KEARNEY – Crofton lost its two big guns from last year’s Class C-2 state runner-up team, but apparently that doesn’t mean the team won’t be loaded again this year.
Crofton made a point of showing that yesterday and today during competition in the Class C-2 division of the Nebraska Top 10 Team Camp at Kearney Catholic. The Warriors posted a set record of 20-4 during the 12 matches to hold off second-place Nebraska Christian (19-5) and third-place O’Neill St. Mary’s (18-6).
Marian Wortmann and Allison Arens were huge for Crofton last year and combined for 41 kills in the Class C-2 state championship match. But with a returning core of senior setter Brittany Guenther, senior Katie Petersen and juniors Kelsey Sanger and Monica Arens, the Warriors proved to be strong in the final team camp of the summer.
Crofton swept 8 of its opponents and split with four during the camp. The Warriors played very evenly in a split with Nebraska Christian 21-25, 25-20 and also split with Hastings St. Cecilia, Southern Valley and Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family.
Here were the final standings for the division. As a note, Southern Valley was unable to return to play its final matches today.
1.) Crofton 20-4
2.) Nebraska Christian 19-5
3.) O’Neill St. Mary’s 18-6
4.) Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family 15-9
5.) Kearney Catholic Gold 12-10
6.) Ponca 12-12
7.) Centura 11-13
8.) Hastings St. Cecilia 11-13
9.) Sandy Creek 10-14
10.) Cambridge 8-16
11.) Wakefield 7-17
12.) Southern Valley 4-18
13.) Kearney Catholic Green 4-18
We were not here to cover the first day of the camp competition, but there was plenty to see as the Class C-2 division wound-up today. This division was a little more top heavy than the other two will be the rest of this week.
Crofton playing well is no real surprise, but how well they did is. Team generally take some time before having players step-up to fill major voids like the Warriors have, but we are talking about a school that has championship pedigree running through it in girls athletics right now. Class C-2 looks like it will be wide open this year, but Crofton made a strong case to start off the season ranked pretty high.
During the club season, Tarrin Beller hit another gear toward the end of the year to help her Nebraska Juniors 181 team to a high finish at AAU Nationals. However, sometimes very talented athletes in small schools will downshift a little during the high school season because, well, they can. That’s definitely not the case with Beller, a Wayne State recruit. She was crushing everything today and was a force defensively at the net as well – especially against Hastings St. Cecillia. If Beller’s motor stays locked in high gear, she could have a special season, as could the team.
Ostrand looked good for Nebraska Christian. Don’t ask me which one, though, because there are too many to keep track of. Coach Tonya Ostrand has senior Cassidy, sophomore Claire and freshman Carsyn to go along with three other seniors and two juniors. Not just the Ostranders, but the whole team looked good and depth in Class C-2 is rare. As mentioned before, Class C-2 will be wide open this year, and Nebraska Christian will definitely be a title threat. In its match against two-time defending Class D-1 champion St. Mary’s, Nebraska Christian controlled both sets from the outset and rolled to an impressive 25-20, 25-16 win.
The Class of 2016 has got to be one of the best in Nebraska history for producing high-quality liberos – either in high school or that project for the position in college. Senior Shanda Farmer of Hastings St. Cecilia may not crack any All-Nebraska teams this year, but she’s probably one of the best Class C-2 liberos and likely somewhere in the top 10 in all of Nebraska. She looked sharp again today for this point in the season.
Farmer’s teammate, junior 6-foot middle Lucy Skoch did well today. She did struggle against Beller when the Hawkettes played Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family, but Beller will do that to just about anyone. Skoch is a really nice player that’s left-handed, which can be pretty tricky to defend. She plays, generally, at a height where her elbows are at the tape. She will be counted on heavily for St. Cecilia this year, and if she can consistently play just a little bit higher and take quicker and more aggressive swings, she could grow into a dominant middle.
A player who was not on the “Players to Watch” list in the preview article yesterday that really jumped out at me – literally – is Centura’s 5-foot-11 senior middle Mady Roth. Despite being an inch or two shorter than Skoch, Roth played just as high above the net and her leaping looked easy and light. She will be a big key for Centura this season.
As a whole, Centura looked really good, despite finishing with a record of 11-13. Along with Nebraska Christian and Crofton, Centura looked like the most athletic team in the division. Along with Roth, junior setter/RS Madison Myers was explosive and dominated the match at times – especially at the service line. It was appropriate that with Kearney Catholic graduate Morgan Stute in the house, Myers broke out a blazing top-spin jump serve that was almost – ALMOST – as good Stute’s. Sophomore Emily Krolikowski also was impressive as a 5-foot-11 setter/RS. Centura will be another team to watch in Class C-2 this season.
From what I was able to see today, St. Mary’s looks like they are still trying to get comfortable replacing key pieces that gradated. I think Mackenzie Wecker demonstrated in the NCA All-Star Match last week just how good of a libero she was for the Cardinals, and replacing that kind of defense and breaking in a new setter is never easy. At times they struggled and at other times they looked smooth. It’s a pretty good bet, however, that they will get everything running well by the start of September. St. Mary’s will start the year on a 55-match winning streak.