CRETE – A big reason why I love to get out and watch summer team camps is because it’s much easier to judge the ability of a team based on what they look like in person rather than on paper because there can be a significant difference.
O’Neill St. Mary’s – probably the most successful Class D program of the last four years – provided a perfect example of just that in winning the two-day Doane College team camp today. I had my concerns about the Cardinals heading into this season because the graduation losses they have suffered the past couple years has been significant. In each of the past four years St. Mary’s has reached the state tournament semifinals, winning the Class D-1 title in 2013 and 2014 and finishing second in Class D-2 last year. Nearly everyone is gone from last year’s squad, however, which put the potential for success in 2016 in doubt – for me at least.
Despite losing its top four attackers – or 81% of its kills from a year ago – along with its top two leaders in digs, St. Mary’s showed it has the athletes to again compete for a state title this fall. In a camp that included Lincoln Northeast, Louisville, Wilber-Clatonia, Crete, Milford, Arapahoe and a pair of Kansas schools (Immaculate and Santa Fe) St. Mary’s was the most consistently solid group.
St. Mary’s setter Taylor Colman – an athletic 5-foot-9 senior – looked really sharp and she sets a really nice, hittable ball. She has multiple GPAC schools recruiting her. Libero Breanna Hedstrom also had a good day for St. Mary’s and it looks like seniors Hailey Eiler, Logan Connot and Hattie Blumenstock along with sophomore Brianna Bauer will be the core of an athletic front row.
Whenever you watch Louisville, 6-2 senior Maggie Hiatt is pretty much always going to standout and the Midland University recruit did again at the Doane camp, but the overall talent and depth of the team was my biggest take away on the Lions. The team finished 17-16 last year and Class C-1 is always the deepest class in the state, which makes getting to state difficult but Louisville has the look of a team that could find themselves in the sub-state round. The Lions have never been to state but when I watch Hiatt along with players like Jamie Winkler and Olivia Heard I think this is the best shot they’ve had in a while to break that streak.
Lincoln Northeast again had a strong showing at this team camp (I feel like I’ve been following Craig Songster’s crew around everywhere they go). Emma Thomssen continues to be one of the elite setters in Class A and the younger players for the Rockets – like MaKenna Kirk and Camden Blowers – continue to show progress and great potential and senior Allison Nixon was very solid on the right side.
Tomorrow we will be covering the final day of the UNO team camp.