LINCOLN – It took a little while, but things finally started clicking for the Red team just in time at the 2015 Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Match Tuesday night at Lincoln North Star High School.
After dropping the first two sets, Red rallied for a 21-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-9 victory in a very competitive all-star match. Kylie Hohlen of Norris (Central Missouri State) and Grand Island Central Catholic’s Emma Benton (Emporia State) were especially strong for Red in the fifth set, along with the serving of Kearney Catholic libero Morgan Stute (UN-Kearney).
For the match, Stute finished with seven service access while also anchoring the Red defense. Hotline and Omaha Marian’s Kelsey O’Connell (Creighton) each finished with a match-high 14 kills while Meagen Roth (UNO) and Benton each finished with 12. Red setter Kylie Wurster of Lincoln Southeast (Colorado Christian) finished with 42 assists in the match.
Jenna Habegger of Pawnee City (Concordia) fueled the hot start for the Blue team in taking the first two sets as she had eight kills early on and finished the match with a team-high 11. Papillion-LaVista’s Priscilla O’Dowd (Midland) added 10 kills for Blue while Fremont’s Gessica Gdowski (UNO), Millard South’s Lauryn Hilger (Northwestern College), and Maddy Bruder of Norris (Northwest Missouri State) each added five. Jess Peters of Papillion-LaVista (Midland) led Blue with 16 assists and Clare Hamburger of Hastings St. Cecilia (Hastings College) added 14.
Notes from the match:
Carley Remmers of Freeman (Ohio University) was one of the state’s most dominant players in 2014, but she had a handful of injuries that hampered her through the basketball and club volleyball season that have forced her to shut herself down this summer before the college season. She still got a chance to “play,” however, when Blue coach Renee Saunders of Omaha Skutt inserted her into the line-up to serve. The Blue team scored a couple points while Remmers served, and it was a classy move by Saunders to get a deserving player in on the action without the threat of hurting her recovery process.
One of the great things about all-star matches like this is that it helps break the thinking that smaller-school players can’t compete with Class A or B athletes. Exhibit A last night was Habegger of Pawnee City. Despite the fact Pawnee City is a Class D-1 school, Habegger dominated the play in the first set for a team loaded with much more highly recruited players and several Class A all-state players.
2015 was definitely a great year for high school setters in Nebraska, and it was on display last night with the player of all five in the contest (Wurster & Ali Rowse for Red and Hamburger, Peters and Allison Penner for Blue). Add to that the great graduated setters who were not there in Sara Boothe of Lincoln Pius X (Coastal Carolina), Ashley Knight of Elkhorn South (Villanova) and Payton Ruhl of Norris (Wayne State). The 2015 class of setters will go down as one of the best and deepest classes Nebraska has ever seen. Upcoming graduating classes have some outstanding setters as well, but none come close to the depth of the 2015 class.
The Class of 2016 in Nebraska is loaded with libero and defensive specialists, but Stute and O’Neill St. Mary’s Mackenzie Wecker (Northeast CC) were each sensational last night and showed that they are going to major huge impacts at the next level starting this fall.
Benton has been an under-the-radar player for Grand Island CC the last couple years simply because she’s played in Class C-1 and didn’t play in the major club scene. Emporia State stole a great one in her. Considering all the great talent that has come through GICC, for her to own the single-season kill record at 500 as well as the most ever in a single match tells you she has big-time talent. When it was crunch time last night, she showed no fear and elevated her game.
Both Rose Shires at UNO and Kirsten Bernthal-Booth at Creighton had to really like what they saw in their future players last night. Both Roth and Gdowski showed great athleticism and an ability to terminate while playing on opposite teams last night. You got the sense last night that future Bluejay O’Connell is finally back to her old form before suffering an ACL injury about 16 months ago. It’s still difficult to picture O’Connell being quick enough or playing high enough above the net to log meaningful time at middle for a top-20 NCAA program, but her quick arm, smart play and work ethic could produce a capable right side down the road for Creighton.
It’s hard to describe the last couple days for Husker recruit Tiani Reeves of Gothenburg. I think it was understood by most that she was recruited as a great athlete first with the potential to develop into a player who could help the Huskers down the road. That having been said, I’m not sure I can recall a Husker recruit at the all-star game that seemed so pedestrian. Perhaps the summer workload at Nebraska had her worn down. To me, and I hate to say this, but I have to be honest, the two kills and being a non-factor all night were less concerning than the body language and lack of intensity.
Hamburger and Stute earned the most valuable teammate awards for their teams.