You can pretty much divide the Nebraska high school volleyball season into two sections – learning time and winning time. We are officially at the mid-way point of the season as we enter the first week of October, which means…
You can pretty much divide the Nebraska high school volleyball season into two sections – learning time and winning time. We are officially at the mid-way point of the season as we enter the first week of October, which means it’s time for teams to take what they’ve learned and start applying it the rest of the way.
There wasn’t a whole lot of shake-ups in the ranking this week, so we’re going to take a look at which teams have separated themselves from the rest in each class and are the odds-on favorites to be playing in Lincoln the final weekend of the year. You can view the class rankings by clicking on the blue links.
You can also view the Nebraska Top 25 by clicking here.
To put it simply, it’s Omaha Marian and everyone else at this point. Now, the Crusaders’ losing Maddie Wiedenfeld is huge and brings them back to the pack – so the length of that injury will determine a lot. Still, though, history and odds strongly favor Marian to the be the last team standing in Class A. Consider that only three of the 45 Class A state champions have ever had double-digit losses. Yes, Millard North did it last year with 11 and Omaha Marian did it in 2013 with 11 as well, but the odds are clearly stacked against teams with 10 or more losses. In the 45 years of crowning Class A state champions, the average winner has finished the year with 3.514 losses.
Only nine teams in Class A have less than 10 at this point and Kearney and Lincoln Southeast each have nine and Millard North and Papio South each have eight. Could one of them come back and win the state title? Sure, but those teams must be on absolute fire the final four weeks. That leaves Lincoln Pius X (18-6), Millard West (16-4), Papillion-LaVista (15-5) and Lincoln Southwest (17-2) as the main contenders to the Crusaders. Marian is 3-0 against those teams with a 6-1 set record. Marian hosts Pius X and Papio in a triangular on Oct. 10.
Class B has shaped-up to be a four – maybe five – team race, depending on which Gretna team we see the rest of the way. The Dragons had been causing through the year pretty well with their only losses coming to Class A Pius X and Millard West before getting swept by Bennington and Waverly in back-to-back matches at the Skutt Invite over the weekend. Skutt Catholic, Omaha Duchesne, Grand Island Northwest and Elkhorn South can play with the best teams in the state regardless of class and it will be interesting to see if one of those teams separates itself from the pack this month.
Duchesne plays Papillion-LaVista and St. James Academy of Kansas this week in a triangular and then hosts Skutt Catholic next Thursday. Meanwhile, Skutt Catholic plays Papillion-LaVista and Olathe Northwest of Kansas on Saturday before heading to Duchesne. Northwest has matches against Millard West and Papillion-LaVista South this weekend and then faces Grand Island Central Catholic next Tuesday. Elkhorn South faces Papillion-LaVista on Tuesday. We’re about to find out just how good these top Class B teams are.
The Class C-1 state tournament bracket might be the hardest one to get into in Nebraska. Last year’s eight teams in the Class C-1 field only had a combined 24 losses and Omaha Concordia was a “surprise” champion despite a salty 27-5 record. Only once since 1988 has a Class C-1 state champion lost more than five matches, and that was Kearney Catholic in 2013 with eight losses. But, the Stars also won 13 straight to finish the season during senior setter Shayla Conner’s “never underestimate the heart of a champion” campaign that drove Kearney Catholic to the second of what would be four straight state titles. So, we’re really left with seven teams that have separated themselves in Class C-1 at this point.
Wahoo (18-1), North Bend (18-0), Grand Island Central Catholic (16-1), Lincoln Lutheran (16-2), Malcolm (16-2), Ord (18-3) and Bishop Neumann (12-3) are the seven best teams in Class C-1 at this point and Wahoo, North Bend and GICC have started to pull away from the pack. Lincoln Lutheran – which travels to Wahoo on Tuesday – can put itself in the lead pack between the Wahoo match and Centennial Conference tourney this weekend.
Class C-2 is no joke this year. I would argue you can take the top five teams in Class C-2 and put them up against anyone outside of the top 10 teams in the state and have a very, very competitive match. Hartington Cedar Catholic (19-0), Stanton (16-2), Nebraska Christian (16-0), Centura (16-2) and Archbishop Bergan (15-2) can all put six outstanding players on the court at the same time and each has the big-time player you need to win a state title. Ponca is still handing around at 18-3 but I don’t feel like they are quite on the same level as the other five at this point. And, don’t look now, but Superior and Kalynn Meyer are coming up fast at 16-3.
As a reminder of how good the top teams in Class C-2 are, here are some of the top wins by each of the teams. Hartington Cedar Catholic (Bishop Neuamann, Columbus Scouts, Stanton); Stanton (Ord, Columbus Lakeview); Nebraska Christian (Centura, Hastings, Columbus Lakeview); Centura (Kearney Catholic, St. Paul, Ogallala); Archbishop Bergan (Bishop Neumann, Lincoln Christian, Mead).
As I’ve stated before, the only team in Class D-1 that can beat Johnson-Brock is Johnson-Brock. Yes, teams like Meridian, BDS, Blue Hill, Ansley-Litchfield and maybe Clarkson-Leigh could pull an upset or something could happen along the way, but something very significant wold have to happen.
Not only is Johnson-Brock the two-time defending state champion, but the Eagles are 19-1 this year with their only loss coming to a ranked Class C-1 team and the Eagles have won 60 of their last 66 matches.
There have been 34 Class D-2 state champions and only one finished the year with more than six losses – that was 20-11 Falls City Sacred Heart in 2006. It would seem that the Class D-2 title contenders list is six teams long: Ewing (15-2), Mead (14-3), Red Cloud (16-2), Humphrey St. Francis (12-3), Exeter-Milligan (13-5) and Giltner (13-3).
Here is the bad part. Not all six will probably wind up at state unless things fall perfectly. That because, yes, the bonehead decision to not have Class D play substate rounds means we have to deal with the old and problematic postseason format. And, in this case, you have Mead and Exeter-Milligan in the same district despite being #2 and #3, respectively, in wild card points and Giltner and Red Cloud in the same district despite being #4 and #5 in wildcard points, respectively. It will be interesting to watch Class D-2 unfold the rest of the way, but unfortunately it will be for the wrong reasons.