Caitlyn Scott led Adams Central with six kills.
No. 2 St. Paul 3, No. 7 Broken Bow 0
The second-seeded Wildcats made short work of Broken Bow to keep their undefeated 2020 campaign going. St. Paul won 25-14, 25-13, 25-16 behind a big game from senior outside hitter Josie Jakubowski.
Jakubowski was the only hitter in the match with double-digit kids, finishing with 18 of them, and she just missed a double-double with nine digs.
Junior outside hitter Kya Scott led Broken Bow with 9 kills while junior setter Kailyn Scott notched a double-double with 16 assists and 12 digs.
No. 5 Columbus Lakeview 3, No. 4 Syracuse 0
Columbus Lakeview got off to an ice-cold start and had to fend off a furious rally late, but the Vikings became the second fifth seed of the day to upset the four seed as Lakeview took down Syracuse 25-16, 25-16, 30-28.
Things didn’t look good for the Vikings early as Syracuse raced out to a 9-2 lead.
“I’ve got to admit, I can’t tell you I was shocked,” Lakeview coach C.J. Belitz said. “It’s our first time at state in that long and I figured we’d start a little tight. Obviously, we started a little tight.”
It didn’t take too long for the Vikings to loosen up, however, as they gradually worked their way back into the game then closed the set on a commanding 16-3 run. The second set was more of the same as Lakeview doubled up the Rockets and drew both of their timeouts in the first 15 rallies. The stoppages didn’t help, however, as Lakeview continued to extend the lead out to 18-9 before cruising to a 2-0 lead.
“This team, it’s really been their character throughout,” Belitz said. “They’ve been closer than any team we’ve ever coached, whether that’s the odd circumstance this year or whatever it was, great senior leaders, all of that. But they have a closer bond than any team I’ve been a part of in 23 years, and that’s why —then, in those moments, they say ‘OK, they’ve all got my back, I’m good.’ And then they can perform … The emotional piece of this team is how we’re able to right the ship when that stuff happens.”
Lakeview continued to dominate into the third set, jumping out to a 10-3 lead early and maintaining that advantage with a 19-12 edge late. However, the Rockets mounted a furious comeback, taking a 22-21 lead. Several ties and a few lead changes later, Lakeview finally put Syracuse away.
“We’ve been there before … I think that’s the third 30-28 we’ve had this year,” Belitz said. “Holy cow … It’s the same thing. They just have such trust in each other that they can go perform.”
Lilly Rowe notched her 13th kill of day on match point to seal it for Lakeview and lead all attackers. She added 22 digs for the double-double. Mallory Kucera had 12 kills and Katee Korte added 10. Setter Reese Janssen finished with 43 assists and 17 digs while libero Jordan Nekl covered a lot of ground in the back row with 23 digs.
Jessica Moss led Syracuse with 11 kills and 13 digs while Lindsey Moss added 10 kills and 16 digs.
Lakeview will take on to-seeded Wahoo in Friday’s semifinals.
No. 6 Lincoln Lutheran 3, No. 3 Kearney Catholic 1
The Stars got off to a great start and took the first set, but it was all Lincoln Lutheran after that as the Warriors upset the No. 3 seed 17-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-22.
Sophomore outside hitter Abby Wachal put together a dominant performance, finishing with 22 kills, 11 digs, 4 blocks and two aces. Fellow sophomore outside hitter Erika Young added 10 kills while junior setter Ashlyn DeBoer finished with 40 assists, 11 digs and four kills.
Junior outside hitter Ashley Keck led the Stars with 13 kills ad 10 digs while junior setter Sydney Conner recorded 34 assists, nine digs and five kills.
The second semifinal in C1 will feature No. 2 St. Paul against the Warriors.
No. 1 Elkhorn South 3, No. 8 North Platte 0
As last year’s No. 2 seed, Elkhorn South fell to No. 7 seed Papillion-La Vista South in a sweep. Despite a 27-1 season that earned the Storm this year’s No. 1 seed, that loss was still fresh in their minds, so much so that Coach Chelsea Potter didn’t need to spend much time getting her team psyched up to play on Wednesday.
“Last year we were the second seed and we did lose to a seven seed,” Potter said. “I didn’t really have to give them that message, they remembered that from last year for sure. When you get to the state tournament, it’s all about who can perform in this arena at the right time, peak at the right time of the season. Everybody knows especially in Class A it’s anybody’s game on any night. I mentioned that, but I didn’t have to remind them a ton. They did a good job of respecting our opponent and staying focused.”
Behind a dominant showing form their go-to hitters, Elkhorn south made short work of No. 8 North Platte, sweeping the Bulldogs 25-17, 25-14, 25-16.
Elkhorn South jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first set before future Husker Rylee Gray even recorded her first kill, and the Storm stretched the lead out to 10 at 17-7 before cruising to the finish. The Storm scored the first five points of the second set then blew the game open with an 11-4 run that gave them another 10-point advantage.
Elkhorn South used another 5-0 in the third set to create a big cushion and kept building on the lead the rest of the set.
