Marian Tops Westside in Three for Grand Prix Title
OMAHA – So much for first-year Omaha Westside coach Jessica Fauss’ plan for the Warriors to fly under the radar this summer and surprise people during the high school season.
Westside posted a set record of 20-2 in its first 11 matches of the Grand Prix High School Challenge this weekend before falling 25-18, 22-25, 15-8 to two-time defending Class A champion Omaha Marian in the championship match. Marian, who will almost certainly open the season as the top-ranked team in the state, was not a surprise entrant in the championship match. Westside, on the other hand, was and as a result the Warriors were the talk of the camp.
“That’s the best Westside team I’ve seen in at least a decade,” UNO coach Rose Shires said while watching the championship match.
The Grand Prix High School Challenge was co-hosted by UNO and Creighton University on the campus of both schools as well as at CenturyLink Arena. The team camp brought in 50 varsity teams and another 32 junior varsity squads for three days of competition.
Omaha Westside, 14-23 a year ago, has been to the state tournament just once in the last 20 years (2002) and has not won a match at state since it was the Class A runner-up in 1985. Although it is only late July, the Warriors sent a message this weekend to everyone that it is more than capable of notching a win at state for the first time in three decades.
Omaha Marian, which looked sharp last weekend at the UNO team camp without three of its regular starters, had both setter Maren McGuire and right side Elizabeth Loschen back this weekend and was very impressive again in winning its 13-team pool during play on Thursday and Friday.
Today, Marian wasn’t quite as dominant, but still proved to be the best team. The Crusaders split with Papillion-LaVista (24-26, 25-19) and Omaha Skutt (25-20, 22-25) and swept Bellevue West 25-15, 25-16 to finish 4-2 in its championship pool. Papillion-LaVista and Omaha Skutt also finished with 4-2 marks, creating a tie for the right to advance to the championship match. Marian won that tiebreaker on total points in head-to-head competition.
Meanwhile, Westside was able to win the other championship pool outright with a 5-1 mark with sweeps of Omaha Concordia (25-12, 27-25) and Millard West (25-20, 25-23) and a split with Lincoln Southwest (27-26, 17-25). Lincoln Southwest was the runner-up in the pool with a 4-2 record.
In the junior varsity portion of the camp, Omaha Marian defeated Millard West 2-1 in the championship.
News and notes:
Omaha Marian was able to win the championship while playing without potential All-American libero Brittany Witt. The Creighton recruit was still play with Team USA and unable to compete, which was the case last weekend at UNO as well.
Having been in journalism for more than two decades, I’ve learned many lessons. Two of which being that it is not rare for me to be wrong in my opinions and – more importantly – that it’s important to acknowledge when that is the case. Last week, in the notes segment of the UNO team camp story, I said the following in reference to Hailey Zuroske’s likelihood of being a contributor to the success of a loaded Marian team, “it’s hard to envision a freshman seeing much court time of substance.” I was dead wrong. After seeing her a lot last weekend and a lot this weekend, let the record show that I have a hard time envisioning the freshman NOT being able to substantially contribute to Marian’s success. She’s a dynamic attacker. Marian coach Amy McLeay is at least a million times smarter than me and she will figure out a way fire all of her weapons – and Zuroske is a good one.
We Tweeted it the other day, but Omaha Marian senior All-Nebraska outside hitter Sophia Terwilleger gave her commitment to Division II Augustana.
It seemed like Westside got outstanding play from everyone this weekend. The most impressive thing about the Warriors was how well and hard they played as a team. It was impressive sitting behind their bench and see players giving each other guidance and also taking coaching and immediately applying it on the court. As a team, Westside definitely showed it has the elusive “it” factor. It will be interesting to see if the Warriors still have “it” come October and November. If they do, they will be dangerous.
Clara Lamb, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, was the topic of much discussion this weekend as well. She had moments – even against Marian – where she controlled play at the net. She along with 6-foot senior Sam Duncan gives Westside a big-time 1-2 punch at the net. Junior libero Katie Chalupa was strong all weekend, as was junior setter Brooke Radicia and junior middle Emily Newton.
Papillion-LaVista has a lot of key people to replace, but the fact that the Monarchs nearly reached the championship match while trying to find new starters at several positions is impressive. It’s even more noteworthy that the Monarchs did not have the services of All-Nebraska outside hitter Katie Stephens, either. Junior Steph Gaston, a 6-foot-5 Creighton recruit, continues to show improvement in her game on the right side and was a major factor in Papio’s success. Papio showcased a lot of talent this weekend. Ryley Sis, a junior outside, looked explosive and did well.
Lincoln Southwest competed really well and played the entire weekend without its top attacker from last year in senior Wichita State recruit Allie Davis. Davis was at a Shocker camp this weekend, but also is recovering from a hand/wrist injury. It’s still up in the air as to whether or not she will be available at the start of the season for the Skyhawks. I swear that every time I watch a Southwest match I’m certain Northern Colorado libero recruit Taylor Els is going to kill an innocent bystander the way she pursues balls all over the court. She plays with such a controlled aggression and with complete disregard for her well being. Watching her play is worth the price of admission itself.
