Photo credit: Lincoln Journal-Star
We’ve hit the mid-season point for high school volleyball in Nebraska, and with that it’s time to look at who the standouts have been through the first half of the year.
We start by taking a look at the 10 best performances so far by back-row specialists. Keep in mind this isn’t a mid-season all-state team or anything like that. There is still a lot of season left and many, many big matches. This is simply a look at 10 standouts, listed alphabetically, so far this year.
Madie Arens, 5’11 senior, Hartington Cedar Catholic
There’s been no better story this season than the emergence of Hartington Cedar Catholic as one of the state’s best teams and it all starts with Arens patrolling the back row for the 21-0 Trojans. Typically a player the size of Arens at a C-2 school is pushed to the front row by default, but Arens is such a good passer she’s too important to take out of the back row. She has 202 digs (3.8 per set) on the year and is the primary defender in serve receive with 217 receptions.
Ellie Lammers, 5’7 senior, Omaha Duchesne
Omaha Duchesne is humming right along at 16-1 this season – even without one of its top attackers – due in large part to the play of Lammers. The three-year starter is having the best season of her career thus far with 253 digs (6.3 per set) and her 93.8 service percentage with a 26:10 ace-to-error ratio has been key to the Cardinals’ success.
Maggie Mullen, 5’4 senior, Omaha Marian
The Louisville recruit looked to be the heir apparent to the Marian libero job last year but wound up playing in just 48 sets for the Crusaders as a defensive specialist in 2016. Mullen shrugged that off and won the libero spot this season and she is leading the Crusaders in digs with 191 (3.4 per set) and is second on the team in serve receptions with 222.
Riley Newton, 5’4 senior, Elkhorn South
Newton is a four-year starter for the Storm and has been rock solid in the back row since her freshman year. She has 233 digs on the season (3.8 per set) and 330 serve receptions. She’s also one of the best secondary setting options out of the back row and she is serving at 96.6 percent this year with a 20:6 ace-to-error ratio.
Lindsay Nottleman, 5’4 senior, Lincoln Pius X
A huge element to the success Pius X is having this year is its overall balance, but there is no denying that the Nebraska-Kearney recruit owns the back row for the Thunderbolts. Nottleman’s 294 serve receptions lead the team and her 409 digs (6.4 per set) put her among the top in the state.
Katie Siefkes, 5’4 senior, Lincoln Southwest
In her third year as a starter, Siefkes has proven to be one of the most consistent and reliable passers in the state for the Silver Hawks. In helping her team to an 18-2 mark so far this year, Siefkes leads the team in serve receptions with 313 and she has 270 digs (5.3 per set). She also is a standout default setter, having 64 assists in 51 sets this season.
Ali Smith, 5’5 senior, Ord
Smith is a four-year starter who has gotten better each season for the Chants and her play has helped the team to an 18-3 start this year. Smith is the gritty, hard-nosed player you love to have on your team but hate to play against. She’s got 383 digs on the year (7.2 per set) and leads the team with 311 serve receptions while adding 26 assists and 27 kills.
Bryn Stansberry, 5’3 senior, Bennington
Bennington has never won a match at the state tournament, but this version of the Badgers might have the best shot of ending that streak as any in school history. Led by Stansberry, the Badgers are scrappy defensively and the senior lead the team in both serve receptions with 223 and digs with 264 (5.0 per set). She’s also a weapon at the service line with a 94.3 percentage and a 26:11 ace-to-error ratio.
Sam Steele, 5’6 sophomore, Millard South
After spending her freshman year as the primary defensive specialist for the Patriots, Stelle has taken over as the libero for Millard South this season. Steele has had double-digit digs in 19 of the Patriots’ 23 matches this season and leads the team with 301 digs (5.1 per set) and is second in serve receptions with 232.
Jaden Stutzman, 5’3 senior, Grand Island Northwest
First of all, if you’re playing libero for Northwest, you’re pretty darn good to begin with. In her second season in that role for the Vikings, Stutzman has raised her play, going from 2.9 digs per set last year to 5.4 this season (293 on the year). She also leads the 20-2 Vikings in serve receptions with 296.