Central Nebraska Volleyball
Bertrand takes 4th at state

Bertrand used a quick start in the first set to advance in three sets over Wallace in the Class D-2 state quarterfinals on Thursday night, winning 25-8, 25-17, 25-15. With Jadyn High on serve the Vikings broke out to a 7-0 lead in game one and cruised from there. In the second set, Wallace jumped out to a 7-2 lead before Bertrand came back to get the win.

In game three, Bertrand eventually pulled away to take the set and get the sweep. Sophomore Mollie Kaps led Bertrand with 11 kills. Mattison Peterson had 10 as the Vikings improved to 32-0 on the year. 

Bertrand's 32-match winning streak came to an end on Friday. The Vikings were upset by Stuart in the State Semifinals 25-20, 20-25, 25-18, 25-20, 17-15. Bertrand had lost just 6 sets all year long and was aiming for its 3 appearance in the state championship match in the last five years.

Kate Chesterman led the way with 13 kills, Kaps had 11 while Peterson had 9. Allison Mason notched 17 digs while Brittany Shipp had 15 digs and 41 set assists. Kaps added 11 digs.

Bertrand lost its second match at the state tournament on Saturday as they fell to Sterling in three sets, 25-18, 28-26 and 25-21 in the consolation match. The Vikings had leads in each set but Sterling made the big plays when it counted.

Each team had dropped emotional five set matches in the semifinals but came out and played good volleyball. Kaps led the Vikings with 12 kills and Chesterman had 10. Bertrand closes the year at 32-2. 

Head coach Lisa Mason says it wasn't easy playing for third place, but it still meant something. " To be honest, it was tough to get up for the consolation game, but we were all thankful we had one more opportunity to play together and to get to take something back to remember the state tournament and the great season they had."

Mason says this team worked hard all season long, and never gave up. "This team gave everything they had in every game. We may have made more errors than we would have liked at times, but there was never a moment in this season where there was an ounce of apathy. They always played all out, worked to make adjustments, and tried very hard to do what we asked of them without question. It takes a lot of guts to put it out there day in and day out, and our kids never wavered, never complained, and fought with everything they had. I would not trade this team for all the gold medals and state championship trophies in the world. I am proud of their 4th place finish and of each and every one of the girls."

The Vikings lose a lot of talent in Shipp, Chesterman, Mason, Peterson, and Savannah High.

Mason says this year's team worked tirelessly to get where they did. "These kids worked hard all the time....in season, off season...they willingly spent many hours (without complaint) preparing for the opportunity they had this last weekend. They worked well together and accepted their roles without complaint. They had fun playing together and because of this, they were extremely fun to watch play. Upper division coaches and spectators came to watch Bertrand play because they were fun to watch. That speaks volumes about the character of these individuals."

The Vikings bring back Kaps, High, Kristine Edgren, Haley Dannehl, Courtney Philips, Katlyn Einspahr, Tessa Callahan, and Riquella Lundy.

Having another season like this one won't be an easy task for next year's team.

Peterson led the way this year with 211 kills. Kaps added 192 while Chesterman put down 177. Shipp recorded 120 while High and Dannehl had 113 and 103, respectively.

Mason had a team leading 453 digs. Peterson added 205 while Shipp and High totaled 196 and 195, respectively. Kaps racked up 157. Edgren notched 129. Shipp dished out 703 set assists.

Those are some gaudy numbers put up by this year's team. There's so much for the players, the coaches, the fans, and the community to be proud of. What this year's squad accomplished will be remembered for a very long time. It may be a while before another Bertrand team dominates the way this one did.

I know the season didn't end the way the Vikings were hoping for, but they gave it everything they had match in and match out. I don't know if there was much more this team could of done. They exerted everything they had.

Bertrand no doubt played with the heart of champions all season long. They came up short of their goal, but were champions in my book.

There's lots of work for the returning players to do before the start of next season. There's a lot of repetition to be done in team camps, summer leagues, and open gyms. Plus the weight room.

The bar has been set so high by this year's senior class. It's going to take a great deal of hard work for the Vikings to get on top again.

But it has happened before, and it can happen again. Next year's Bertrand team has a chance to be good, and is capable of making it back to state.

I expect the Vikings to be very good again in 2014. I don't know if they'll be nearly as good as they were this year, but 20+ wins is not out of the realm of possibility.

It will be interesting to see how Bertrand fares in 2014. 

Minden finishes runner up at state

Minden made a nice run in the state tournament, defeating Wahoo in the first round before knocking off perennial power Columbus Scotus in the semifinals, only to lose to Kearney Catholic in the state championship.

Things were tight against the 5th seeded Warriors on Thursday as the 4th seeded Whippets earned a three sets to one win. Minden took set one 26-24 before winning set two 25-23. Wahoo won set three 25-21 before the Whippets closed out the match with a 25-21 set four victory.

Head coach Ed Rowse says the state tournament was one to remember, and that includes the way his team fought against the Warriors. "The state tourney was magical and created memories for me that I will never forget. Wahoo was a very physical and very good team but our team dug deep in the first two sets and finished like a pro. It was like a heavyweight fight and we got the last few punches in at the end of the round to win it. In the end I think they just ran out of belief and we finished them."

Carlie Bauer recorded a match-high 24 kills for Minden. Addison Woodward added 13 while Rebecca Stewart totaled 11. Anisha Kuehn recorded 19 digs while Bauer, Ali Rowse, and Jenna Denney had 15 each. Rowse dished out 44 set assists.

The Whippets found the going a little bit easier against Columbus Scotus on Friday, defeating the top seeded Shamrocks three sets to one.

Minden won the first and second sets 25-22 and 25-12 before Scotus extended the match by winning the third set 25-19. The Whippets ended the match by taking the fourth set 25-15.

Rowse says his squad was not scared of the Shamrocks. "In the semi finals we were very confident and our girls never showed any intimidation factor with Scotus. I was a wrestler and wrestling coach for 18 years, I don't buy into being intimidated by anyone, I was impressed afterwards that our team didn't seem to know what Scotus had done the previous 20 years at state or they just didn't care. This year has always been about this team, not last years or anyone else. Walking away in the fourth set was a little surprising to me but it was also very satisfying."

Bauer put down 15 kills to lead the team. Woodward totaled 8. Rowse notched 39 set assists and 16 digs while Bauer recorded 12 digs.

The win meant taking on rival Kearney Catholic for the state championship on Saturday, a match won by the 6th seeded Stars in five sets.

Minden got off to a good start, winning set one 25-21. Kearney Catholic rebounded to take the next two sets 25-18 and 25-13. The Whippets prolonged the match with a 25-16 set four win before the Stars prevailed in set five 15-3.

Bauer had a team-high 16 kills. Woodward notched 9 kills and 20 digs. Rowse added 37 set assists and 15 digs. Bauer racked up 13 digs while Shae Taylor chipped in 12.

Minden ended the year with a 27-5 record. Rowse says the season was a success. "This season we just kept improving and maxed out at the Holdrege Invite. Then we seemed to plateau or fall back for a while which was frustrating but our players seemed to be working hard. When we got beat at districts our team really didn't want to be done like last year. When we got the wild-card we said this was an opportunity to play another game and earn the right to play on the last day of the season. Every game helped us build confidence and momentum. Our fans and crowd fed our inspiration, I felt like Saturday we were ready and able to beat KC who had defeated us twice earlier. Our players gave us a chance to win the championship and that's what we wanted to do. I'm so proud of this team for their fight, dedication, and love for each other. I wouldn't change a thing."

The Whippets part ways with three seniors in Bauer, Kuehn, and Taylor. Rowse says this year's team was very good given what they lost from 2012. "I felt last years team was a top 3 or 4 team and graduated 6 seniors, honestly without much experience in some key spots this team exceeded my expectation at the beginning of the season. Mid-way through the season we had beaten GICC twice and GICC lost to Scotus in 5 sets, I asked the girls why it couldn't be us that finished #1. It was a vision or pipe dream then but in the end we were one short set away from having it all."

Rowse says the way this team played together and acted towards one another all year long are things he will always remember. "My memories of this team will be great play on the court and the leadership of our seniors that started during summer camps and team functions through the entire season. The love for each other was said, seen, and felt through all the trials of the season until the end of the 5th set Saturday. After the last ball dropped our seniors huddled the team, had every players attention, and told them something, I watched but couldn't hear, and then they embraced each other and shook hands with KC and walked off my Champions."

Minden will have plenty of talent returning next season, including Rowse, Woodward, Stewart, Denney, Mariah Miller, Merissa Weaver, Emily Malcom, Jenae Boudreau, Abbie Sanders, and Josie Madsen.

The loss of the three seniors will certainly be felt, but this year's team was very good despite losing six seniors from last year. And so given that I think next year's team has an opportunity to win it all.

Finishing runner up is certainly something to be proud of, but it leaves more to desire for next year. Knowing that you were that close to winning it all has to make you hungry to get the job done next season.

I bet the returning players are chomping at the bit to get back out there and win a state championship. But it will have to wait until next season.

However, there is an entire offseason where the Whippets can work hard and get better before the start of next season. 

