KEARNEY – It can be a little dizzying trying to watch all 54 teams at the Kearney Top 10 Team Camp, but it’s always one of my favorite 48-hour stretches of the year.
The reasons why Kearney’s Top 10 Team Camp is – in my opinion – the best summer team camp going are plentiful. It starts with the job Kris Conner and her crew does running and organizing the camp to always run smoothly and, I’m not going to lie, the homemade food in the hospitality room doesn’t hurt either.
The quality of teams is always very high and because it is not a college-hosted camp, it always draws a host of college coaches to recruit at it. Simply put, the Kearney Top 10 Team Camp is the best way for a high school coach to get their team in front of a dozen or more college programs – which is especially great for the smaller schools with athletes that may not get that chance during the club season.
Now that I’m gushed over how great the camp is, here are reviews of what I saw during my time in Kearney:
Grand Island Northwest won the Class A/B/C1 title for the second straight year with a 2-0 win over Papillion-LaVista South in a very, very competitive match. Both Northwest and Papio South had their fair share of tight sets during the camp, but both teams were always able to find ways to win those sets, which separated them from the pack during the camp.
If Grand Island Northwest isn’t the best blocking team in the state, it’s among the top two or three. Seniors Kelsey Placke, Sierra Holliday and Maddie Mazour are each 6-foot or taller across the front while 5-10 outside Taylor Hageman and 5-8 setter Kylie Broich each play much bigger than their height. Jadeyn Stutzman, a junior, dazzled as libero for the Lady Vikings. Northwest is a legitimate top 3-8 team in the state, regardless of class, and – along with Gretna – is the biggest threat to Omaha Skutt in Class B.
Papio South did not have all-stater Taliyah Flores at the camp and that was probably the difference between the Titans falling in two tight sets and winning in two tight sets. Flores, a North Dakota recruit, can cover half the back row on her own and is a powerful OH at the high school level. That’s why you are likely to see the Titans a spot or two ahead of Grand Island Northwest in the state rankings to start the year.
The Titans were also without 5-10 middle Morgen Bianchi, but the Titans showed a great deal of front row depth at Kearney. 6-foot sophomore Jessica Hendrix and Sydney Morehouse, a 5-10 senior, showed great athleticism in the middle while 5-11 freshman Sophie Hendrix and 5-9 junior Malory Voyles each showed quit a bit in pursuit of the L2 spot behind Flores. Peyton Schendt, a 6-foot junior, can play all three spots along the front and could be one of the top Class A right sides if she winds up there. Sidney Pecha, a 5-11 sophomore, looked good as well and could be utilized on the RS or as a L2. Setters Mara LeGrand, a 5-10 sophomore, and Payton Moore, a 5-7 junior, have big shoes to fill in graduated all-stater Taylor Crandall, but each showed they are more than capable.
Kearney Catholic finished third in the A/B/C1 division with 0-2 losses to GINW and Papio South and splitting with North Platte and St. Paul. The big takeaway for me with Kearney Catholic is that the Stars team from last weekend and the one we will see in September and October will be vastly improved. With 6-foot MH/setter Anna Squiers and 5-9 OH Kylie Thiele Kearney Catholic has two of the best players in the state. The rest of the roster will be asked to fill bigger roles. Jordan Streit, a 5-8 senior, had more than 100 kills last year for the Stars and is a nice L2. Emilee Moore, 5-10, and Sarah Oldfather, 5-11, are seniors who will do well in the middle and right side while Jenny Beans looks to be taking on the role of setter opposite Squiers. Ashlyn Schmaderer, a junior, is the most experienced returning backrow player and has been getting most of the libero time this summer.
Based on what I’ve seen this summer, it’s hard to picture Kearney Catholic not starting the year out as the top-ranked team in Class C-1.
Speaking of Class C-1, two of the biggest threats to the four-time defending champion Stars (Omaha Concordia and Wahoo Neumann) each went 9-9 at the camp. When the two teams faced each other, Concordia took a 25-20, 29-27 victory.
Concordia has one of the state’s top OH in senior Sioux Falls recruit Averey Yaksich and a consistent force in the middle with senior MH Sydney Clarkson. The Mustangs’ backrow should been solid and deep with Ava Curtiss, Tori Jones and likely Jenna Spellerberg. Look for sophomore setter Sami Clarkson to emerge as one of the best in the state this year while fellow sophomores Gabby Armour and Taylor Pribyl will make some noise at the net.
