OMAHA – There is one major question heading into the 16 Open competition this weekend at the Asics President’s Day Classic at CenturyLink Center. Can anyone stop MAVS 161 of Kansas City? As the #3 team in the nation, MAVS…
OMAHA – There is one major question heading into the 16 Open competition this weekend at the Asics President’s Day Classic at CenturyLink Center.
Can anyone stop MAVS 161 of Kansas City?
As the #3 team in the nation, MAVS comes into the tournament as the clear-cut favorite, but there are plenty of teams lying in the weeds this weekend that could pull an upset and keep the top-seeded team from taking the title.
Here is a preview of the 15 Open division along with predictions on how I see it playing out this weekend.
Total Teams: 16
Format: Two pools of eight teams, the top two teams from each pool advance to the championship bracket.
Pool 1: MAVS 161, Northern Lights 161, Premier 16 Black, VCNebraska 16 Elite, CIA 16 Black, Topeka Impact 161, CIS 16M, Club Legacy 16 ROX.
Pool 2: Dynasty 16 Black, Nebraska Elite 16 Vici, Excel 16 National White, JPVC 16 Errea, Nebraska Juniors 161, Six Pack VBC 16U, Ozark Juniors 161, IPVA 16 Black.
Top Teams & Nebraska Teams: There is a good reason why MAVS 161 is ranked #3 in the nation. Last year the group finished #2 in the nation and has added dynamic 6’0 OH Caroline Zabroske to the group. MAVS won’t overwhelm you with size, but they are deep and have an outstanding libero in Caroline Bien and setter in Kendra Wait.
Nebraska Elite 16 Vici has shown it can play with anyone while also having occasional growing pains along the way as the #30 team in the country. With Eve Fountain (Millard North) and an emerging Katie Kilzer (Omaha Marian) at OH and Mayah Delgado (Omaha Duchesne) at RS, Vici is solid at the pins. Atley Carey (Lincoln East), Molly Plahn (Millard North) and Emily Kaup (Omaha Duchesne) gives Elite the size to compete with anyone. The key is how well Elite passes and if it gets consistency at the setting position.
Northern Lights 161 comes in at #41 nationally, but finished in third place at the January Thaw 17/18 Club division – three spots ahead of Elite Vici. Northern Lights 161 lost just two matches in that tournament – both to Nebraska ONE 17 Titanium.
Dynasty 16 Black comes into the tournament as the #2 seed and is ranked #57 in the nation. Dynasty also features one of the best players in the division in 6’2 MH/RS Kaitlin Parks. The sophomore from Olathe Northwest jump-touches just shy of 10’0.
Premier 16 Black features a couple of the top sophomores in the state in Ibi Green (Elkhorn South) and Logan Gronewold (Lincoln Northeast), but finds itself in an absolutely loaded pool.
VCNebraska 16 Elite has the pieces to make a serious run at the championship bracket, led by Waverly setter Annika Evans and multi-talented Minden sophomore Jensen Rowse. VCNebraska also has one of the most intriguing sophomore prospects in 6’3 MH Abby Plouzek of Dorchester as well as Lincoln Pius X freshman Alexis Markowski, when she is healthy.
Club Legacy 16 ROX has a brutal start to its schedule, with its first four matches coming against the top four seeds in its pool. Legacy has a couple hitters that can terminate well in Payton Kirchhoefer and Margaret Martin and a salty libero in Lauren Diederich which should give Legacy a shot in its pool.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Nebraska Juniors 161 work its way into the championship bracket. Grand Island Central Catholic setter Katie Maser has put herself on the radar of Division I schools, as has Fillmore Central MH Halle Theis. Although just a freshman, Milford’s Hannah Kepler has been impressive playing up an age level.
Pool 1 Predictions: MAVS 161 is going to win this pool and I think the second team to move on to the championship bracket will be the winner of the Northern Lights 161 and VCNebraska 16 Elite match, which takes place at 8 a.m. on Monday. At this point in the season, I think Northern Lights 161 is the better team and moves on.
Pool 2 Predictions: I’m going to go with Nebraska Elite 16 Vici winning the pool and Dynasty 16 Black finishing second. I will say this, though – Nebraska Juniors 161 gets Dynasty at 8 a.m. on Saturday which, in my opinion, could play right into Juniors’ hands and lead to an upset if Dynasty isn’t ready to go. The winner of that match finishes second, but I will stick with Dynasty.
Championship Predictions: The wheels fell off for Elite Vici in its last major tournament – January Thaw – and I think the team learns from that experience and downs Northern Lights 161 in the semifinals. MAVS 161 beats Dynasty 161 in the other semifinal and then holds off Elite Vici to win the title.