These players must be committed to the weight room, attending team camps, participating in summer leagues, and in open gyms. The returning players must put in as much work as possible if they want to be state champions in 2014.

Minden was very close this year, and no doubt felt like champions after walking off the court against Kearney Catholic, but to actually be champions would mean so much more. The road to winning the 2014 state championship begins now for the Whippets.
Loomis ends season with sub district loss to Elwood

The season came to a close for Loomis on Monday, November 4th as the Wolves lost three sets to none to Elwood in the bunny bracket match of the D2-8 sub district at Cozad.

5th seeded Loomis dropped set one 25-10. The Wolves lost set two 25-17 before falling in set three 25-20.

I'm sure a 2-22 season is not what Loomis had in mind, but sometimes things don't go the way you want them to.

The Wolves certainly had a tough season, but victories over Elwood and Franklin are what the players will remember. Loomis tasted a little bit of success in picking up those wins, and at least got to experience the feeling of winning a couple of times.

The Wolves were young this year as they only lose three seniors in Katie Butler, Riley Hahn, and Kristi Freed.

Loomis returns 12 players in Katie Anderson, Heulher Szekley, Brooke Rademacher, Colette Thorell, Michaela Marcy, Allison Dennis, Hannah Park, Terah Maaske, Treianne Park, Laura Torres, Brittany Baxter, and Persha Mason.

There's no doubt the Wolves should be much better next year than they were this year. Loomis was very young, and sometimes you have to go through growing pains to get where you want.

Also having a new coach in Roxann Hunhoff was an adjustment from last year, and sometimes it takes time for a coach to get a program going.

The Wolves will still be relatively young next season as only four of their twelve returning players will be seniors. Still though, Loomis should be better.

I think 10 wins is a possibility for next year's team. I think in two years they could be really good. But it might take a little time to get where they want to.

Either way I expect the Wolves to fair better next year than they did this year. It was a tough season for Loomis, and one I'm sure they want to put in the rearview mirror. The Wolves did their best to fight hard all season, but for the most part it just wasn't meant to be.

At the same time, it's time to get back up on that horse and work hard. These girls have to put a lot of hard work in this offseason if they want to have a better season next year. Working hard in the weight room, during team camps, in summer leagues, and in open gyms will be crucial. Next year starts now for Loomis.

2014 has the potential to be a much better season for the Wolves. Only time will tell how good they will be.
Holdrege finishes 1-1 at Districts, loses at Substate

Holdrege's year concluded Saturday, November 9th when the Dusters lost at Waverly in Substate three sets to none.

14th seeded Holdrege lost set one 25-6 before dropping sets two and three 25-14 and 25-10.

The Dusters advanced to Substate as a wildcard after losing to Hastings three sets to one in the B-7 District Final on Tuesday, November 5th.

2nd seeded Holdrege got to the district final by defeating 3rd seeded McCook three sets to none.

The Dusters owned the first set 25-12 before winning the second set 25-21. Holdrege won the third set 25-8.

Head coach Mikala Vrbka says aggressive play led to good things. "Against McCook we played pretty well. We served aggressively and got them frustrated. We were able to get some big blocks and that helped our confidence. We played aggressively on offense and were able to take some good swings."

Julianna Burr put down a team-high 8 kills. Rachel Jelden notched 7. Jamie Isaacson totaled 6. Jenna Gillespie dished out 27 set assists.

In the Hastings match, the Dusters took the first set 25-20 only to see the top seeded Tigers win the next three sets. Hastings won the second set 25-20, the third set 25-21, and the fourth set 25-16.

Vrbka says her team played well early on, but sort of slipped as the match progressed. "Against Hastings we started out pretty sluggish. Dug ourselves into a hole early on...but worked twice as hard to get ourselves back into the game. We ended up winning the set by being aggressive on all aspects of the games. On serve receive wanted the ball, our hitters took good aggressive swings. We were able to get them out of system with our serves. After the first set we lost a little momentum. We still played very well...and battled point for point. We let a few close balls drop or let them get a couple points ahead. In the 3rd and 4th we just played too passive. We waited on them to do something instead of us setting the tone of the match."

Jelden had a team leading 10 kills. Isaacson added 6. Gillespie recorded 15 digs and 40 set assists. Rachel Anderson chipped in 15 digs while Paige Andrijeski notched 13.

Holdrege finished the 2013 campaign with an 18-13 record. The Dusters beat who they were supposed to this season, and all of their losses came to teams who were well above .500.

Holdrege didn't have any signature wins so to speak, but they performed well against the teams they were expected to beat, and were competitive this season.

A lot of this year's success can be attributed to the leadership of the seniors. They include Jelden, Burr, Isaacson, Anderson, Ashley Alber, Sarah Vonasek, Morgan Hamling, and Haley Schroeder.

These players certainly meant a lot to the program, and will be sorely missed. Their contributions to Holdrege volleyball will not soon be forgotten.

But now it's time to move on. It's time for the Dusters to look towards the future, and see what they have coming back next year.

Holdrege brings back Andrijeski, Gillespie, Kimberly Jurado, Addison Waller, Annie Allmand, and Ellie Brown.

This is certainly a capable group of players to build your program around. All of them except Brown will be seniors, which means it's time to step up and be leaders.

These girls have to show leadership by their actions and play. They have to lead by example. That will be the key to this team's success in 2014.

The growth and development of the newcomers will be critical as well. The players with no prior varsity experience have to grow up in a hurry for the Dusters to be good next year.

It takes teamwork from top to bottom to have a successful team. You are only as good as your weakest player.

Holdrege can't go out there next season playing as individuals. They have to play team volleyball, and I'm sure they will.

This offseason is big for the Dusters. It is important for returning players to get in as many reps as possible, whether that's playing the game of volleyball or lifting weights. Holdrege is getting hit fairly hard by graduation, so new players must emerge.

I think next year's team has the potential to be just as good as this year's team, and may even be able to take things to the next level. The Dusters are certainly losing a very talented class, but that doesn't mean there isn't talent coming up. Holdrege hopes to reload instead of rebuild in 2014.

Should be an interesting season next year for the Dusters. If things go right, I don't think 20 wins is out of the realm of possibility.
Elwood goes 1-1 in sub districts

Elwood's season came to an end Monday, November 4th when the Pirates lost three sets to none to Bertrand in the D2-8 sub district tournament at Cozad.

The 4th seeded Pirates earned the right to play the top seeded Vikings by knocking off 5th seeded Loomis three sets to none in the bunny bracket match.

Elwood defeated the Wolves 25-10 in the first set before winning the second and third sets 25-17 and 25-20.

Anna Eggers led the team with 11 kills. Tiffany Finkral added 8. Katie Kleine notched 20 set assists.

In the Bertrand match, the Pirates lost sets one and two 25-12 before dropping set three 25-9.

Eggers totaled 9 kills to lead the way. Kleine recorded 8 set assists.

Elwood finished the year with a 5-23 record. I'm sure the Pirates would of liked to have done better, but three of their wins came over Loomis, so that certainly has to be a highlight.

Let's not forget this team returns everybody next year. The Pirates don't lose a single player to graduation, and that should allow them to be much improved next season.

I look for Eggers and Finkral to have big senior campaigns as they both put together solid junior campaigns.

Kleine was just a freshman, and I suspect she will be drastically improved as a sophomore. She had an excellent freshman campaign.

If this team sticks together, and works hard in the offseason, there's no telling how good they could be next year. I feel there's a lot of potential in this group, and things have a chance to come together for them next season.

A big offseason is critical to Elwood's success next year. Most of these girls play other sports, but the more volleyball they can play from now until the start of next season, the better. It takes a lot of work to improve, but I know this team has it in them.

I think 10-15 wins is not out of the realm of possibility for next year's team. They certainly have the pieces in place to make some noise, and cause teams havoc.

Will a full offseason to grow, this team should only get better. Don't be surprised if the Pirates are a threat to do big things next season.
Lexington loses to Hastings in Districts

The season came to a close for Lexington on Tuesday, November 5th as the Minutemaids lost to Hastings in B-7 District action three sets to one.

The top seeded Tigers took the first two sets 25-9 and 25-7 before the 4th seeded Minutemaids prolonged the match with a 25-23 set three win. Hastings closed out the match by winning set four 25-9.

I'm sure going 0-32 is not what Lexington had in mind this season, but I think it's safe to say the Minutemaids never quit.

Lexington kept fighting despite the odds, and did everything in their power to try and win a match. It's tough when you don't have success, but the way these girls stayed positive the entire the year and continued to play hard is something to be proud of.

The going was rough for the Minutemaids this year, just like it was last year. But this year's senior class gave it their all. Lexington says goodbye to Bethany Dolezal, Maricela Dones, Taylor Bennett, Sandra Gomez, Monica Myers, and Paola Briones.

The Minutemaids bring back the likes of Ellie Rowe, Zoie Allen, Joelly Anderson, Kaelyn Pack, and Ellie Hobelman.

That is a solid group of players to build your team around next season. Rowe, Allen, Anderson, and Pack did some nice things this year, and I look for them to do even better things next year.