Gray finished with a match-high 18 kills on .531 hitting, two blocks and an ace. Arkansas commit Kylie Weeks nearly matched her with 16 kills on .452 hitting and a team-high 19 digs.
“I’m just really proud of our girls,” Potter said. “I started the day by saying I just want to play like us. That doesn’t change — where we are, what arena we’re in, what tournament we’re in, I just want to play like us and I’ll be proud of them no matter what. I’m proud that we played our game, our speed, our intensity and our energy.”
Sophomore outside hitter Carly Purdy led the Bulldogs with 11 kills while junior outside hitter Kylie Harvey added nine kills.
No. 2 Papillion-La Vista South 3, No. 7 Bellevue West 0
The Thunderbirds gave the Titans all they could handle in the first set, but reigning champion Papio South saved a handful of set points before finally pulling out a 28-26 win themselves. From there, the Titans controlled the rest of the action, taking the last two sets 25-14 and 25-17.
Freshman outside hitter Lauren Medeck led the Titans with 12 kills including the winner in set three. Junior setter Ava LeGrand, a Kansas State commit, did a bit of everything with 33 assists, 18 digs, four blocks, three kills and an ace.
Sophomore outside hitter Destiny Ndam-Simpson led the Thunderbirds with 11 kills and six digs while junior middle blocker Kenzie Keith added 10 kills.
No. 4 Papillion-La Vista 3, No. 5 Lincoln Southwest 0
Papio and Southwest split their two regular season meetings, but the rubber match at Pinnacle Bank Arena was all Monarchs as Papillion-La Vista swept the Silver Hawks 25-15, 25-18, 25-11.
Creighton commit Norah Sis posted game-highs in both kills (17) and digs (13) for Papio while fellow senior outside hitter Morgan Hickey chipped in 10 kills and libero Samantha Riggs added 12 digs.
Shaylee Myers led Southwest with eight kills and 10 digs.
The Monarchs will take on Elkhorn South in the semifinals. The Storm won the two regular season meetings, 3-0 and 2-1.
No. 6 Millard West, No. 3 Lincoln Pius X
The best match of the day was also the last match of the day as the Thunderbolts and Wildcats went the distance. The only five-set match of the day featured two contrasting styles as Lincoln Pius X, led by 6-foot-3 Nebraska basketball commit Alexis Markowski, features a rotation with six players 5-foot-11 or taller while Millard West didn’t have a rotation player taller than 5-foot-10.
The Wildcats didn’t let their lack of size hold them back, however, as Millard West outlasted the Bolts 24-26, 25-23, 24-26, 25-17, 15-6 to advance to the semifinals.
“From the get-go, we told our girls we’re probably the smallest team in Class A here,” West coach Joe Wessel said. “We’re 5-8 across the board, if that. We told them it’s kind of a David and Goliath thing. We’re going up against Pius, Pius has some big girls, some big swingers. They’re a powerful team, but what we have is quickness and finesse and ball control and I think we really brought that out and we just stuck with it.”
The first three sets featured some wild swings including several ties and lead changes and all three were two-point games, but the Thunderbolts won two of them to take a 2-1 lead. The third set looked to be following the same script as the teams battled to a 6-6 tie, but then Millard West bye the game open with a 6-0 run and dominated play from then on.
West used a 5-1 run to take an early lead then scored four in a row to pull ahead 10-6. Pius attempted to mount a comeback, scoring the next two points, but the Wildcats slammed the door shot and bolted it with a 5-0 closing run.
“I think we just wore them out,” Wessel said. “We had heart. From the get-go, we told them it’s going to be battle. State is about everybody’s record is 0-0. It doesn’t matter what seed you are, everybody got here for a reason. We just told them you’ve got to play with heart and with passion and grit. I think that’s what it was. A couple of those sets we lost by two; it was a heartbreaker in overtime. We could have been a team that completely folded and just fell away from it, but instead we understood what we needed to do, what kind of changes, minimize errors and then go after them, and we did that in the fourth and fifth.”
After a slow start, junior outside hitter Maddie MacTaggart came alive to lead the Wildcats with 20 kills and 15 digs. Junior middle blocker Sadie Millard added 12 kills, 3 digs and eight blocks. Senior setter Bridget Smith recorded 43 assists, seven digs, five kills, two aces and two blocks.
Millard West is making it’s 10th straight state tournament appearance, but Wednesday was the program’s first win state since 2014.
“We’ve had these amazing teams, we just haven’t been able to get over that hump,” Wessel said. “I think that was the biggest thing, the emotional thing about it, and I know at the end, we finally got over that step.”
On the other side of the net, Markowski was a force in her final volleyball match with 21 kills while Kylen Sealock, a South Dakota commit, added 19 kills and 18 digs. Libero Miriam Miller posted a match-high 35 digs.
The Wildcats will take on Papillion-La Vista South in the semifinals. Millard West went 0-2 against the Titans during the regular season but their last meeting went five sets.
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.