Preseason Team Rankings: Class B
Don’t even ask Renee Saunders about Skutt Catholic’s 57-match winning streak. Those matches are in the past and the streak doesn’t even yet compare to the state-record 115 in a row Columbus Scotus rattled off. But, it’s hard not to…
Don’t even ask Renee Saunders about Skutt Catholic’s 57-match winning streak. Those matches are in the past and the streak doesn’t even yet compare to the state-record 115 in a row Columbus Scotus rattled off.
But, it’s hard not to talk about it when you consider exactly what the Skyhawks have accomplished. Skutt has won two straight Class B titles, 57 straight matches, was a consensus top-three team nationally a year ago and has gone a combined 84-2 the past two seasons and 152-17 over the past four years. And while we’re reliving the past, how are the Skyhawks going to replace that 2016 senior class that produced those marks and three Division I players?
They’re going to do it with another roster filled with a boat-load of talent and that’s why they start 2017 in the top spot.
1.) Skutt Catholic – There are a lot of questions around the Skutt Catholic team this year, but one thing that is unquestioned is the fact that the Skyhawks will once again have the most talented and deepest team in Class B. Junior Lily Heyne, a Tulsa recruit, and sophomore Megan Skovsende each had more than 300 kills a year ago and junior Syd McDermott had 79 kills to go with 20 blocks. Freshman Lindsay Krause, a 6’3 Nebraska recruit, will make an immediate impact for Skutt. Seniors Taylor O’Malley, Megan Sutera and sophomore Lauren Diederich will anchor the back row. Skutt has senior Delaney Saucier – an Arkansas State recruit – senior Rebecca Langel and freshman Allie Gray as setting options to replace all-stater Alli Schomers. Skutt will also get a boost at the net from some talented players such as senior Kayli White and freshmen Cameron Cartwright and Shayla McCormick.
2.) Omaha Duchesne – The team that looks most prepared to try and knock Skutt from the Class B throne is Duchesne. The Cardinals return a vast majority of their roster from a 28-9 team that lost to Skutt in the state semifinals last year. Senior OH Julianna Kalil packs one of the most powerful arms in the state and has a deadly serve and sophomore MH Mayah Delgado-Walker is a blossoming superstar who had over 200 kills and 50 blocks as a freshman. Setter Emma Worthington is as good as they come in Nebraska at that position and also is a weapon as a RS with her 188 kills a year ago. Ellie Lammers has established herself as one of the top liberos in the state while sophomore setter Kiersten Capelle and fellow sophomores OH/DS Mary Pay Taylor and MH Caroline Ortman also return along with junior Josie Reed.
3.) Grand Island Northwest – No program in the state has been more dominating over the last two decades than Grand Island Northwest. The Vikings have been to 16 consecutive state tournaments and there is absolutely no reason to think coach Diane Rouzee won’t have her team back competing for a title again. Northwest is simply a program that reloads and this year that reload looks to be led by seniors Sydney Simmons, Jadeyn Stutzman, Taylor Hageman and Taryn Mayfield as well as junior Whitney Jensen.
4.) Elkhorn South – The Storm will have plenty of weapons at the net, led by junior OH Logan Connealy and one of the nation’s best freshmen in Rylee Gray. Also, back for Elkhorn South are juniors Taylor Heinen and Mackenzie Saitta, who each had more than 100 kills last year and Maddie Burt. Libero Riley Newton returns as does DS Anna Clark and setters Emily Bay and Emily Champion.
5.) Norris – Several key pieces return for the Titans after a 21-11 season a year ago. Setter Michaela Boon is back for her junior year and seniors Ayesiah Deveaux, CJ Jurgens, Emily Harms and Keeleigh Fankhauser all return as well as juniors Lauren Borer, Maddy Ramsey and Nyah Chambers.
6.) Seward – This looks to be the best Seward team since the Bluejays reached state last in 2010. The Bluejays had zero seniors on last year’s team that went 24-12 and they were an outstanding team against Class A competition this summer. Camryn Opfer is about as good as any attacker in Class B and had 361 kills a year ago. Rebekah Klenke is back after 336 kills a year ago and Kelsie Zadina and Rylee Opfer each had more than 100 kills last year. Setters Anna Covalt and Amelia Hanson also return.
7.) Gretna – There isn’t a whole lot of experience back for the Dragons, but there certainly is talent. It might take time for Gretna to get its legs under it this season, but it has two really good returning pieces to build around in junior OH Kamryn Schuler and sophomore OH Lydia Yost.
8.) Aurora – During Skutt Catholic’s dominant run through the Class B state tournament last year, Aurora was the only team to take a set from the Skyhawks and coach Lois Hixson has to like her returning nucleus. Senior setter Tanner Ohlson returns as does the full-rotation stud Brooke Williams, who had more than 500 digs and 275 kills last year. Senior MH Corrie Schneider returns after a 220-kill season and there is a lot of potential in returning players Adrianna Smith and Jadyn Cattau.
9.) Waverly – The Vikings don’t enter 2017 with much experience nor do they have much size, but there is a lot of scrappiness and cohesion with this group and that will carry you a long ways in high school volleyball. Eran Rose-Gronewold is just 5’3 but she still had four matches of double-digit kills on her way to a total of 169 last year to go along with her back row strength. Setters Kennedy Vanscoy and Annika Evans both return as does senior libero Adison Kerchal.
10.) Hastings – Look for the Tigers to be one of the most improved teams in the state this season. Hastings may have finished 11-19 a year ago, but there is a very real chance that the Tigers could win a state tournament match for the first time in school history in 2017. If you don’t know who Cecilia Beahm is yet, you will pretty soon. The 6’0 junior OH is a freakish athlete who had 386 kills a year ago. She and three other juniors, Kamri Adler, Kyla Rickert and Hope Kohmetscher form a very young and intriguing core for Hastings.
Honorable Mention: Ralston, Bennington, Omaha Roncalli, Omaha Gross, Alliance, Sidney.