All will be juniors, which means a year older and a year better.

These girls, along with other returning players, have a lot of work to do in the offseason though. The Minutemaids have to get after it in the weight room, during team camps, in summer leagues, and on the court in general. Everything Lexington does this offseason is critical to next season's success.

The Minutemaids have to treat their offseason work as if it is the actual season. That way they can start practicing for what things will be like during the course of next season.

Lexington has to do their best to play at actual game speed when they're on the court doing whatever it is that they're doing. And their workouts have to be good.

The Minutemaids have to do more than just go through the motions this offseason if they want to be improved next year.

I think there is a lot of potential in next year's team. But a lot of things have to go right in the offseason. Next season begins now. For the returning players not in a winter sport, the winter time is an opportunity to get better, faster, stronger, and more polished. It is a time for them to hone their skills and have a leg up on everyone else. The more the returning players can take advantage of, the better.

2014 will be interesting to say the least. I feel Lexington has to ability to win some matches, and end their long losing streak. But their success will be measured by how hard they work. The Minutemaids have to be committed to playing good volleyball in the offseason, and during next season.
Southern Valley's season ends in loss to Blue Hill

Southern Valley's season came to an end Monday, November 4th when the Eagles lost to Blue Hill in sub district C2-8 action at Minden's CL Jones Middle School.

The Eagles were swept three sets to none, losing sets one and three 25-21. Southern Valley dropped set two 25-16.

Laura McInturf led the way with 13 kills. Baily Craig added 10. Brooke Hays totaled 15 digs while Shelisa Brooks chipped in 11. Savana Quinn dished out 28 set assists.

Southern Valley concluded the year with an 18-11 record. The Eagles had some impressive wins, beating Hershey, Arapahoe, and Elm Creek.

Head coach Sandy Miller says it was a record setting year. "Well, believe it or not we set a lot of team and individual records at Southern Valley. The wins also tied the most wins at SV which I believe happened in 1997. We improved in lots of areas but the mental issue of winning close games is something we need to work on."

Southern Valley lost 7 sets 2-1 this season. Miller says winning close matches is a mentality thing. "Feel like we missed out on the opportunities of winning some sets and matches but we need to work on playing to win and not to lose. Did overcome some games so hope we keep improving in that aspect of the game."

Craig and McInturf led the Eagles offensively this season, putting down 280 and 253 kills, respectively. Miller says both are fast, and good at mixing up their hits. "Both Baily and Laura were our go to players in the front row this season, they both love to run a quick offense and use some different hits which gives them great opportunities to be threats at the net."

Brooks was third on the team in kills with 100. Craig recorded a team leading 91 blocks. Hays led the way in digs with 382. Abby Carlson posted 248 while Brooks had 199. Quinn recorded 171 digs and 721 set assists. Kristyn Bose added 160 digs.

The outlook for Southern Valley volleyball is very good as they lose just two seniors in Carlson and Emily Becker.

Craig, McInturf, Quinn, Bose, Hays, Brooks, and Logan Becker are all back, among others.

I believe next year's team has the chance to break the school record for wins in a season. With what the Eagles have coming back I would be shocked if they don't win 20+ matches.

Southern Valley has an opportunity to do some nice things next year, and I know they want to make the most of that opportunity. It's important for the Eagles to start the season off strong, and continue to play well throughout the entire season.

The sky is the limit for Southern Valley in 2014 as far as I'm concerned. The Eagles just need a good offseason of successful weight lifting, team camps, summer leagues, and other on court play.

I think you will see many teams take notice of Southern Valley next year. Teams better be ready because the Eagles are going to be good. It should be a fun ride for Southern Valley in 2014. 
Kearney ends year with loss to North Platte

Kearney's season came to a close last Wednesday when the Bearcats lost three sets to none to North Platte in the A-7 district tournament at Lincoln North Star.

3rd seeded Kearney lost sets one and two 25-20 before losing set three 25-18.

Head coach Melissa Ericksen says serving was the difference in what was a competitive match. "We fought hard and definitely made them earn this one. North Platte came out ready to play and we had a slow start in the first set, but we shook it off and got right back in the game. The difference in the match was their serving and our serve receive. They served tough and it was just enough to keep us out of system. When we made that first pass well, we put it down. I was very pleased with how our offense performed. In our previous two matches with North Platte this season, they really took it to us. So I was proud of the girls for not backing down and really competing out there."

Jaydn Trimble had 8 kills to lead the Bearcats. Karmin Moncrief added 7. Lauren Speicher and Maggie McGowan notched 5 blocks each. Trimble totaled 12 digs while Cassie Mathews contributed 11. McGowan dished out 23 set assists.

Kearney ended the year with a 7-29 record. Ericksen says she was impressed by her team's continuous improvement. "Overall, I was very pleased with how the girls showed improvement throughout the course of the season. We played a very difficult schedule and the girls took some tough blows at times. However, we got right back up and continued to get better. Our younger players really progressed and can use that experience as the building blocks for the future. I was proud of our seniors, as well. We had to rely on them a lot, especially early in the season. They should be proud of their contributions to Kearney High volleyball."

This year's seniors include Moncrief, Trimble, and Keona Koster. 

Ericksen says this year's schedule did her team no favors. "We played a very difficult schedule this year. The fact we only had 5 wins when district seedings came out and we received a #3 seed says a lot about our opponents. But overall, I think we came a long way. The speed and pace of Class A volleyball was unknown to a lot of our key players early on and we had to go through some growing pains. However, it was fun to see the girls improve and get better and to see their confidence gradually increase as the season progressed."

Four of the Bearcats' wins came in the last two and-a-half weeks of the season. Ericksen says it was a struggle early on. "I would have loved to play some of our early games over again as I’m positive we were a different team at the end of the season. We started the year as a very young team and had some tough losses to good teams that really hurt our confidence and our mentality to finish. We also had a key injury that made us experiment with some different line-up combinations, as well. But our seniors were able to stay consistent and our younger players were able to really grow and become greater threats as the season progressed."

Ericksen says once her squad got through the growing pains they were able to play better. "As the girls got more comfortable on the court and with their roles on the team, we were able to start implementing some things in practice that allowed more people to get involved in the offense. This allowed us to hit teams from different angles, spread things out a little bit, and run some different types of sets to keep our opponent off-balance. At the end of the season, we were going blow-for-blow with some good teams offensively when we made that first pass well and were able to stay in system."

Ericksen says she was impressed by how well her team played together. "I am very proud of the way our upperclassman came alongside the underclassman this year. There was a vast improvement in the sophomores from the beginning of the season to the end. I really think this is reflective of their work ethic and the encouragement of the senior class. Overall, the friendships that were formed on the court have continued off the court and that makes a huge difference when your record might not have been where we wanted it to be." 

Trimble had 253 kills on the year to lead the team. Moncrief totaled 144. Trimble led the way in digs with 227. McGowan had 183 while Moncrief compiled 179. Mathews notched 158. Speicher chipped in 115. McGowan finished with 572 set assists.

I think Kearney has a good chance to be better next year than they were this year. The Bearcats return Mathews, Speicher, McGowan, Hayley Limbach, Bre Obermiller, and Taylor Moran, among others.

Having McGowan back is huge. What she brings to the table from an offensive standpoint is second to none. However, with the departure of Trimble and Moncrief, the Bearcats will have to develop some hitters. That could be the key to being good next season.

Speicher and Mathews are very capable of picking up the load, in my opinion. Both will be juniors, and will no doubt have an increased role in the offense. They could be the go to players for Kearney next year.

The Bearcats really need to have a good offseason. Hard work on the court, in the weight room, during camp teams, and in summer leagues will be critical to Kearney's success next year. The Bearcats have to really get after things.

I think 2014 has the potential to be good for Kearney. Ericksen is trying to build a program, and I think anywhere from 15-20 wins is a possibility for the Bearcats. Things have to go well early for Kearney, and they have to be consistent throughout the entire season, but if they do those things then success could come their way.

Don't be surprised if the Bearcats are much improved in 2014.
Arapahoe falls to Southwest to end season

Arapahoe's year came to an end Monday, November 4th when the Warriors lost to Southwest in the D1-10 sub district final at Southern Valley.

2nd seeded Arapahoe began sub district play with a three sets to one win over 3rd seeded Alma. The Warriors took set one 25-22. Arapahoe dropped set two 25-23 before coming back to win sets three and four 25-12 and 25-14.

Head coach Katie Wenz says it was a successful match. "We played well & stayed mentally tough this game. We pushed ourselves and made the little things work. Good win."

Rochelle Wendland posted 20 kills to lead the team. Kaylea Watson added 8 kills and 16 set assists.

The top seeded Roughriders swept the Warriors three sets to none, winning the first set 25-18, the second set 25-9, and the third set 25-15.

Wenz says it was a difficult way to go out. "It's tough to finish a season like this. Our team had a great season & became very successful. We have very little to hold our heads about."

Wendland finished with 10 kills in her last ever match as a Warrior. Watson totaled 9.

Arapahoe finished the year 18-10, one win better than last year.

