OMAHA – With Premier 15 Gold trailing 11-8 in the third set of its match against Nebraska Elite 15 Kekoa in 15 Open pool play today, it was a player that has yet to step foot on a high school court that came to the team’s rescue.
Elkhorn’s Megan Skovsende – the only eighth grader on the roster of either team – had four of her team-high 12 kills in the match in a 7-2 run that closed out 15 Gold’s heart-pounding 25-23, 25-27, 15-13 victory.
After a kill by Elite’s Madelyn Burt put it up 11-8, Skovsende answered with a kill of her own for Premier and a net violation made it 11-10. Burt then won a joust at the net for Elite to push its lead to 12-10, but two straight Skovsende kills on the outside and a Sami Clarkson solo block gave Premier a 13-12 lead.
Elite’s Emma Worthington got kill on setter’s dump to tie it at 13-13, but Skovsende again pounded home a kill from the outside for Premier then Hailey Zuroske tooled the Elite block for a kill to win it for Premier.
The victory clinched a spot in tomorrow’s six-team championship bracket for 15 Gold. Then team then added a 25-16, 18-25, 15-4 win over Colorado Juniors 15 Shannon to win its pool today and earn the top seed in tomorrow’s bracket. That gives Premier 15 Gold a bye into the semifinals where it will play the winner of the quarterfinal match between Nebraska ONE 15 Titanium and KC Power 151 at 11 a.m.
KC Power beat Premier 15 Gold yesterday 19-25, 25-12, 15-13 and earlier this club season 15 Gold defeated Nebraska ONE 15 Titanium in three sets in a local tournament.
It was fitting that the match between Premier and Elite ended with a team scoring two straight points at the end, because that’s also how the first two sets ended.
In the first set, Elite got out to an early 10-5 lead only to have Premier battle back and tie the set at 16-16. The score remained tied at 23-23 until a net violation on Elite and kill by Zuroske gave the first set to 15 Gold.
The second set was tight the whole way with the two teams tied at 21-21 when Lily Heyne had a kill and a hitting error on Premier put Elite up 23-21.
With the loss, Nebraska Elite 15 Kekoa slipped into the Silver bracket tomorrow and can still finish as high as seventh place. Both Skovsende and Zuroske had kills to help Premier get to match point at 24-23, but two straight hitting errors by 15 Gold put Elite at set point with a 25-24 lead. A kill by Zuroske tied it at 25-25, but two straight terminations from Burt won the set for Elite and sent it to the third.
After Skovsende’s 12 kills, Zuroske had 10 for Premier while Bailey Wilson had six, Carly Renken had five and Jessica Hendrix added four.
Heyne had a match-high 16 kills for Elite and Burt added eight.
Nebraska ONE Titanium made its way into the 15 Open championship bracket with a 25-16, 25-23 win over NORCO 15 Black in its final match of the day. The key match for Titanium actually came in its first contest when it knocked off the second-seeded team in its pool – Momentum 15 Black – 26-24, 25-21. Those two wins allowed Titanium to advance on despite a 25-16, 25-18 loss to Mizuno Northern Lights 151 – the fifth-ranked team in the nation – today.
VCNebraska 15 Elite ran into a buzz saw of a pool today and suffered losses to Dynasty 15 Black, KC Power 151 and Springfield Juniors. As a result, VCNebraska joins Nebraska Elite 15 Kekoa and Nebraska Elite 15 Synergy – which knocked off Kekoa 30-28, 25-13 today – in the Silver bracket competing for 7th place.
In 18 Open, Premier 18 Gold got a huge 25-8, 14-25, 16-14 win over Mizuno Northern Lights 182 that helped punch its ticket to the championship bracket. After falling 25-20, 25-23 to Johnston 18 National, 18 Gold got a 25-11, 25-19 win over Gold Cal Juniors. In tomorrow’s 18 Open championship bracket semifinals, 18 Gold will face the #21 team in the nation in Northern Lights 181.
It was Northern Lights that kept Nebraska from being represented in the 17 Open championship bracket today as Premier 17 Gold had a 25-16, 25-23 loss to Northern Lights 171 and a 25-18, 25-22 loss to Northern Lights 172 which knocked 17 Gold out of championship contention. Premier did bounce back to take a 25-16, 25-15 win over Rocky Select 171 and will play in the Silver bracket tomorrow for a shot at 7th place.
Nebraska Elite 16 Meraki will be the only home-state team in the 16 Open championship bracket after it scored a 25-19, 25-21 win over Central Iowa Select 161 and a 25-18, 27-25 win over Colorado Juniors 16 Kirk. Meraki did lose its first match of the tournament today, however, with a 25-20, 19-25, 15-12 loss to Ozark Juniors 161. Elite will take on Northern Lights 162 in the 16 Open quarterfinals tomorrow morning.
In 14 Open, a trio of Nebraska teams are among the six left competing for the title. Premier 14 Gold is the #2 seed in tomorrow’s tournament, giving it a bye into the semifinals. 14 Gold is undefeated and has dropped just one set in six matches. Elite 14 Havoc reached the championship bracket after going 5-1, including a solid 23-25, 25-13, 15-12 win over Minnesota Select 141. Club Legacy 14 ROX also used a win over Minnesota Select 141 (27-25, 25-23) to help it get to the championship bracket with a 4-2 record.