Wahoo Neumann was a bit of a surprise state-tournament team a year ago as its youth really matured at the end of the season and the Cavaliers will be in the mix of things for a state title this year. A lot starts with 6-1 sophomore OH Kelsie Cada, who is being strongly looked at by the likes of Nebraska, Creighton and Oklahoma. She is joined on the outside by senior Hannah Thiele and – you’ve been warned – there’s a 5-11 freshman Thiele named Lindsey. Alyssa Rezac and Jessina Rada are both very good, athletic setters while Caitlin Makovicka, Madison DeLay and Haley Kabourek look to be strong at the net.
The one thing I still can’t shake from my head from Top 10 is what I saw from Red Cloud – a tiny Class D-2 school. I try really, really hard to never over-inflate kids because I don’t think it’s fair and it’s a dangerous thing to do. That having been said, I don’t think I’ve seen any setter in Nebraska (Class of 2013-2020) with more God-given ability than what I saw from Red Cloud’s 6-1 sophomore Mary Nibbe.
At 6-1 and with certainly no formal, intense volleyball training, Nibbe not only has an athletic frame and build, but she glides on the court and has amazing hands. This was the first time I had ever seen her and I honestly found myself with my jaw wide open looking around the gym to see if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing. Quick research led me to the realization that she was a conference champion in the shot put and put up a double-figure point average in basketball as a freshman. What Nibbe is, is the most raw, gifted volleyball athlete I’ve seen playing the setter position that I can remember. Mary Nibbe could become one of the biggest names in Nebraska high school volleyball in a real hurry.
The scary thing for Red Cloud opponents is that Nibbe has a 6-foot older sister – Morgan, a junior – and when the two of them click the ball is terminated almost automatically. Kiara Uhrich, a 5-9 junior, also was impressive for Red Cloud on the outside. Red Cloud has just one senior on its roster and could very well make its first-even trip to state this season based on what I saw.
I really love how active Aurora’s middles Jasa Scheierman and Corrie Schneider are. Adrianna Smith, a 5-10 sophomomre OH, is a player to watch.
Gothenburg’s 5-10 OH Arleigh Costello is a sneak-tough lefty on the outside.
It seems to me that Minden’s 6-2 sophomore MH Kyla Swanson is starting to fill out and get stronger. She’s not far from being a beast to deal with at the net and has a very bright future. Jensen Rowse, a 5-8 freshman, looks like she has a bright future as well as a setter/OH for the Whippets.
North Bend juniors Kristin Lux and Brooke Frederickon continue to really impress me as one of the best 1-2 punches in Class C-1. Keep hearing more Division I schools attached to Lux’s name.
North Platte had a nice camp and while they won’t be nearly the team they’ve been the past couple years, the Bulldogs can’t be overlooked.
It’s not that big of a stretch to think Ord can make another run to a Class C-1 title match again this year. I’ve always been a fan of 6-0 OH Danielle Bruha, who can be devastating when she is on a roll, and Andrea Carson is always rock solid. Ashley Carson looked really good at setter for the Chants and Cora Svoboda is a very athletic and active 6-foot MH. Libero Ali Smith also was impressive.
Centura 5-11 do-it-all player Emily Krolikowski is the real deal.
Crofton seniors Kelsay Sanger and Monica Arens are incredible athletes that would make great college volleyball players if they weren’t going to be college basketball players.
There still aren’t many players in the state that impress me more than Diller-Odell’s Madison Jurgens. She would be all-state in any class.
Doniphan-Trumbull’s Makenna Niemoth and Carsyn Poppe were impressive.
Taya Beller, a 6-1 sophomore, is the real deal for Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family and 5-8 senior OH Bailey Belina had a really nice camp as well.
Ponca is going to be legit this year and it would shock me if they are not at state. Senior Elizabeth Watchorn had probably the best jump serve of anyone I saw in camp and setter Sadie Finnegan was a really nice player.
There’s something special about Stanton. I’m not even going to try and explain how well sophomore Jess Brandl played at the camp because words wouldn’t do it justice. Right now, Stanton is the team to beat in C-2 and good luck to anyone trying to knock them off. They’ve got that vibe about them.
Really liked what I saw from Jesse Shirley, a 5-9 MH for Ansley-Litchfield.
Madison VanHousen of Hampton, a 5-10 senior, is simply a beast. No other way to put it.
Ditto for Howells-Dodge senior Kalli Brester.
Other players that I saw that were impressive: Bertrand’s Kristine Edgren, Hartington Cedar Catholic’s Jada Cattau and Maddie Wieseler.