Wenz says the season was a success. "I thought Arapahoe had a great season this year. We fought in many games and proved to ourselves we can hang with any team. There were many games we were down and had to fight to come back and win. I saw throughout the whole season each girl improved and help the team become successful. This team worked hard in the off season and over the summer to have the potential to challenge other teams. I really feel these kids had more of a fight and a push to win in them this year than the past teams I have coached."

The Warriors didn't have a slide at the end of the season like last year. Wenz says hard work and perseverance allowed her team to be consistent as teams weren't taken by surprise. "I think this year all teams we played stepped up their games against us and knew we were a team that was going to challenge other teams and were not going to give up when down. I think we won all the games we should have and pushed ourselves to be better each and every game. There were games where we didn't show up playing our best volleyball and that hurts the team when they show up to games like that. I do think the kids became much more mentally tough this year and didn't give up when it seemed easy to. I think our consistency comes from us as a team training to play one point at a time and work through each game play by play."

Arapahoe was really hoping to make state for the first time since 1995. Wenz says it would of been nice to make it, but her squad still did some nice things. "I would have loved to go to state and have the kids experience the atmosphere of state volleyball, but unfortunately it didn't happen. I feel we maximized our potential this season and everyone stepped up and adjusted their role to help the team out when necessary. Our offense was lead by strong hitters and setters who could get the ball where it needed to be and at the right time. Our passers really stepped up at the right times and helped make our offense work. There were times we let our emotions/mental game get the best of us, but I think that happens with any team. No team goes out and plays a perfect game, and I never expect my kids to play a perfect game. There isn't much I would change with how the girls played this season and I am proud of them for the successful season they had."

The 18 wins this year is the most during Wenz's tenure. She says this is a team she won't forget. "I am going to remember a lot with this team. All of them posted some amazing statistics, achieved many accomplishments, and learned many new aspects of the volleyball game. This team was the team that I finally saw go out on the court and play with confidence as well as not giving up when the game was close and we were down. I also will remember this team as a team that pushed each other to be better and it became a battle of who was going to get that spot on the court. This team wanted to work harder, wanted to be pushed to be better, and had motivation to go out and play hard every game. I will remember my seniors and how dedicated they were to me and to their team, and I will remember how far all of them have come in turning the Arapahoe Volleyball program around in the three years I have been here."

The Warriors say goodbye to Wendland, Lora Taylor, and Hannah Hanke.

Wendland finished the year with 385 kills. Watson had 191. Wendland led the team in blocks with 123. Watson notched 303 set assists. Brielle Weverka added 108.

There is lots to be proud of if you are Arapahoe. The Warriors had a very successful season, and it's something these seniors should remember for a long time. Arapahoe didn't achieve their postseason goals, but that doesn't take away from what the Warriors did this year.

People now view Arapahoe volleyball differently than they did in the past. The Warriors have earned the respect of many, and the future looks nothing but bright.

Watson should have a very good senior campaign for the Warriors. Other players returning with varsity experience include Weverka, Liz Peterson, Olivia tenBensel, Jaci Hilker, Danielle Eichenberger, Michaela Gellerman, and Jacci Stagemeyer.

The make up of next year's team figures to be pretty good. Losing Wendland will clearly hurt, but I think Arapahoe has many capable athletes who can step up and fill the void.

I believe the Warriors have a chance to be just as good as they were this year, if not better. Don't be shocked if Arapahoe wins 20 matches as long as everything goes well.

There is a lot of work to be done in the offseason, but I know these girls are up to the task. I look for them to work hard in the weight room, on the court, in team camps, and in summer leagues. The more volleyball they play in the offseason, the better.

I really believe the future of Arapahoe volleyball is bright. It will be interesting to see what the Warriors do in 2014.
S-E-M concludes year with sub district final loss to Bertrand

The season came to a close for S-E-M last Tuesday as the Mustangs were swept three sets to none by Class D-2, No. 1 and undefeated Bertrand in the D2-8 sub district final at Cozad.

S-E-M reached the sub district final by beating Eustis-Farnam three sets to none last Monday.

The Mustangs won the first set 25-23 before taking the second and third sets 25-11 and 25-23.

In the Bertrand match, the Vikings took set one 25-19. Bertrand won set two 25-14 before taking set three 25-21.

S-E-M finished the year a very respectable 17-12, going 7-2 in their last 9 regular season matches. In fact the Mustangs nearly tripled their win total of 6 from 2012.

Head coach Adam Kuntz says it was a good year. "I am really happy about how the season went. I think the girls were able to see progress within their individual play as well as watching their develop on court as we progressed with every game. I was excited to see them buying into a system and trying new things. There were times on the court it might have looked as if we had no clue, but they were just communication errors because we were trying to push tempo and run some combination plays out of transition."

All the success S-E-M had this year didn't come without hard work, however. Kuntz says it took playing together as a team and a lot of repetition in practice to get where they did. "We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the season trying to get the girls to appreciate their teammates for qualities that they had to offer the team. Once they were able to understand each girls role to the team it made it much easier to smooth out our on court play. They put the time in and they worked really hard in practices. There were times I kept them for over two hours, but they kept plugging away even when their bodies were exhausted. We had a lot of fundamental mess to clean up, and the only way to make that happen was more and more touches."

The Mustangs certainly ran into a very good team in Bertrand, who also defeated S-E-M twice in the regular season. Kuntz says his team gave the Vikings their best shot, and their turnaround this season was quite incredible although they didn't quite maximize their potential. "I don't think a team ever maximizes their potential. The 2012 Olympic teams had some unreached potential. With two more weeks of practice who knows how sub-districts could have turned out. I thought we battled tough with Bertrand for most of that match, but we just couldn't quite jump the hump in our serve receive game. When we were able to find ourselves in transition, I thought our offense looked comparable to them. Their ball handling skills are very fine tuned, so they were able to terminate much more often than we were. I think we covered more ground that a lot of teams. To have someone look at us in August, and then take another look in November we were a complete 180 from where we started."

The Mustangs don't have the kind of season they had without the leadership of their seniors. They are Rachel Ibach, Miranda Pierce, Shaylee Burr, and Kisha Thomas.

Kuntz says the way this team fought and bought into his system are things he will always remember. "Competitiveness and trust are a couple things I will remember about this team. It could have been real easy of them to look at me and throw my ideas out the window at the start of the year. I was hard on them and made them re-do a lot of drills because they were believing themselves that they could even do it. They were resilient and showed they were willing to give me the chance to bring them along. It was a great season. I told the team after our last game that I hope each of them walks away from this season loving the sport of volleyball more than they did before the season started. It is the one thing I love that I can share with kids in a pretty passionate way."

Kuntz appears to really have things headed in the right direction at S-E-M. I think the Mustangs have a chance to be even better next year than they were this year.

Returning will be Brieanna James, Dawnae Nichols, Sami Sleicher, Alicia Pierce, Sydney Glatter, Sage Williams, Kasie Dittmar, and Courtney Barth.

The seniors will be sorely missed, but Kuntz has to be pretty pleased with what he has returning.

Next year's team has a chance to be really good, in my opinion. Every returning player should improve and be a very solid contributor.

A full offseason of weightlifting, volleyball workouts, camps, summer leagues, etc. should have this squad primed and ready for 2014. This is a big offseason for the Mustangs. They have a real chance to do some great things.

Players should make the most of their opportunities with Kuntz as their coach. He is no doubt getting the most out of his players, and is allowing them to maximize their abilities.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Mustangs do a complete 360 from now until the beginning of next season. They have a lot of potential. And we've already saw it in just three months time.

Teams better lookout for S-E-M in 2014.
Elm Creek's season ends with loss to Axtell

Elm Creek's season came to a close last Monday when the Buffaloes lost three sets to one to Axtell in the D1-9 sub district tournament at Lexington.

Elm Creek opened the match with a 25-21 set one win. The Wildcats rebounded to win set two 25-21. Axtell went on to win sets three and four 25-9 and 27-25.

Head coach Brandi McCarter says her team gave it their all. "The girls played a tough game. I was very proud of their efforts. They kind of fell flat the 3rd set, but came back strong the 4th set. We had a few tough breaks and came up short. Overall, I was very proud of their season. Congratulations to the Seniors for having 4 consecutive winning seasons."

Shelbi Brown recorded a team-high 17 kills in her last ever match as a Buffalo. Fellow senior Torie Miner put down 13. McKenzie Deyo totaled 9. Casi Sutherland posted 38 digs while Hannah Robbins notched 31. Miner had 28 while Brown chipped in 27. Deyo compiled 16. Shelby Ferguson dished out 41 set assists and had 12 digs.

I'm not sure if a 17-13 record is what Elm Creek had in mind at the beginning of the season, but they competed hard all year long nonetheless.

McCarter says she thought things would be different. "My overall thoughts of this season are simply that things didn't work out quite like I thought they would. Based on the experience we had coming back I thought our road to the state tournament would extend farther than the first round of subs. Unfortunately, there towards the end of the season we just didn't peak like I thought we would."

