Class B Preview, Rankings and Preseason All-State Team
Skutt Catholic comes into the 2018 season as the three-time defending champions in Class B and in a strong position to make it four in a row this fall. If Skutt Catholic can hoist the trophy at Bob Devaney Sports…
Skutt Catholic comes into the 2018 season as the three-time defending champions in Class B and in a strong position to make it four in a row this fall. If Skutt Catholic can hoist the trophy at Bob Devaney Sports Center again this November, it will become the first Class B program to win four in a row and just the seventh program in state history to do so.
But, there is also something else looming out there for the Skyhawks – a realistic opportunity to stake claim to a national championship in 2018. Skutt begins the year ranked #13 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com.
Along with playing in the brutal Bellevue West and Millard North Invitationals this season, Skutt Catholic has super-charged its schedule to include the Asics Challenge in Chicago, which annual draws in several of the top teams in the nation. The Skyhawks also have head-to-head matchups scheduled with a pair of other traditional powers in the Midwest with a match at Ankeny Centennial in Iowa later this month and by hosting St. Thomas Aquinas of Kansas in early September.
Skutt Catholic also will be without all-state sophomore Lindsay Krause for roughly the first week of the season (including the Bellevue West Invite) as she competes for Team USA.
Lurking in the background in Class B are a handful of teams that can challenge the Skyhawks for the Class B title and the deepest group of teams in the class in several years. Sitting just outside the top 10 are teams like Grand Island Northwest, Waverly and North Platte (which has dropped down from Class A), which should make this one of the most competitive seasons in Class B in a while.
Here is our initial Class B rankings with a little bit about each team.
#1 – Skutt Catholic
Along with Husker commit Krause, Skutt Catholic will throw three other Division I commits onto the court this season with 5’11 junior outside Megan Skovsende (Creighton), 6’1 senior Lily Heyne (Tulsa) and 5’11 sophomore setter Allie Gray (Arizona State). Also along the net will be 6’2 senior Sydney McDermott and 5’10 sophomore Shayla McCormick. Junior Lauren Kemp and sophomore Cameron Cartwright, both 5’9, are also along the front. Brilee Wieseler, a 5’9 sophomore, could see time in the front or back row. Who takes the libero job for the Skyhawks will be one of the interesting things to watch as junior Lauren Diederich and sophomores Olivia Rouw and Bre Skala all seem to be in the mix. Stella Shotkoski returns as a junior setter/DS and two freshmen – 5’10 setter/RS Abby Schomers and 5’11 attacker Ava Heyne – round out the roster.
#2 – Elkhorn South
Pretty much all the pieces are back from Elkhorn South’s 26-14 squad a year ago along the net. Seniors Logan Connealy and Mackenzie Saitta are back on the outside and junior Ibi Green is back on the right side. Sophomore middle Rylee Gray returns, although the Storm is dealing with the loss of senior middle Maddie Burt. Was suffered a back injury that ended her season early in 2017 and she sat out the entire club year. She attempted to come back this summer but had a repeat of the injury a couple weeks ago and is now done playing for good. Freshman Kylie Weeks looks to be her replacement as an attacker. Another freshman, Madi Woodin looks to be the starting setter while senior Jordan McCormick, who moved into the district from Millard West, takes over at libero and will likely be joined in the back row quite a bit by freshman Estella Zatechka. Seniors Taylor Heinen, Catherine Lentsch and Kylie Emsick also return, as does junior Lexy Booth and sophomore Lauren Dvorak.
#3 – Omaha Duchesne
Duchesne returns most of the significant pieces of its 31-6 season a year ago in which it reached the Class B state finals. The Cardinals must replace libero Elle Lammers and outside Julianna Kalil, but Duchesne returns four of its top five kill leaders from a year ago and reigning Class B POY Emma Worthington at setter. Duchesne hopefully will have right side Mayah Delgado healthy for a full year after she missed about 40% of the season a year ago but still managed to have 219 kills and 38 total blocks. Juniors Caroline Ortman and Allison Brown return as attackers, as do senior Josie Reed and juniors Emily Kaup and Mary Pat Taylor, although it would not be shocking to see the later take over in the back row. Duchesne also added junior setter Kaitln Neely as a transfer from Millard North.
#4 – Elkhorn
There were growing pains for the Antlers during a 15-16 campaign in 2017, but that was to be expected with a roster lacking any seniors and featuring five freshmen. Last year’s lessons should pay off this season as Elkhorn returns its full roster. Setter Megan Raszler returns as does senior libero Maggie McElhose. Junior Emma Crouch and sophomores Abby Wolfe, Addie Thomas and Kalli Jensen each had at least 140 kills last season and junior Jessie Richmond and sophomore Becca Vala return in the back row.
