Preseason Team Rankings: Class C-1
Let’s go back to the end of the 2015 volleyball season in Class C-1, because it was then that St. Paul was left out of the state volleyball tournament by the slightest of margins. The Wildcats then played with a…
Let’s go back to the end of the 2015 volleyball season in Class C-1, because it was then that St. Paul was left out of the state volleyball tournament by the slightest of margins. The Wildcats then played with a chip on its shoulder from the summer of 2016 and all season long in going 32-3.
Now, let’s look back at the end of the 2016 season in Class C-1 where it was Grand Island Central Catholic that was the best team left out of the field after falling to eventual runners-up Malcolm in an unfortunate match-up of two of the best teams in the substate round. So, guess who has been playing with a chip on its shoulder all summer and is ready to do some damage in 2017. Yep, it’s the Crusaders.
But, Grand Island CC will have to play with a chip on its shoulder and then some to survive a brutal Class C-1 led by Malcolm and the best volleyball player in the state – Jaela Zimmerman.
1. Malcolm – Even though the Clippers came up one win shy of an undefeated season and a state title last year, let’s not forget just show dominant Malcolm was all year. The Clippers dropped just seven through its first 34 matches before the epic 25-22, 27-25, 37-35 loss to Omaha Concordia in the finals. Yes, the loss of Nebraska walk-on Hayley Densberger will hurt but Jaela Zimmerman is the best player in the state and has plenty of talent around her in setter Gracey England, 6’1 MH Chloe Schumacher and Brooklyn Minzel.
2. Grand Island Central Catholic – A big question for the Crusaders this summer was whether or not junior MH Kamryn Willman would be able to play. Willman, who was cleared by the Mayo Clinic earlier this month after dealing with a blood clot issue, is ready to go and GICC will be at full strength out of the gate. Willman was third on the team in kills and first in blocks last year and the returning kill leader, Omaha recruit Megan Woods, returns and is one of the top all-around players in the state. Setter Katie Maser is the real deal and Kate McFarland is also back.
3. Wahoo – Even before 6’2 MH and Illinois recruit Kyla Swanson moved to Wahoo the Warriors had to be considered a contender in Class C-1. Junior Elly Larson led the Warriors with more than 400 kills last year and senior sister Maddie Larson added 234. Setter Kinsley Tinglehoff has started since her freshman year and will likely finish her senior campaign as the all-time assist leader in Class C-1.
4. Bishop Neumann – During a 29-4 season in which the Cavaliers finished third in Class C-1, Bishop Neumann didn’t lose a match against a Centennial Conference foe until running into the Omaha Concordia buzz saw in the state semifinals. Neumann did lose a lot to graduation but will be just fine with junior Kelsie Cada back along with setters Jessina Rada and Alyssa Rezac. The key very well could be the health and availability of sophomore MH Lindsey Thiele.
5. Lincoln Lutheran – How does a team that went 18-17 last year and hasn’t won a state-tournament match since 2005 find itself in the hunt to win the most competitive class in the state? Well, the Warriors return one of the state’s top setters in Hope Leimbach, back row wizard Rebecca Ziems and two hitters who each had over 140 kills last year in Kayla Ernstmeyer and Josie Puelz. Now, add to that the incoming transfers of sophomore Marriah Buss, who is one of the state’s best attackers and had 427 kills at Beatrice as a freshman, and former Lincoln North Star libero Erin Williams and you’ve got a team ready for a serious run at the state title.
6. North Bend – The Tigers reached the state tournament last year and finished 28-3 with their only l6. osses coming to Malcolm, Bishop Neumann and Columbus Scotus. Don’t sleep on North Bend this year either as it is a dark horse title contender. Kristin Lux is a West Virginia recruit and the 6’1 senior is among the top players in the state and her partner in crime – 5’11 senior Brooke Frederickson – is going to be a great college player for an NAIA-level program. She had 261 kills a year ago. Setter Kaitlynn Bjorklund also returns and watch out for 6’2 sophomore Lauren Emanuel, who has a world of potential and led the team in blocks last year.
7. Omaha Concordia – With the return of Jacksonville State OH recruit Taylor Pribyl, Omaha setter recruit Sami Clarkson and junior Haley Alharithy leading the way, the Mustangs certainly have a shot at repeating as state champions. The defining question for Concordia will be how its back row develops after the graduation of three great defenders.
8. Lincoln Christian – If Grand Island Central Catholic was the best team not in the state tournament last year, then Lincoln Christian was a close second. The Crusaders went 23-6 before falling to North Bend in the district finals. Senior Avery Dolliver returns after a 338-kill season a year ago. Lincoln Christian also returns valuable members from last year such as setter Barrett Power, Sierra Beukelman and Abby Stutz.
9. Ogallala – The Indians have reached the state tournament 11 straight years. If Ogallala can make it 12 years this year it might prove to be one of the best accomplishments in the illustrious career of coach Steve Morgan. Outside of senior Diana Reed (187 kills, 252 digs), the Indians returns a whopping total of 23 kills and four assists from last year.
10. Kearney Catholic – Let’s pause a moment and consider how great of a dynasty Kearney Catholic has been. You have to go back to 2008 to find the last time the Stars weren’t playing on the final Saturday of the season in the state tournament. That’s good for one fourth-place finish, one third-place finish, two runner-up finishes and four state championships. So, it’s no surprise people want to quickly pronounce that the dynasty is over when they see how depleted Kearney Catholic’s roster is this year. I’m not betting against coach Kris Conner as the Stars look to reload behind libero Ashlynn Schmaderer and OH Nicole Shundoff.