For the most part the Buffaloes beat who they were supposed to, and had a couple of standout wins. Most of Elm Creek's losses were to good teams. McCarter says it was a season of mixed success with the Buffaloes not finishing the way they would of liked. "Mixed success is a great way to put it. We won some big games throughout the season and honestly I don't feel we had any 'bad' losses. We definitely had some games I feel we should have won, but they weren't necessarily bad losses. I would like to think we reached our potential as a team, we just didn't come to a peak at the right time. I had my expectations set pretty high this year so I do most certainly think things could have gone better."

Elm Creek loses Brown, Miner, Sutherland, Delaney Zastrow, Sydney Martin, and Paige Kearney to graduation. McCarter says this year's seniors did a lot for the program, and won't soon be forgotten. "This year's Senior class was really special. These young ladies were all 2nd Graders my first year teaching, so they are pretty special to me in that sense. As far as leadership and dedication they set the bar pretty high. For our program I consistently look for our Seniors to step up and take the leadership role and this group accepted that responsibility extremely well. Losing them is for sure going to leave some big vacancies in our program next year, but like every other year, we have young players chomping at the bit- ready to step up. I do look for that to happen and hopefully the leadership roles will come right along with that."

Key returners for the Buffaloes include Ferguson, Robbins, Deyo, Payton Dyer, and Erin Haberlan.

McCarter says she'll always remember this year's team for how easy they were to work with. "I think what I will remember most about this team is their ability to be open minded to new ideas and working hard to make new ideas work. We changed up some things off and on throughout the season and they never once questioned my choices. They accepted them and worked hard to make the changes work. If we liked the changes as a team, we stuck with them. And if there were things they didn't like, they let me know, and we made the necessary adjustments. It is nice to be able to work with girls who are so open-minded and care so much about the sport."

Brown finished the season with 217 kills. Miner put down 209. Sutherland recorded a team-high 332 digs on the year. Brown had 248 while Miner recorded 235. Hannah Robbins added 223. Ferguson totaled 544 set assists.

Filling the shoes of the departed seniors will not be easy for next year's team. There is a lot of work to be done. The returning players have to understand that it takes a great deal of hard work and dedication to be successful. This year's senior class has certainly set the bar high for success. Now it's the job of next year's team to take things a step further and have even more success.

This year may not have gone as well as Elm Creek would of liked, but when the players look back at it they will always remember the good times they had. There is a lot to be learned from playing high school sports, and there is no exception here.

The future certainly looks bright for the Buffaloes. If newcomers can develop quickly, next season has a chance to be a great one. It may take a while for new players to get acclimated, but either way 2014 should be one filled with success for Elm Creek.

Next season starts now for the Buffaloes. It's important for them to get in as much work as possible before next year begins.
Eustis-Farnam ends year with loss to S-E-M

The season came to a close last Monday for the Eustis-Farnam Knights, who lost to S-E-M three sets to none in the D2-8 sub district tournament at Cozad.

The Knights dropped set one 25-23. Eustis-Farnam went on to lose sets two and three 25-11 and 25-23.

Melanie Johnson finished with a team-high 6 kills and 7 blocks for the Knights. Jessica Deterding added 5 blocks. Sara Pleschourt recorded 10 digs while Melissa Johnson had 9 digs and 7 set assists.

It was tough going at times for Eustis-Farnam this year as the Knights finished with a 10-15 record. Head coach Corrine Muenchau says it was an up and down season for her team, but she was pleased with the progress made. "Our season was very much a rollercoaster ride – sometime we were really, really high and other times we were very, very low. I’m am very proud of how the girls worked all season and kept improving throughout the year. This was a great bunch of girls to coach and I’m proud of the senior leaders and proud of the underclassman who stepped up and played vital roles on the team."
It took a while for the Knights to get things going as they started the year 3-9. Muenchau says youth and inexperience factored into that. "We struggled early on mainly due to the fact that I was starting 5 girls with NO varsity experience. We were really just getting our feet wet and trying to find what worked best for us as a team. This year I started 3 freshman in key roles as setter, outside hitter and libero. I also started a sophomore at middle blocker who didn’t see any varsity playing time last year. I knew we were going to take our lumps early we just needed some games under our belts."
Eustis-Farnam eventually got things going and had a better second half. Despite that, Muenchau says her squad did not maximize their potential as they couldn't get everyone going at the same time. "As a coach you never think that your team maximized their potentials. If we did we would be playing this week at the state tournament. With our team it seemed like we would have nights where one or two people would have good nights and some that would play ok and others that would have off nights. I would of liked to see us play a full match where everyone was having a great night."
In the end though, these players gave it their all and that's all you can ask for. Muenchau says she won't forget this senior class, but at the same time is looking forward to the future. "I am going to remember all the hard work that they put in and their ability to play several different positions when asked. I am really going to miss this senior bunch of girls – I have had the opportunity to coach them in basketball and volleyball since they were freshman. It just fun to watch a team grow so much over the course of a season. I am really excited about the future of Knights volleyball – we have a lot of girls coming back next season and are committed to working in the off season to get better."
Eustis-Farnam parts ways with Melanie and Melissa Johnson, McKenna Rieker, Brittany Wolf, Breanna Stout, Katie Jack, Ashlie Montey, and Rachel Jack.
Each and every one of them played a key role one way or another, and should be commended for their efforts. Their leadership and on court skills allowed the Knights to have the success they did.
I think in many ways it was a successful season for Eustis-Farnam, but I also think they left a lot out there. There were a handful of matches that could of gone either way, and if the Knights are able to win a few more of those close matches you are looking at an above .500 ball club.

Melanie Johnson led the team in kills on the season with 149. Deterding had a team-high 103 blocks. Pleschourt finished with 399 digs while Melanie Johnson totaled 208. Melissa Johnson dished out 179 set assists. Emilee McCurdy added 109. 
Next year looks to be promising for Eustis-Farnam with Deterding and Pleschourt back, among others. A lot of these players will have to do some growing up in the offseason. New leaders must emerge, and do what they can to get this program to the next level.
The potential of next year's team is high, and if the Knights can put together a really good offseason, I don't think 15-20 wins is out of the realm of possibility. I think Eustis-Farnam could be much improved next season.
Only time will tell, but don't be surprised to see the Knights make some noise in 2014.
Bertrand ready for state

Bertrand used a balanced attack and stayed undefeated on the season with a straight sets win over Giltner last Thursday night at the D2-4 District Volleyball final in Kearney. 

The Vikings improved to 31-0 by beating the Hornets 25-22, 25-12 and 25-17. 

After a close first game, Bertrand made quick work of things in Games 2 and 3, jumping to big leads as they were never really threatened. 

Mollie Kaps and Mattison Petersen led the way with 12 kills apiece. Brittany Shipp played a wonderful match at setter and also had 5 kills and two aces. 

Bertrand now sets their sights on Wallace, their first round state tournament opponent this evening.

The 8th seeded Wildcats bring in a record of 16-7, having beaten Hayes Center, Wauneta-Palisade, and Paxton in the postseason.

The top seeded Vikings earned sub district wins over Elwood and S-E-M.

Wallace is a threat to do big things, and is capable of pulling off the upset. That is why Bertrand must be ready to roll. The Vikings have to bring their best and not leave anything at home.

Bertrand has their sights set on winning the whole thing, but the road to the state championship goes through Wallace. The Wildcats will do everything in their power to pull off the upset, which means the Vikings cannot afford to take them lightly.

I think you will see a very focused, motivated, and determined Bertrand team tonight. I don't think just reaching the state tournament is good enough for them. They want to win the whole thing. It all starts with Wallace this evening.

The Vikings must hit, pass, and serve well, in addition to serve receiving and blocking well. Bertrand must excel in all facets of the game tonight.

As long as Bertrand plays their game and doesn't tighten up they should be fine. The Vikings have proven to be the best team in Class D-2 all year long, and I look for them to show the Wildcats why this evening.

The match begins at 6:30. It will be aired on 93.1 the River KRVN FM. 
Minden gears up for state

The Minden Whippets earned a wildcard into the Class C-1 State Tournament following their sub district final loss to Kearney Catholic last Tuesday.

Minden began C1-10 sub district play last Monday with a three sets to none sweep of Broken Bow. The Whippets won the first set 25-10 before taking the next two sets 25-15 and 25-12.

The Stars swept Minden three sets to none, winning set one 25-21, and sets two and three 25-17.

Minden heads into state as the 4 seed and will be playing 5th seeded Wahoo at 8:30 tonight. The match will be played at Grand Island Senior High.

The Warriors come in with a record of 28-3, having won their last six matches. Wahoo earned postseason wins over Ashland-Greenwood, Douglas County West, and Omaha Concordia.

This match is a toss up if you ask me. Two very good teams going at it in what appears to be a pretty even match.

It's absolutely critical for Minden to be on top of their game. The Whippets must bring their best tonight.

Minden's play on both sides of the net has to be outstanding. The Whippets have to serve, hit, and pass well, in addition to serve receiving and blocking well.

Every player must be ready to fulfill their role no matter what it is. Minden has to play outstanding team volleyball to find success tonight.

I look for the match to go at least four sets, if not five. Both teams are very good, and will get after things.

