For a school without much of a history in volleyball, Stanton sure has burst onto the scene the last couple years. The Mustangs were Class C-2 runners-up in their first-ever trip to state in 2015 and followed that up by…
For a school without much of a history in volleyball, Stanton sure has burst onto the scene the last couple years. The Mustangs were Class C-2 runners-up in their first-ever trip to state in 2015 and followed that up by winning the C-2 title last year in dominating fashion, sweeping its opponents in both the semifinals and final.
The scary thing is, while they lost all-state libero MacKenzie Brandl to graduation, pretty much everyone else is back for the Mustangs. That makes Stanton the clear favorite in C-2 to start this season, right?
Well, an hour straight North of Stanton on Highway 57 is where you will find Hartington Cedar Catholic and the Trojans sent a strong message to Stanton this summer when it took first place in the Kearney Top 10 Camp with the defending champs finishing second. In fact, Class C-2 is starting to look like Class C-1 in terms of being a top-heavy class with a number of outstanding teams that have state title aspirations.
1. Stanton – The Mustangs bring back all kinds of weapons following their 31-6 season that ended with the 2016 Class C-2 state championship. Jessie Brandl is a hammer-dropping OH that’s also a backrow beast while Bree Burtwistle had more than 500 assists and 300 kills a year ago and MH Hannah Heppner returns after a 229-kill season.
2. Hartington Cedar Catholic – The Trojans pulled a major upset to knock off Ponca in the district final a year ago before falling to Diller-Odell in the state tournament quarterfinals. Nearly the entire team is back for Hartington CC, including its top four of its top five attackers from a year ago in Jada Cattau, Maddie Wieseler, Anna Feifenrath and Mallorie Steffen while setter Ashley Hamilton and libero Madie Arens also return.
3. Centura – If it feels like there has been a Krolikowski doing damage for Centura, it’s because there has been and that won’t change in 2017. Emily Krolikowski returns to lead a loaded Centurions team that also includes Grace McDonald, Brooklyn Hostetler, and Amber Baldwin. That’s a pretty salty group back from a squad that went 20-11 and reached the state tournament a year ago.
4. Hastings St. Cecilia – It won’t be easy for the Hawkettes to replace Lucy Skoch in the middle, but look for sophomores Tori Thomas (219 kills a year ago) and Makenna Asher (803 assists) to form the nucleus of a strong team for St. Cecilia, which always produces outstanding teams.
5. Archbishop Bergan – Like Hastings St. Cecilia, Archbishop Bergan might not put up a huge win total for the season, but that’s because they compete against some of the top teams in the state in the Centennial Conference. So, don’t be fooled by Bergan’s record this year because the Knights are legit with OH Lexie Langley, setter Allison Dieckmann, libero Meghan Dalhauser and OH/MH Haley Kempf.
6. Nebraska Christian – The Eagles went 22-9 and lost to Stanton in the district finals in 2016 and didn’t have a single senior on that team. Look for Nebraska Christian to be a serious title contender behind seniors Claire Ostrand, Katelynn Halstead and Corryn Falk as well as juniors Olivia Prettyman, Carsyn Ostrand and Adrienne Falk.
7. Wisner-Pilger – Jean Groth is one of the all-time great volleyball coaches in the state, so when she says senior Lauren Jacobsen is the best setter she’s ever had, that’s telling you something. Jacobsen has a pair of returning weapons in Maci Batenhorst, who finished with more than 250 kills a year ago and Jordan Wegner, who had 174. Backrow specialist Ashton Meyer also returns for the Gators.
8. Arcadia-Loup City – The Rebels lost in five sets to Centura in the subdistrict finals last year and were a much better team than their 17-12 mark might indicate. Of the 12 losses, 10 came against teams that won 20 or more matches. Seniors Kaylea Rassmussen and Kennedy Lewandowski combined for more than 300 kills a year ago for the Rebels and sophomore setter Nadia VanSlyke also returns.
9. Southern Valley – Southern Valley has been to state two of the past three years and the Eagles could be primed for another trip to Lincoln this season. Cassandra Bose returns after leading the team in kills a year ago while Rebecca Lennemann and Lauryn Samuelson are also back.
10. Doniphan-Trumbull – The Cardinals finished third in Class C-2 last year in their first-ever trip to the state tournament, but gone from that team are 500 kills from Makenna Niemoth and 900 assists from Carsyn Poppe. Kalee Wiltfong and Logan Poppe do return for Doniphan-Trumbull and will be the key pieces as the Cardinals look to build on their best season ever.
Honorable Mention: Dundy County-Stratton, Lutheran High Northeast, Sandy Creek, Superior.