Hope Leimbach (Lincoln Lutheran) of Nebraska ONE Titanium gets a block on Eve Fountain (Millard North) of Nebraska Elite 16 Vici during the championship semifinals of the Banzai Classic on Sunday. (Photo by Berk Brown)
RALSTON – When you spend 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. in a gym on a Sunday just to complete an eight-team tournament, you pretty much deserve an award for that.
So, here are the Prep Dig awards for Sunday’s competition. There isn’t any actual physical award, just the emotional satisfaction that comes with being recognized for your efforts for a long, grueling, bleacher-butt inducing day at the gym.
Banzai Classic MVP: Taliyah Flores, Premier 18 Gold. It’s sometimes easy to take the things that Flores does for granted, but she simply has the ability to impact the game from any spot on the floor and she is consistent as heck as an attacker. She was on point on Sunday all the way around.
Most Dominant Player: Marriah Buss, Nebraska ONE 17 Titanium. It was a little bit of a rough day for Titanium as it came into the tournament without RS Lauren Taubenheim and MH Kamryn Willman and then lost MH Fallon Stutheit midway through the tournament. Despite that, Buss – as usual – was simply devastating at the net. I don’t care who is across the net, Buss is going to get her kills and often times they’re going to be loud.
Breakout Player: Katie Kilzer, Nebraska Elite 16 Vici. To be frank, I haven’t had a chance to see a whole lot of Kilzer prior to this club season, so she was a little under my radar. The 5’10 outside hitter Omaha Marian was one of the most consistent attackers on the day and was really impressive with an array of shots to go with a pretty powerful arm swing.
Breakfast of Champions Award: Bailey Lukasiewicz, South Central 18 Black. When you have to get up at 3 a.m. to make the trip from St. Paul to Omaha, you better pack a nutritious, power-packed breakfast. The Hastings college commit as a libero did just that on Sunday, um, I guess you could say. At least it looked like those chocolate chip cookies she ate after her 8 a.m. match helped. Oh, to be a teenager again.
Iron Gut Award: Fallon Stutheit, Nebraska ONE 17 Titanium. I don’t think anyone has ever questioned the toughness of the future Husker, and she provided another example on Sunday. During a timeout in the midst of a pool-play match, teammates/coaches rushed a nearby garbage can in front of Stutheit as she contemplated holding on to her breakfast or not. She did hold on to it, went back onto the court to help her team win the match before eventually heading home sick.
Purple Heart Award: Emma Altman, Banzai 181. Some things you want to avoid at all costs – the plague, swimming with sharks while your nose is bleeding, and playing back-right defense when Juliana Kalil is on the opposite side of the net with a clear shot down the line. Altman courageously tried the later, resulting in her taking a ball off the face that would have knocked down most medium-sized elephants. Altman dropped to her knees, went to the sideline during a timeout to make sure her nose was still roughly in place, then came right back in.