Whichever team can overcome the early game jitters and play their game will have the advantage. It's important for the Whippets to play calm, cool, and relaxed, yet aggressive.

It should be a dandy in Grand Island tonight. The winner gets Columbus Scotus or Syracuse in the semifinals on Friday at 4:00 at the Heartland Events Center.

Gothenburg's season ends with loss to Ogallala

Gothenburg's season to remember came to an end last Tuesday when the Swedes lost three sets to none to Ogallala in the C1-11 sub district final at North Platte.

Gothenburg started sub district play last Monday with a three sets to none sweep of 3rd seeded Hershey.

The 2nd seeded Swedes won the opening set 25-13. Gothenburg took the second set 25-8 before winning the third set 25-19.

Regan Geiken led the way with 12 kills. Tiani Reeves put down 11 kills and had 12 digs. Taylor Mroczek posted 11 digs. Aryn Meisinger notched 23 set assists while Madi Gilg had 12.

The Indians beat the Swedes 25-9 in set one. Top seeded Ogallala won set two 25-22 before taking set three 25-14.

Reeves had 8 kills to lead the team. Meisinger totaled 9 digs and 13 set assists. Reeves and Mroczek each had 7 digs. Gilg dished out 9 set assists.

The season was a success in many ways for Gothenburg, despite not making the state tournament. Head coach Mary Clark says not making it was a crushing blow, but it was still a record setting year. "We were so disappointed not to make it to state as we had set our sights on the tournament, and everything we did was meant to help us improve so we could reach it. With that said, I think these girls—who I must say were not only incredible athletes but incredible people—will realize just how much they accomplished when the sting of that final loss wears off. We had the best school record in volleyball in the history of our school, we won a conference title (tied with Ogallala and Minden) for the first time in school history, and we were rated for the longest time in school history."

The Swedes finished the year with a 27-5 record. Clark says hard work and team play allowed her team to be successful. "I believe we had the success we did this year because of the incredible girls with whom we worked. We had great leadership and athleticism in our seniors; they set the tone. They chose to lead by example. The entire team bought into the importance of off-season work and put so much time and effort into improving themselves for the team. This group had great attitudes, a genuine love for the game, and a willingness to work hard every day. Most importantly, this group played as a team. It wasn’t about an individual; it was about the team."

This year's seniors were Geiken, Meisinger, and Mroczek. Clark says this is a team she will never forget. "I get choked up when I think of this group. They were such an incredibly fun group to coach because they worked hard and played hard every day. It is truly difficult to pick just one thing when I think about them. I guess it always comes down to the heart of the kids—yes, I will remember their heart more than anything."

Reeves led the team in kills on the season with 368. Geiken had 248. Reeves totaled a team-high 89 blocks. Mroczek led the way in digs with 293. Reeves posted 247 while Geiken had 231. Meisinger dished out a team leading 544 set assists. Gilg notched 215. 

Despite losing the three seniors I mentioned above, I think the future is bright for Gothenburg. Reeves will be back, and should have an outstanding senior campaign. I look for Gilg to fill in nicely for Meisinger. Replacing Geiken won't be easy, but I think players like Kim Whiting are more than capable of stepping up.

Next year's team has to really get after it in the offseason if they want to be good. Working hard in the weight room and on the court will be critical. The more offseason volleyball these girls can play, the better.

Next season starts now for the Swedes. The sooner they get to work, the better. 2014 certainly has a chance to be another successful season for Gothenburg, but how good they are depends on how hard they are willing to work.

How bad do the Swedes want it? That question will be answered with their offseason work.

This year's team certainly set the bar high for hard work and perseverance. Now it's the returners' job to work even harder and set the bar even higher. Gothenburg has to hold players more accountable than in the past, and must increase their intensity and tenacity in all aspects of the game.

This year was certainly a great one for the Swedes, and will not soon be forgotten. But Gothenburg has a chance to do even better things next year if they put their mind to it. The sky is the limit for the Swedes in 2014.
Cozad ends season with sub district loss to Chase County

The Cozad Haymakers ended their season last Monday with a loss to Chase County in the C1-11 sub district tournament at North Platte.

The 4th seeded Longhorns won the match three sets to none, winning the first set 25-19, the second set 25-20, and the third set 26-24.

Despite the loss, I feel like the 5th seeded Haymakers competed well, and gave Chase County their best shot.

The win for the Longhorns marked the second time on the season that they beat Cozad.

The season was a challenge for the Haymakers in many ways, but it was a season that saw them double their win total from last year.

Head coach Darrel Francescato says his team kept getting better. "I thought our season had some ups and downs, but we improved throughout the season. The kids worked hard and got to know my system better and that will just let us be ready for a better season next year."

At the beginning of the year, Cozad, who finished with an 8-20 record, had a goal was to be a .500 team. Francescato says not achieving that was a bit disappointing, but improvement was shown nonetheless. "Yeah I think every coach, player who sets goals that don't get met are a little disappointed, but overall we got better. Our kids are becoming better athletes in the weight room and that helps them become better volleyball players. The team got better at passing and defense, and that is the key to our team being better at volleyball."

Francescato says a good offseason allowed his squad to have the type of success they did. "Working hard in the off season. I think the kids understand that to get better it takes the off season and they know that there are expectations to get better in the off season."

The Haymakers played their best volleyball in mid-September. Francescato says that's something he's going to remember. "We had a stretch we were 5-2, won our first triangular in a long time and our first 3 of 5 matches in the last 6 years, the team had fun and made it through a rough patch in the middle as better teammates."

Cozad certainly played well in that seven-match span, knocking off the likes of Broken Bow, Perkins County, Alma, Arapahoe, and Lexington.

Those wins were no doubt the highlight of the Haymakers' season.

Next year has a chance to be even better for Cozad though. They showed improvement in Francescato's second year, and I suspect they will be even more improved in 2014.

Another strong offseason is key for the Haymakers. Returning players have to get after it both in the weight room and on the court.

8 wins is certainly much better than 4, the number of matches Cozad won in 2012. But getting to something like 15 or 16 wins would be monumental.

The Haymakers doubled their win total once, meaning they can do it again. Winning 15 or 16 matches is not too much to ask for from this team. They are capable of doing it if everyone believes, and is on the same page.

2014 has a chance to be a pretty good year for Cozad. They just have to put the necessary work in, and learn how to win. The Haymakers have to play to win next year. They can't play not to lose.
Overton ends year with sub district loss to Wilcox-Hildreth

The season came to an end last Monday for Overton as the Eagles lost in five sets to Wilcox-Hildreth at the D1-9 sub district tournament in Lexington.

It looked like top seeded Overton was going to run away with things early on as the Eagles staked claim to a 25-9 set one win. However, the 5th seeded Falcons bounced back to win sets two and three 25-22 and 25-23.

Overton evened the match at two with a 25-21 set four win. But it was Wilcox-Hildreth who prevailed in set five with a 16-14 victory.

Head coach Hayley Ryan says there was some good individual play from her team in the match, and despite the loss, the season was a success. "We had a great season and even started sub-district play well. After we beat Wil-Hil the first set we struggled to maintain momentum. Alyssa Bourbon and Kinzy Enochs hit above a .200 hitting efficiency. Madison (Beavers) and Kinzy combined for 43 kills. Dani Jewett played an aggressive game on the right side attack. Alex (Carlson) & Kinzy totaled 53 set assists. Abby (Miller), Alex, Dani and Kinzy all had 20 or more digs on the night. We didn't bring the level of play that was seen during conference. There was some some streaks of big plays on both sides. Wil-Hil showed up and never let up for long. Even though we may not have finished the season the way we wanted, there was much to be proud of. The team won several triangulars, quads and achieved a conference championship. We will greatly miss this senior class and their four years of dedication."

Addy Fisher added 19 digs for the Eagles.

Ryan says there is an awful lot to be proud of this season. "Our season was successful. With a strong committed senior class we had several team members working for the same common goal. The closer games that we had played three and four years ago had become wins the past 2 seasons. Overall we had played up to our potential in several triangulars, tournaments, regular season games and conference. The seniors were our go to players, the leaders that showed dedication, and led by example. Their work ethic also showed in the classroom. Axtell is a strong and scrappy team that had game point 2 different times in the championship match but the Eagles continued to battle for the FKC title and came out on top. This team earned their 3rd conference championship and a 22-6 season record. We had some injuries that lingered and some that were played through but that shows the drive of this team. I am very proud of the Eagles and appreciate all they have contributed to the success of the volleyball seasons throughout their high school careers. We sure will miss them."

Overton, who finished with a 22-6 record, says goodbye to Enochs, Beavers, Miller, Carlson, and Diana Arp.

The contributions these five made to Overton volleyball will not soon be forgotten, and they should be commended for their efforts. All had outstanding careers. 

I'm sure the seniors would of preferred to go out a different way, but I think when they look back at it they will realize just how much success they had.

But they will move on, and now it's time for the Eagles to focus their efforts on next season, and being as competitive, if not more competitive than this season.

Overton brings back Jewett, Bourbon, and Fisher, among others.

These three are the Eagles' most experienced players, and must lead the team as seniors next year.