Class C-1 Omaha Concordia might have gone 0-6 in its three matches today, but the Mustangs dropped 27-25 decisions to both Omaha Westside and Millard West. Concordia looked better this weekend than it did at the UNO camp the previous weekend. The Mustangs travel to Kearney this week for the Kearney Catholic Top 10 Team Camp and it will be interesting to see if the improvement continues there.
If you said Omaha Marian’s volleyball program had the most overall talent in it, you would be hard pressed to find someone to argue with you. However, I would be willing to argue that Millard West is right there and – gasp – maybe even right there with Marian. Last week I wrote about the Wildcats having a pair of the top freshmen in the state in Jaiden Centeno and Jordan McCormick that could potentially make an impact this year. This weekend the Wildcats trotted out another high-impact freshman in middle Hailey Petersen who demonstrated that she could be an immediate contributor if needed.
Millard West lost several key members from last year, but the Wildcats will again be among the top contenders for the Class A title. Setters Sara Berger and Emma Walker have both showed signs of being able to play at a high level and Cassidy Loberg might be the most versatile front-row player in Class A, which will give the Wildcats a lot of line-up flexibility. I have no idea how coach Erin Byrd will choose her back row from the group of juniors Jordan Daniels and Callahan Netsch, sophomore Abigail Schiemann and Centeno. All four would be key rotation players for 99% of teams in the state. Once senior outside Sydney Stockfleth is healthy, the Wildcats will have her, seniors Braeden Burling and Alexy Woodward, sophomore Ashley Bush and McCormick to utilize along the front row along with Loberg, junior middle Bridget Petersen and potentially her aforementioned freshman sister.
Omaha Skutt, likely the top-ranked team in Class B to open the 2015 season, pretty much played Marian and Papillion-LaVista straight up in their matches today. Senior Brooke Swain is probably the most underrated libero in the state. The Skyhawks were impressive all weekend and will be one of the top teams in the state. A pair of freshmen for Skutt, Lily Heyne at middle and Emma Altman at setter, were solid contributors today against some of the best competition in the state.
Bellevue West couldn’t find a win today in championship pool play, but the Thunderbirds competed well in a 25-23, 25-23 loss to Skutt and should feel good about their play this weekend. Bellevue West senior Hannah Dubas might have the best vertical leap of anyone in the state at nearly 30 inches. If she were 6-foot, she would be considered one of the state’s most dominant hitters, but she’s about 5-foot-8. Her athleticism and quick arm swing makes her a very dangerous attacker. The play of senior libero Natalie Sjostedt also was key to the Thunderbirds’ success this weekend in reaching the final eight.
I mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating that Millard North is going to be one of those teams that starts the season under the radar and likely becomes a team nobody wants to see in their district. The Mustangs are young, but they have some very good talent. Millard North finished comfortably in the top 16 out of 50 teams, sweeping Lincoln East today and losing a tight match to Lincoln Pius X 26-24, 25-23. Whether by design or not, coach Lindsey Peterson also had some very good talent stashed away on the Mustangs’ junior varsity team at Sapp Fieldhouse this weekend. They will be a fun team to watch as the season progresses.
There was a pool today that had potential three potential Class B champions in it today – all from the Eastern Midlands Conference. Elkhorn South, Gretna and Elkhorn played in a pool with Class C-1 Guardian Angels CC. Every match involving the three EMC teams resulted in a 1-1 split. Safe to say that’s a pretty good indicator of the slugfest it will be this season in that conference. Elkhorn South wound up winning the pool on a tie-breaker and then defeated two-time defending Class C-1 champion Kearney Catholic 25-23, 23-25, 15-8 in the 9th-place match.
The Class of 2019 is going to be a very, very strong one as evidenced by the number of impressive freshman making an impact this weekend. Go ahead and put Minden’s 6-foot-2 freshman Kyla Swanson on the list of potential super stars in that class. Her athleticism and coordination was good for someone that young and tall. She will be a work in progress, but with Ed Rowse as her coach, she’s going to be developed by one of the best in the business. She’s going to be a special player.
The small school vs. big school story line always fascinates me, and team camps like this allow for those kinds of match-ups that we will never see during the regular season. Just a handful of those matches took place today at CenturyLink Center that we haven’t already mentioned, but here are the results:
Class C-1 Kearney Catholic swept three Class A teams today: Millard North, Lincoln East and Lincoln Pius X.
Class C-2 Lutheran High Northeast of Norfolk beat Class A Lincoln Northeast 25-17, 27-25.
Lincoln Northeast then beat Class C-1 Minden 27-25, 25-14 and Class C-1 Raymond Central 25-22, 25-17.
Class C-2 Wisner-Pilger split with Class B Omaha Duchesne 21-25, 25-22.
Class C-2 Battle Creek beat Class A Fremont 2-0 (set scores were not available).
Class B Waverly defeated Class C-2 Lutheran High Northeast 25-20, 25-18.
Final major competitive team camp is Monday-Thursday at the Kearney Catholic Top 10 Camp. We will be out there covering that as well. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for updates.