Ansley-Litchfield has rattled off nine straight wins against opponents with a winning record and has won 10 straight overall. For the season, 26 of 33 matches for Ansley-Litchfield were against teams that finished the year with a winning record.
Ansley-Litchfield is in its third state tournament and was the runner-up in 2014, losing in three sets to O’Neill St. Mary’s.
All four of Elgin-Pope John’s losses this year have come in its final nine matches of the year after starting the year 21-0.
This is the first trip to state for Elgin-Pope John. Prior, Pope John was 0-5 in five trips to state while Elgin was 1-2 in two trips.
Meridian has not been to state since 2009 and the Mustangs have just one senior on their roster this year.
Of Meridian’s five losses this year, two came to Class D-2 #1 Hampton, two came against Class D-2 #2 Exeter-Milligan and one came to Class D-1 #1 Johnson-Brock. In its last four matches, though, Meridian has wins over Johnson-Brock and Class D-2 state participant Red Cloud.
Dundy County-Stratton is 16-0 against Class D teams this year, dropping just three sets combined in those matches, and is 8-7 against larger schools.
Blue Hill had one of the biggest upsets of the postseason in knocking off 24-6 Heartland in the subdistricts en route to its first state appearance since 2004.
There is not one player listed taller than 5-foot-9 on Blue Hill’s roster and the Bobcats’ kill leader is 5-foot-5 outside hitter Kacey Allen.
Last year Johnson-Brock lost to Diller-Odell in the district tournament and then avenged that loss to win the state title. This year the Eagles lost the district final to Meridian and could potential face the Mustangs again on Saturday for the state title.
Johnson-Brock and Blue Hill face each other in the first round and the kill leader for each team also is the daughter of the coach.
Johnson-Brock is 9-5 all-time in the state tournament and has only lost in the first round once – back in 1985.
Lutheran High Northeast has been to state six times – three times reaching the state final and three times losing in the first round.
Lutheran High Northeast only played eight Class D schools all year, winning all eight matches while going 11-13 against Class C schools and 2-0 against Class B teams.
Guardian Angels CC is 15-2 all-time in first-round matches at state, including wins in its last 15 trips to the state quarterfinals. This year, though, GACC’s first round opponent – Lutheran High Northeast – has defeated the Bluejays in both regular-season meetings.
Elgin-Pope John over Ansley-Litchfield
Meridian over Dundy County-Stratton
Johnson-Brock over Blue Hill
Lutheran High Northeast over Guardian Angels CC
Meridian over Elgin-Pope John
Johnson-Brock over Lutheran High Northeast
Johnson-Brock over Meridian
Things could get crazy in the D-1 bracket because neither team has really established itself as the most dominant. I will give the edge to Elgin-Pope John in its first round match with Ansley-Litchfield. While Ansley-Litchfield enters the tournament playing better, EPJ’s big guns are seniors and there’s something tough about ending the season of a team led by outstanding seniors. I think Liz Selting gets it done for EPJ. You could maybe say Meridian peaked at its district final and can’t carry that over to state, but I think the Mustangs definitely can and are on a mission right now that takes them to the state final.
Blue Hill is going to really, really struggle to stop Nebraska walk-on recruit Fallon Stutheit. Expect her to have a huge match with nobody from Blue Hill able to play way above the net with her. Speaking of huge matches, look for Madi Knobbe of GACC to have one against Lutheran High Northeast, but ultimately I think the Eagles’ much-more balanced attack gets them into the semifinals.
At the end of the day, despite Meridian knocking off Johnson-Brock 3-1 last week, I see Johnson-Brock using that loss and its experience from winning the state title last year to its advantage and repeating in Class D-1.