There are certainly some big shoes to fill when it comes to replacing Enochs and Beavers, but Overton has capable players coming up.

It will be important for the returning players to develop and grow in the offseason. 

Next year has a chance to be another successful one for Overton. But if these girls want to achieve big things, they have to work hard from now until the start of next season. I know most, if not all of them play basketball, but finding the time to work on volleyball in the offseason is critical.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles fare next year. They will certainly have the potential to be good, but new leaders will have to emerge and put this team on their back.

Look for Overton to be good again in 2014. 

Bertrand advances to District Final

Class D-2, No. 1 Bertrand rolled right along in the D2-8 sub district, sweeping Elwood and S-E-M three sets to none.

The Vikings took on the Pirates Monday, winning sets one and two 25-12. Bertrand closed out the match with a 25-9 set three victory.

Mollie Kaps and Kate Chesterman each put down 9 kills for the Vikings. Mattison Peterson notched 8. Allison Mason recorded 12 digs while Kaps added 11. Brittany Shipp compiled 26 set assists.

The Vikings took care of the Mustangs the following night, winning the first set 25-19. Bertrand owned the second set 25-14, and took the third set 25-21.

Peterson totaled a team-high 9 kills. Chesterman chipped in 7. Mason had 14 digs. Shipp dished out 23 set assists.

Bertrand really showed how good a team they are in this sub district tournament. The Vikings took care of business from start to finish, and were focused the entire way. Elwood and S-E-M had no chance at upsetting Bertrand given the way they played.

The Vikings (30-0) face perhaps their toughest test of the year tonight though when they take on Class D-2, No. 2 Giltner (28-1).

The Hornets have been spectacular in their own right this season, their only loss coming to Class C-2 Blue Hill.

Giltner is for real, and Bertrand has to be ready to play.

The Vikings are going to have to play even better than they did in sub districts against the Pirates and Mustangs. The Hornets are a whole different animal, and it's going to take Bertrand's best performance for them to come away with the win.

Kaps, Peterson, and Chesterman all need to have big matches offensively for the Vikings. Shipp has to continue to pass well, and Mason must continue to be a force on the defensive side of the net.

Bertrand needs everyone to step up and fill their roles nicely.

I don't see that being a problem as the Vikings have gotten tremendous contributions across the board all year long. This team has been on a mission all year long, and now their undefeated record will really be put to the test.

Bertrand has passed every test so far this year. Now let's see if the Vikings can pass the biggest test of them all.

Giltner will certainly come hard, and bring everything they got. That means Bertrand better be prepared to bring it as well.

This is a big girl match, and there's not a lot of room for error from either team.

The Vikings have to play well offensively and defensively to get the job done.

It should be a very entertaining match. Catch tonight's action on 93.1 the River KRVN FM. Match time is scheduled for 7:00 at Kearney Catholic. Pregame is slated for 6:50.
Kearney goes 2-1 at GNAC, loses to Grand Island

Kearney went 2-2 to end the regular season, losing to Grand Island at home on Thursday before going 2-1 at the GNAC Tournament in Hastings on Saturday.

The Islanders swept the Bearcats three sets to none, winning set one 25-14, set two 25-19, and set three 25-13.

Jaydn Trimble had a team-high 8 kills for Kearney. Karmin Moncrief recorded 10 digs. Maggie McGowan totaled 18 set assists.

Kearney's lone GNAC Tournament loss was to Columbus, who beat the Bearcats two sets to none.

The Discoverers won set one 25-19, and set two 25-18.

Trimble led the way with 6 kills. Lauren Speicher had 5. Trimble posted 7 digs while McGowan notched 17 set assists.

Kearney rebounded to beat Lexington two sets to none. The Bearcats won the first set 25-12 before taking the second set 25-21.

Trimble paced Kearney with 7 kills. McGowan compiled 5 digs and 13 set assists.

Kearney defeated Scottsbluff for their other win on Saturday, downing them two sets to none.

Kearney won set one 25-18 before taking set two 25-11.

Cassie Mathews had a team leading 5 kills and 5 blocks. Speicher contributed 7 digs. McGowan dished out 12 set assists.

The Bearcats (7-28) gear up for districts on Wednesday when they battle North Platte (20-10) at the A-7 Tournament at Lincoln North Star.

The 2nd seeded Bulldogs and 3rd seeded Kearney met twice in the regular season with North Platte winning both times.

The Bulldogs are no doubt the favorite to win this match, but anything can happen in districts.

I look for the Bearcats to have some momentum heading into this match given their two wins at GNAC.

Winning those matches may not seem like a big deal, but they were. Wins were very hard to come by in the regular season for Kearney, and so I'm sure they'll take any win they can get.

The Bearcats are going to have to play very well to win in the postseason. Beating North Platte will not be easy, which means Kearney better be on top of its game.

The Bulldogs are coming off a GNAC Tournament championship, and probably have more momentum than the Bearcats.

Kearney has to believe they can do this though. It's hard to beat a team three times in one season, and that's something the Bearcats have to hang their hat on.

Kearney has to make life difficult for North Platte on both sides of the net. The Bearcats have to play tough volleyball, and make the Bulldogs work for everything.

Kearney has to find ways to manufacture easy points, and gain an edge that way.

Trimble has to really step up in this match. Being one of the few seniors on this team, she has to lead by example. If she has a big match, the Bearcats could be in good shape.

It's district time, and everyone from Kearney needs to raise their level of play. The season is on the line, and the Bearcats must do everything in their power to win.

Wednesday's match starts at 5:45. The winner plays Lincoln North Star or Omaha Benson at 7:00.
Holdrege goes 1-1 to end regular season

Holdrege beat Schuyler, but lost to Class B, No. 6 Aurora at the Aurora Triangular on Thursday, closing out the regular season.

The Dusters beat the Warriors two sets to none, but lost to the Huskies two sets to none.

The win marked the second time Holdrege defeated Schuyler this season. The loss was the second for the Dusters to Aurora this year.

Holdrege (17-11) gets ready for district action tonight against McCook (3-29).

The 2nd seeded Dusters and 3rd seeded Bison meet in the second match of the B-7 district at Hastings High School.

The two teams met twice in the regular season with Holdrege winning both times. In fact, the Dusters swept both matches.

Going by that, Holdrege should win pretty easily tonight. However, it's district time and anything can happen.

The Dusters can't go into the match thinking that because they beat the Bison twice handily in the regular season that this will be an easy match.

McCook's season is on the line, and they will be fighting as hard as they can to keep it alive. That means Holdrege must match their intensity, and want it even more than the Bison do.

The Dusters have to execute well on both sides of the net, and make McCook earn everything they get.

There shouldn't be any easy points awarded to the Bison. Holdrege can't make silly mistakes.

This is a match the Dusters should win, but they have to play up to their potential. Holdrege has to be on top of its game, and must be ready to go toe to toe with McCook.

The Bison will battle, which means the Dusters better be ready to battle back.

Realistically, I look for Holdrege to win this match in three or four sets. I don't think the Bison have what it takes to knock off the Dusters.

If Holdrege wins, they will play either Lexington or Hastings at 7:30. The McCook match begins at 6:15. 

Lexington goes 0-3 at GNAC

Lexington ended the regular season on Saturday with three losses at the GNAC Tournament in Hastings. The Minutemaids lost two sets to none to North Platte, Kearney and McCook.

In the Kearney match, the Bearcats won set one 25-12 before taking set two 25-21.

Zoie Allen paced Lexington with 4 kills. Maricela Dones recorded 6 digs while Ellie Rowe had 11 set assists.

The McCook match was close with the Bison coming away with a 25-21 first set win, and a 27-25 second set win.

Allen put down 6 kills to lead the team. Rowe added 5. Monica Myers posted 11 digs while Dones and Allen notched 8 and 6, respectively. Rowe dished out 8 set assists.

The Bulldogs were dominant, winning set one 25-5. North Platte took set two 25-12.

Bethany Dolezal led the way with 5 kills for the Minutemaids. Rowe compiled 9 set assists.

Lexington was pretty competitive in the Kearney and McCook matches, but as you can see things got away from them in the North Platte match.

The Minutemaids (0-31) try and pull the upset of Hastings (21-9) at this evening's B-7 district tournament at Hastings High School.

The two teams met twice during the regular season with the top seeded Tigers winning both meetings two sets to none.

The 4th seeded Minutemaids are certainly facing an uphill battle, but anything can happen in districts.

Lexington has to believe that they have a chance in this match, because they do.

Strange things happen around this time of year, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Minutemaids upset Hastings.

For it to happen, Lexington needs excellent offensive play from Allen, Rowe, and Dolezal. Rowe needs to pass the ball well, in addition to hitting good.

Myers, Dones, and Allen must play well defensively for the Minutemaids. They must duplicate, if not better their efforts of the McCook match.

Lexington needs the entire team to play better than they have all year, and have that breakout match. The Minutemaids need everyone to play at a level they never have before to come away with the win.

Things won't be easy for Lexington, but they have to think positive. Everyone is 0-0 right now, and no one has proven anything in the postseason thus far.