#5 – Seward
It was a breakthrough year of sorts for the Bluejays in 2017 as they advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2010. While Seward lost some key pieces, the Bluejays have their two most dominating hitters back along with both setters. Senior Camryn Opfer had 410 kills and 358 digs a year ago on the outside while senior middle Rebekah Klenke had 298 kills and 146 total blocks. Setters Anna Covalt, a senior, and sophomore Jaci Opfer are also back for the Bluejays.
#6 – Norris
Norris is seeking its first trip to state since winning back-to-back state titles in 2013 and 2014 and the Titans look poised to do just that in 2018. Setter Michaela Boon returns as does libero Molly Ramsey. Norris doesn’t feature much height outside of 6’0 freshman middle Ella Waters, but the Titans should be adept at ball handling and have the athletes to compete at the net. Senior Maddy Meyer had 107 kills a year ago and fellow seniors Cassie Barber, Lauren Borer and Maddy Ramsey will all compete for back row time. Junior Maddie Clauss also returns along the back row while juniors Paige Wilkinson and Madison Franzen return along the net. Freshman Maisie Boesiger could also see time as a setter or in the back row.
#7 – Alliance
Only Skutt Catholic will put more Division I talent on the court in Class B this year than the Bulldogs as they return a strong core from the team that went 24-9 and lost to Bennington in the substate round. Senior Wyoming outside hitter recruit Emersen Cyza returns after a 508-kill junior season while junior middle Jordan Hopp, an Iowa State recruit, returns after setting a school record with 100 total blocks in 2017. Junior Payton Weber and senior Ryley Rolls also return after having more than 100 kills apiece last season. The Bulldogs lost pretty much everyone from the back row and must find a new setter this year, but Alliance has the firepower to reach state for the first time since 2000.
#8 – Bennington
The good news for the Badgers last year was that they made the state tournament, but the bad news was that they had to face Skutt Catholic in the first round. Bennington went 22-13 last year and returns several pieces from last year’s squad. Senior setter Grace Jensen is back and senior Reagan Smith is the top returning back row player with 229 digs and 350 serve receptions. Senior middle Michaela Bartles is back after a season in which she had 312 kills and 112 total blocks. Seniors Kaysen Aksamit (187 kills) and Ellie Rupprecht (126 kills, 336 digs) return as well.
#9 – Hastings
Hastings suffered a major loss this summer when senior 6’0 middle Kyla Rickert and her family moved to Arizona. She had 166 kills and 94 blocks a year ago, but the Tigers still have the depth and moxie to make a run at the state tournament. Senior Cece Beahm is one of the best all-around players in the state and had 447 kills and 289 digs a year ago and junior Brooke Aspen returns after having 161 kills as a sophomore. Kaylee Kadow, Hope Kohmetscher, Aubree Cress and Dacey Sealy all had more than 200 digs last season while Kohmetscher also had 775 assists.
#10 – Sidney
Sidney could very easily be one of those scary teams that flies under the radar all season long only to make a big run in the postseason as the Red Raiders have that kind of talent. The outside hitter combination of junior Mattie Johnson and senior Payton Jung is big time and gives Sidney two go-to-players in crunch time. Senior Katelyn Sylvester returns as a setter/right side for the Red Raiders while senior Allie Means was one of the team’s dig leaders a year ago.
Here is a look at our B Preseason All-State Team
Setter – Emma Worthington, 5’10, Sr., Omaha Duchesne (committed to Cornell)
Setter – Allie Gray, 5’11, Soph., Skutt Catholic (committed to Arizona State)
Hitter – Lindsay Krause, 6’3, Soph., Skutt Catholic (committed to Nebraska)
Hitter – Rylee Gray, 6’3, Soph., Elkhorn South (committed to Nebraska)
Hitter – Cameryn Opfer, 6’0, Sr., Seward (committed to Washburn)
Hitter – Emersen Cyza, 6’1, Sr., Alliance (committed to Wyoming)
Hitter – Mattie Johnson, 6’0, Jr., Sidney (committed to South Dakota)
Hitter – Cece Beahm, 6’0, Sr., Hastings (committed to Hastings College)
Libero/DS – Jordan McCormick, 5’10, Sr., Elkhorn South (committed to Wayne State)
Libero/DS – Molly Ramsey, 5’3, Soph., Norris