Young, Scrappy Wildcats Take Home Creighton Team Camp Title
The Creighton team camp is always the first big team camp of the summer that brings out the who’s who of volleyball in Nebraska – plus some of the top teams from Iowa. Omaha Marian was there, which I believe…
The Creighton team camp is always the first big team camp of the summer that brings out the who’s who of volleyball in Nebraska – plus some of the top teams from Iowa.
Omaha Marian was there, which I believe had won the four previous years in a row. Papillion-LaVista, Papillion-LaVista South, Omaha Duchesne, Wahoo and two of the best teams from Iowa in Ankeny and Ankeny Centennial.
Millard West was there as well, but c’mon, the Wildcats had a young tournament roster and were without a pair of starters from last year in Gabi Nordaker and Hailey Peterson, who were each attending college individual camps.
At the end, it was that young, scrappy team from Millard West that walked away as champions, posting an outstanding record in pool play the first one and a half days to reach the championship bracket. From there, Millard West beat Omaha Concordia, edged Papillion-LaVista in three sets after fighting off a handful of match points and then knocked off Ankeny Centennial is three sets (16-14 in the third) to win it all.
“We knew going in to the Creighton team camp that is was going to be a juggernaut of some of the best high school teams in the area as Creighton hosts a prestigious group of high school volleyball. With only three returning starters participating, our athletes knew that we would have to gel together quickly to compete with the best,” Millard West coach Joe Wessel said. “We strive to perfect our serve and pass game. When we were able to stay in system, we were able to capitalize our style of play.
“As in any summer preseason we set a lot of goals. A big testament is to the clubs and club coaches these student-athletes play for. They help prepare these kids to compete at such a high level. We also are continuing to set a new culture at Millard West. These athletes understand that nothing in life, academics, and athletics is given. Everything must be earned. Our Wildcats are sticking to our Mission Statement that we set and continue to build on it. They have been putting in the work in the gym and with our performance and weight training program. I am lucky to have an amazing coaching staff at Millard West to lead these athletes in our season goals.”
Millard West’s serve-and-pass game was on full display at the end of the championship match. With the score tied at 13-13 in the third set, Centennial twice went to its powerhouse outside hitter Kenna Sauer, a 6-foot Missouri recruit and two times in a row Wildcat libero Jaiden Centeno dug her bomb and kept the Wildcats in system. Later in the rally, Centeno had an amazing save at the net to keep the point alive, which Millard West eventually won.
Then, leading 15-14, Bree Green – who has one of the toughest serves in all of the state – delivered a great serve that forced Centennial to send a free ball back over that led to a kill by the Wildcats’ Bailey Wilson in the middle to end it.
Centeno was nearly flawless in the championship bracket, playing at an All-American type level.
“Jaiden Centeno is the real deal,” Wessel said. “Sometimes in the game of volleyball liberos tend to get overlooked. But it’s the effort, athleticism, and heart that she brings to this team that is one of the keys to our success.”
Also impressive for Millard West was their drive to win, coming back from down 14-11 in the third against Papio to win 19-17 and also hold off a strong push from Centennial at the end of the finals.
“We were put in a handful of tough predicaments throughout the tournament. We ask our team their thoughts in that current situation during a timeout. Senior leadership input plays a huge key. We give them a game plan and ways to be successful and trust that they will execute,” Wessel said. “That third set against Papio could have gone either way. We made adjustments and kept the focus enough to squeak out a win. Nebraska Class A volleyball is going to be exciting to watch this year.”
Millard West’s team for the tournament was comprised of:
Now, some general thoughts from the Creighton team camp.
The group from Millard West was the most athletic Millard West team in a long time – especially at the net. She of the young players brought a whole new level of quickness to the pins and twitch reflexes that were very impressive.
Gilroy really showed me something at Creighton. She’s a little bit of a ‘tweener in that her height doesn’t project all that well at the next level as an attacker, but she will definitely be effective in Class A, but her game plays defensively in the back row. She’s got a chance to be an all-state, full-rotation outside during her high school career.
Omaha Marian may not have won the championship bracket, but it easily could have. It played an epic three-set match against Centennial in the semifinals before falling 15-8 in the third.
Marian looks a lot different than recent years physically without nearly as many as, big, physically imposing players at the front, but don’t be fooled. The Crusaders showed they are still one of the best teams in the state and will have plenty of talent on the court. The question will be determining who fills all of the starting positions that are open this year. The fact Marian had 15 athletes on its main team tells you there is going to be a lot of competition for those roster spots. And all that internal competition will just make them even better.
Norah Sis of Papillion-LaVista is so good. As a whole, the Monarchs look like they will be their usual top-five self this season. A reoccurring theme among the top Class A teams at Creighton was an overall lack of height, but really good athletes up front.
Perhaps that’s because Millard North and Lincoln Pius X have monopolized all the height in Class A and they did not have top teams there. I’m joking about the monopoly. Maybe.
Millard South, Omaha Duchesne, Wahoo and Omaha Concordia each dropped first-round matches in the championship bracket. Millard South lost to Marian and the Patriots should feel good about how they did without two of their starters – Paige Fixemer and Maddie Madej at the net. Millard South will rely heavily on freshman setter Makayla Flemming and she held her own at Creighton.
Duchesne looked really tough but had a difficult draw against Papio in the first round. Emma Worthington continued to show why she’s one of the top all-around high school players in the state with her ability to do everything. Wahoo put up a really good fight against Ankeny Centennial in the first round. Those two teams actually met for the Iowa State team camp title last summer. For Wahoo, Elly Larson made her return at the Creighton team camp. It was her first action since her ACL injury late in 2017 during basketball.
Omaha Concordia fell to Millard West in the quarterfinals. Sami Clarkson and Taylor Pribyl look in midseason form already and the Mustangs will be one of the top teams in Class C-1 against this year.
Papillion-LaVista South won the Silver Bracket after it got a pretty tough break on its pool-play schedule and wound up just missing the championship bracket. The Titans downed Elkhorn South in the Silver championship. Titan coach Brad Reichmuth joked that finishing in the silver bracket will hopefully mean his team gets overlooked this year now that Taliyah Flores and Peyton Schednt have graduated. Sorry, Brad, nobody is going to fall for that.