The Minutemaids have to buy into winning. It's the only thing that should be on their minds right now. There shouldn't be any doubt creeping into the minds of these players.

Lexington knows what it needs to do. If the Minutemaids execute well and play up to their potential, they can get the job done. Lexington has to really believe that.

Everyone has to be on the same page for the Minutemaids. Lexington can't afford to make silly mistakes and give away free points. The Minutemaids must make the Tigers earn all of their points.

It will be interesting to see if Lexington can pull off the upset. Getting to a district final would be quite an accomplishment for this team.

The Hastings match starts at 5:00. The winner plays either McCook or Holdrege at 7:30.
Southern Valley wins final two regular season matches

Southern Valley won its last two matches of the regular season last Monday, defeating Franklin and Wilcox-Hildreth at the Franklin Invite.

The Eagles swept the host Flyers three sets to none, winning set one 25-10. Southern Valley grabbed set two 25-17 and ended the match with a 25-7 set three victory.

Baily Craig posted a team-high 14 kills. Laura McInturf added 10. Brooke Hays totaled 12 digs while Savana Quinn compiled 34 set assists.

The Eagles beat the Falcons three sets to one, winning three straight sets after losing the first set 25-21. Southern Valley won the second set 25-19, the third set 25-14, and the fourth set 25-23.

Craig had 18 kills to lead the team. McInturf notched 14. Hays chipped in 24 digs while Abby Carlson added 17. Shelisa Brooks recorded 11. Quinn dished out 39 set assists.

It was certainly a good way for Southern Valley to end the regular season.

But now the Eagles (18-10) turn their attention to Blue Hill (24-4), their C2-8 sub district opponent.

3rd seeded Southern Valley and the 2nd seeded Bobcats did not meet in the regular season.

The Eagles really kicked things in gear after struggling in the middle part of September, and have played well down the stretch.

Blue Hill has been very good lately as they haven't lost in a month. This Bobcat team appears to be primed and ready to make some postseason noise, and that could spell trouble for Southern Valley.

The Eagles have what it takes to beat Blue Hill though. If Craig and McInturf play up to their capability, there's no telling how far this team can go.

As far as I'm concerned the sky is the limit with this team.

Southern Valley has proven their worth this season with their biggest wins coming over Hershey and Arapahoe.

The Eagles may not impress you a ton with their win loss record, but they've faced some tough competition. Southern Valley does not have a bad loss.

It will be a tall order for the Eagles to beat the Bobcats, but it's possible. Southern Valley is very capable of putting everything together and making a postseason run themselves.

Blue Hill is expected to challenge Class C-2, No. 1 Hastings St. Cecilia in the sub district final, but who says it can't be the Eagles?

Both teams are certainly battle tested. This match could come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.

Southern Valley has to play well on both sides of the net to come away with the win. Quinn needs to pass well, and Craig and McInturf must hit well.

Hays, Carlson, and Brooks must dig well, and the Eagles need to block and serve receive well as a team.

Southern Valley certainly has a tremendous opportunity in front of them, they just need to take advantage of it.

We will find out what the Eagles can do tonight. The match is set to start at 6:15 at Minden's CL Jones Middle School.

Minden sweeps Overton to end regular season

Class C-1, No. 3 Minden posted a three sets to none win over Class D-1, No. 9 Overton at home on Friday to conclude the regular season.

The Whippets won set one 25-20 before taking set two 25-21. Minden earned a 25-15 set three win.

The Whippets (24-3) look to fare well in sub districts tonight as Minden battles either Broken Bow (12-18) or Gibbon (1-27) in C1-10 action at Kearney High School.

The Whippets will play either the Buffaloes or Indians at 7:00.

Minden played both teams this year, and beat both. However, Broken Bow competed well against the Whippets, taking them to three sets in a best out of three match.

That has to have you on your toes if you are Minden. The Whippets certainly can't afford to take the Indians or Buffaloes lightly, and can't get caught looking ahead to a potential sub district final with Kearney Catholic.

Minden has to focus on the task at hand, which will be eliminating either Broken Bow or Gibbon.

Those should be the only two teams on the Whippets' minds right now.

It takes a certain level of focus to be successful in the postseason, and Minden has to figure out what that is. The Whippets have to be prepared and ready for whoever they play, and must respect each opponent.

Every team Minden plays from here on out will give the Whippets their best shot. The season is on the line for these teams as well, and so it will be a battle all the way every match.

Minden has to be ready to go toe to toe with anyone they play.

I look for the Whippets to beat either the Indians or Buffaloes tonight. I think when it's all said and done, Minden will be playing Kearney Catholic in the sub district final.

That potential match is at 7:00 on Tuesday.
Arapahoe rounds out regular season with win

Arapahoe concluded their regular season Tuesday night with a home win over Loomis.

The Warriors swept the match three sets to none, winning the first set 25-8. Arapahoe took the second set 25-7, and earned a 25-15 third set victory.

Head coach Katie Wenz says there were only positives to take away from this match. "I thought we played great this game. We played with confidence, and as a team. Everyone had fun and it was a good win for our seniors to have on their last home game. We are keeping our focus to continue to play strong."

Rochelle Wendland led the way with 16 kills. Lora Taylor totaled 11 digs. Kaylea Watson added 12 set assists.

Wendland says the win was special.

"It meant a lot. It was the last time to play on our home court, us seniors. So we were really excited to get that win."

Wendland is one of three seniors on this year's team. The other two are Taylor and Hannah Hanke.

The Warriors are making preparations for the postseason.
Watson says they will approach things the same way they did in the regular season.

"We're keeping the same approach, just practicing hard everyday. And just tweaking the little things that we need to fix."

Watson says the team has kind of changed how they serve receive and cover on hits. Watson is second on the team in kills with 174 on the season. She is also second on the team in digs with 321.

Arapahoe begins sub district play tonight. The 2nd seeded Warriors play 3rd seeded Alma at 6:30 at Southern Valley.

Arapahoe won the only regular season meeting between the two teams.

Wenz says her team has to stay focused and not get too far ahead of themselves to win in the postseason.

"Mental focus. That's one of our big things is mentally focusing, mentally staying with every play. We make a mistake, that's going to happen in games. If we can get past that point, make an error, move on. Just bouncing back after every set, win or lose. We got to bounce back and play harder than we did the first set, and going from there. We also have to stick with our basic fundamentals and not rush things. Not think five points ahead where we are. We're going back to serve, and each and every one of these kids are great servers. So they got to have the confidence in themselves to go back there and serve any pressure point in the situation of the game."

Arapahoe's most consistent offensive performer this season has been Wendland, who has a team leading 355 kills. Defensively, Taylor leads the way with 436 digs. Sophomore Danielle Eichenberger has 294.

Arapahoe is looking to make state for the first time since 1995. Wenz says making it would mean a lot.

"It would mean probably the world to me. That would be the greatest feeling that these kids accomplished their ultimate goal. Arapahoe has not been to state since 1995, so before most of these kids were even born. So it's really something this community really hasn't experienced in a long time. And for them to comeback and build a program where they are very state eligible would mean these girls have accomplished huge things. So it would be an amazing feeling."

The Warriors, who went 17-9 in the regular season, are in the D1-10 sub district with Southwest, Cambridge, and Alma. 

If Arapahoe beats Alma, they would play either the Roughriders or Trojans in the sub district final at 8:00 tonight.
Loomis loses final regular season match at Arapahoe

The Loomis Wolves ended the regular season on Tuesday with a loss at Arapahoe.

The Warriors swept Loomis three sets to one. The Wolves lost set one 25-8. Loomis dropped set two 25-7 before losing set three 25-15.

Loomis (2-21), who did not win a match in October, looks to begin the month of November with a win over Elwood (4-22) tonight in the D2-8 sub district bunny bracket match at Cozad High School.

The 4th seeded Pirates won two out of three against the 5th seeded Wolves in the regular season, but I have a feeling it's Loomis's turn to win.

Both losses to Elwood went to decisive sets, and I feel like it's the Wolves' time to shine this time.

It has been a long, tough season for Loomis, but a win over the Pirates would give this team a good feeling heading into next season, assuming the Wolves lose to Bertrand.

At the very least, this match can be used as a building block for next year.

That's why this match is important. Neither team is likely to advance past Bertrand, but a win in sub districts would get them headed in the right direction for next season.

Loomis has to play their hearts out, and leave everything out on the floor. The Wolves have to play their best volleyball of the season to come away with the win. Things won't be easy, but I know Loomis is capable of winning.

The Wolves have to believe in one another. The Loomis players have to trust each other, and believe they can win. Their attitude has to be "we can do this," not "oh, we're going to lose."

The Wolves have to play with a winning attitude, and do everything in their power to pick up the win.

Loomis must do a good job of defending Anna Eggers and Tiffany Finkral. Both had good matches in Elwood's last regular season match, and are the Pirates' best two players. Slow those two down, and chances are you win the match if you're the Wolves.

Should be a very competitive match tonight in Cozad. I wouldn't be surprised if it went five sets. The match starts at 5:30. The winner plays Bertrand at 7:30.