Mid-July Top 5 Team Rankings in Each Class
Practices for the start of the 2018 high school season are less than three weeks away and the summer team camps are in full swing right now, so this is a great time for a very, very preliminary look at…
Practices for the start of the 2018 high school season are less than three weeks away and the summer team camps are in full swing right now, so this is a great time for a very, very preliminary look at the top teams in each class.
Two of the biggest team camps in the state – Omaha and the Kearney Top 10 – are still to come later this month and we will update these initial rankings again in early August to incorporate what we learn in the next two weeks. Our initial full preseason rankings will then come out a week or so before the start of matches – which is Aug. 23.
Please keep in mind that official classification for schools has not been released yet. For the most part, we’re just going with teams remaining in the same class they were in last year, even though that might change in the coming days. We are also working under the assumption (based on what smart people are telling us) that Gretna will be in Class A this fall and Elkhorn South will remain in Class B.
So, here is a look at our way too early top five in each class.
1.) Lincoln Pius X
2.) Millard North
3.) Omaha Marian
4.) Papillion-LaVista South
In the hunt: Gretna, Lincoln East, Lincoln Southwest, Millard South, Millard West.
Thoughts: The Thunderbolts are able to put the most talented six players on the court right now, so Pius X gets the nod. Returning setter Gracie Gokie, Husker recruit Emma Gabel at libero and attackers like Delaney Humm, Anna McLain, Alexis Markowski, Lauren Taubenheim and Morgan Christiansen makes Pius X the front runners. Big question for Millard North is whether Emma Altman is ready to take over the back row and if Emma Grunkemeyer is able to come back this season. Marian has a lot of questions, but they still have Emily Bressman and Hailey Zuroske and some good young talent and hungry seniors who will finally get their shot. Papillion-LaVista South must replace quite a bit (namely Taliyah Flores), but will have Sophie Hendrix healthy this year and has pretty good depth to fill those holes. Norah Sis is about to become a superstar and Papillion-LaVista will be its usual, balanced self with good ball control and smart play. Millard West could have just as easily been ranked as high as third and is a legit state title contender.
1.) Skutt Catholic
2.) Omaha Duchesne
3.) Elkhorn South
4.) Grand Island Northwest
In the hunt: Elkhorn, Hastings, Norris, Seward, Waverly.
Thoughts: Skutt has so much talent that you could break its team into two entities and they would both make the state tournament. Duchesne – which was running a three-setter offense at team camp in Wisconsin – and Elkhorn South are serious threats to Skutt. How will Grand Island Northwest do without Diane Rouzee on the bench? I think a lot of people are curious to see, but the Lady Vikings always have talent and Class B is not very deep this year. Sidney has the best 1-2 punch outside of the big three with Mattie Johnson and Peyton Jung.
2.) Grand Island Central Catholic
3.) Lincoln Lutheran
4.) Omaha Concordia
In the hunt: Bishop Neuamann, Broken Bow, Kearney Catholic, Lincoln Christian, Ogallala, St. Paul, Ord
Thoughts: Defending champs Wahoo come back loaded again and have the best size of anyone in the class. Grand Island CC returns basically its entire team from last year’s runner-up finish and Lincoln Lutheran has its big three of Marriah Buss, Hope Leimbach and Erin Williams back and they can beat anyone. Omaha Concordia brings back a pair of Division I recruits with Sami Clarkson and Taylor Pribyl and Syracuse could be the most athletic team in the class and took Jaela Zimmerman and Malcolm to five sets in a substate match last year.
2.) Hartington Cedar Catholic
3.) Archbishop Bergan
5.) Southern Valley
In the hunt: Battle Creek, Centura, Hartington-Newcastle, Lutheran High Northeast, Nebraska Christian, North Platte St. Patrick’s, Ponca, Wisner-PIlger.
Thoughts: Yes, Kalynn Meyer returns for defending champs Superior, but the team lost several other key pieces that is going to make it difficult for Superior to repeat, although I would never be caught dead betting against Meyer. Stanton, Hartington Cedar Catholic and Bergan all return significant parts of its core and each team has superstar players of its own. Stanton gets the nod to start the year, although HCC and Bergan each got significant consideration. It will all sort itself out in a couple weeks at the Kearney Top 10 where all three of those teams are competing.
4.) Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family
5.) Central Valley
In the hunt: Clarkson-Leigh, Blue Hill, Heartland, Meridian.
Thoughts: Only six schools in the state can claim to have won four consecutive state volleyball championships and Johnson-Brock enters this fall with a chance to be school number seven with that accomplishment. Yes, the Eagles lost a lot of talent, but they have future Husker Fallon Stutheit back and their main nemesis the past two years – Meridian – also was hit hard by graduation. BDS finished third in D-1 last year and returns a strong group and Diller-Odell, which lost to Johnson-Brock in the 2015 state finals, returns some of the top talent as well. All five of the ranked teams are at the Kearney Top 10, so we will see soon what Johnson-Brock’s four-peat odds look like after that.
5.) Red Cloud
Thoughts: All the top teams from a year ago lost significant pieces, so Class D-2 seems to be the most wide-open class out there right now. So, when in doubt, go with the defending champs at the top spot, which is what I’ve done here. Giltner has looked really good when I’ve seen them this year and Ewing brings back some nice pieces from last year. Stuart has some big, strong, good athletes this season and Red Cloud has Mary Nibbe, which should carry them quite a ways.