Last November, Johnson-Brock and Meridian delivered two epic matches. Meridian took the first one in the D1-1 district final and Johnson-Brock won the second, which happened to be for the D-1 state title. Ever since, it has felt like Johnson-Brock…
Last November, Johnson-Brock and Meridian delivered two epic matches. Meridian took the first one in the D1-1 district final and Johnson-Brock won the second, which happened to be for the D-1 state title.
Ever since, it has felt like Johnson-Brock and Meridian are on a collision course to meet again for the D-1 title in 2017.
1. Johnson-Brock – There has never been a team win three straight Class D-1 state titles, but with future Husker and junior MH Fallon Stutheit, senior MH Kaitlynn Simon and senior setter Brynn Westenburg all back the Eagles are looking like the team to beat again. It’s also worth pointing out that there have only been 16 teams in state history – regardless of class – to win three consecutive state titles.
2. Meridian – You have to think that going into 2017 the Mustangs have the best shot at unseating Johnson-Brock and the Mustangs certainly won’t be intimidated by the Eagles. Last year’s state tournament experience should pay huge dividends, as does returning seniors Rylee Pieper, setter Erin Johnson, 6’1 MH Lauren DeLord and impressive sophomore Halle Pribyl.
3. Ansley-Litchfield – Coach Pat Hoblyn returns three of her top four hitters from last year’s team that went 24-10 and reached the state tournament. Falan Ryan, Sarah Lewis and Mariah Lane all had over 100 kills last year and setter Alyssa Bailey also returns.
4. BDS – The Eagles went 18-12 last season and finished fourth in the ultra-competitive Crossroads Conference Tournament. Of the 12 losses for BDS last year, seven came against either Hampton, Exeter-Milligan or Meridian. Behind players like Jadyn Kleinschmidt and Carley Elznic, BDS should be a force in the Crossroads Conference and in D-1 overall.
5. Clarkson-Leigh – The Patriots could be the surprise team of 2017 in Class D-1 as the team looks for its first trip to state since consolidation. Senior Sydney Folken along with juniors Beth Wiese, Hannah Kasik, Kaegan Held, Sara McEvoy and Halee Steffensmeier all return after each playing in every set a year ago for the Patriots.
6. Heartland – Heartland was probably the best team in Class D-1 that didn’t make the state tournament a year ago after being upset by Blue Hill in district play, ending the Huskies’ season at 24-6. Things like that tend to motivate a team, especially one that returns talented players like attacker Taylor Quiring and setter Rhianna Wilhelm.
7. Alma – After going 13-3 last September, Alma struggled in October by going 5-7 before falling to Ansley-Litchfield in the D1-5 district final. The Cardinals have some holes to fill, but returning all-stater Jadyn Heckenlively along with Tiffany Wells and setter Madalyn Brugh should be enough to make Alma state-tournament contenders again.]
8. Elgin-Pope John – It won’t be easy for the Wolfpack to replace Liz Selting, but there is still plenty to like about Elgin-Pope John after its third-place finish at state a year ago. Seniors Paige Meis and Grace Henn each return after combining for more than 300 kills a year ago and junior setter Allyson Wemhoff also returns.
9. Overton – Overton basically returns everyone from last year’s team that went 20-11, including seniors Gracie Grote, Sidney Enochs, Victoria Anderson, Jayden Eby, Carrie Jewett and junior Jaycee Wallace.
10. Blue Hill – Coming off a 22-10 season in which it made the state tournament, Blue Hill should be in pretty good shape to try and make the trip back to Lincoln this season. Junior setter Jamie Bonifas returns as does junior Kacey Allen – who led the team in kills a year ago – and fellow juniors Rylee Kohmetscher (MH) and Brianna Danehey (libero).
Honorable Mention: Bertrand, Diller-Odell, North Central.