Class D-1 Preview, Rankings and Preseason All-State Team
Make no mistake about it, the main storyline in Class D-1 this year is Johnson-Brock’s pursuit of a fourth-straight state title. Winning four or more state championships in a row is something only six other programs have done before in…
Make no mistake about it, the main storyline in Class D-1 this year is Johnson-Brock’s pursuit of a fourth-straight state title.
Winning four or more state championships in a row is something only six other programs have done before in Nebraska history – Bellevue West (twice), Shickley, Columbus Scotus, Republican Valley, West Point Guardian Angels and Kearney Catholic.
If the Eagles are going to soar to that level, 2018 might present its biggest challenge yet to hoisting another trophy.
Archbishop Bergan, which returns basically its whole team that qualified for the Class C-2 state tournament last year, has dropped to D-1 this year. Nebraska Christian, which finished fourth in Class C-2 a year ago, also drops down to D-1.
Then there are the host of other teams on the rise in D-1 when to challenge Johnson-Brock for the top spot as the Eagles look to replace some significant losses to its team.
Here is our initial Class D-1 rankings with a little bit about each team. Remember, starting this fall Class D-1 will utilize the sub-state system for postseason play.
#1 – Johnson-Brock
When you return reigning Class D-1 POY and Husker recruit Fallon Stutheit, you’re automatically a team that can contend for the title. But, for the Eagles, it’s going to be about replacing all-around player Kaitlynn Simon and setter Brynn Westenburg. Plus, there is a chance Stutheit could miss roughly the first week of the season while recovering from an procedure to clean up her knee over the summer. But, with Stutheit leading the charge and the return of senior Mattie Nichols and an influx of young players such as 5’10 freshman outside Jadyn Hahn, the Eagles start 2018 at the top. Stutheit begins her senior year with 1,394 kills, which is about 250 shy of the all-time Class D-1 record. Stutheit would need 606 kills this year to become the first non-Class A player in state history with 2,000 career kills. The most she’s ever had in a season is 539, which is the Class D-1 single-season record.
#2 – Archbishop Bergan
Despite being the smallest school in the loaded Centennial Conference, Bergan went 25-9 last season and pushed Stanton to four sets in a first-round loss at the Class C-2 state tournament a year ago. While the Knights need to replace libero Meghan Dahlhauser, Bergan will be the deepest and most battle-tested team in D-1 this year. Augustana recruit Lexie Langley should be recovered from a knee injury in the spring and had 457 kills and 345 digs last year. Setter Allison Dieckmann returns along with athletic and powerful Haley Kempf(251 kills, 73 blocks in 2017) as well as Allie DeGroff (230 kills) and Lauren Baker (106 kills). Emma Walz, a 6’0 middle, is another player to watch.
#3 – Diller-Odell
While the Griffins may have missed the state tournament last year, Diller-Odell has still been one of the best small-school programs in the state over the past five years with a third-place finish in 2014 and runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016. Diller-Odell went 19-12 last season and return all the main pieces from that squad. Sophomroe setter Addison Heidemann is one of the best in the state and senior Kirsten Bures had 346 kills and 194 digs a year ago. Juniors Mackenzie Vitosh (269 kills) and Emily Swawnson (120 kills) also return.
#4 – Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family
It’s something of a reoccurring theme among the top teams in Class D-1, but the Bulldogs return basically everyone from last year’s squad that went 24-11 before falling to Heartland in the district finals a year ago. In a class loaded with individual talent, Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family’s Taya Beller is among the very best. The Wayne State recruit had 487 kills a year agoto go with 43 ace serves, 228 total blocks and 429 digs – all of which were team bests. Brittney Veik, Allie Schneider and Dani Brandl each had more than 75 kills also return this year. Schneider also had 653 assists.
#5 – North Platte St. Patrick’s
The Irish are another former Class C-2 team that has dropped down to Class D-1 this season after going 23-10 and reaching the district finals a year ago. St. Patrick’s returns three of its top four kill leaders from last season and also its setter as it looks to make its first trip to state since 2012. Senior Kaleigh Kummer is one of the top all-around outsides in the class and returns after having 231 kills and a team-best 423 digs a year ago. Senior Abbi Allberry had 203 kills and 322 digs last season and Hayley Homan had 154 kills, 90 solo blocks and 184 digs. Setter Calli Groseth returns after a 631-assist season in 2017.
#6 – Nebraska Christian
Nebraska Christian rolled into the Class C-2 state tournament at 32-0 last season and swept Ponca in the first round before running into the Kalynn Meyer & Superior buzzsaw in the semifinals. The Eagles have two huge holes to fill with the graduation of Claire Ostrand and Kaitlynn Halstead, their top two kill leaders from a year ago. But, Nebraska Christian returns enough pieces to be right in it this season in D-1, led by junior Grace Langemeier and seniors Carsyn Ostrand and Adrienne Falk.
#7 – Lutheran High Northeast
The Eagles are always a strong program and like a handful of others, drops down to D-1 from C-2 this season. Be on the lookout for 5’8 sophomore outside Becca Gebhardt, who is ranked as the #18 overall 2021 prospect in the state and is the younger sister of Wayne State setter Megan.
#8 – Central Valley
Could this be the first Central Valley team to reach a state tournament? Well, the Cougars certainly have the size and athleticism to make a run at it. The team went 16-12 a year ago and returns senior setter Colby Grossart, senior middle Devyn Erickson and sophomore outside hitter Ashlyn Wright.
#9 – Hartington-Newcastle
The Wildcats went 23-6 a season ago and have some really good talent back in 2018. The squad lost just one player from last year and was impressive at team camps this summer. Kayden Jueden, a 5’9 sophomore outside, and 6’1 senior middle Belle Harms were especially good at the Nebraska Top 10 camp.
#10 – Giltner
After five-striaght trips to the state tournament from 2011-2015, Giltner has missed out the last two years but the Hornets have the look of a team that could get back to Lincoln this fall. Senior Brooke Good and junior Cassidy Tompkin return for Giltner after finishing first and second, respectively, in kills for the Hornets last season.
Here is a look at our Class D-1 Preseason All-State Team
Setter – Rhianna Wilhelm, 5’10, Jr., Heartland
Setter – Addison Heidemann, 5’7, Soph., Diller-Odell
Hitter – Fallon Stutheit, 6’2, Sr., Johnson-Brock (committed to Nebraska)
Hitter – Lexie Langley, 6’0, Sr., Archbishop Bergan (committed to Augustana)
Hitter – Taya Beller, 6’1, Sr., Humphrey-Lindsay Holy Family (committed to Wayne State)
Hitter – Kristen Bures, 5’10, Sr., Diller-Odell
Hitter – Kaleigh Kummer, 5’7, Sr., North Platte St. Patrick’s
Utility – Carsyn Ostrand, 5’8, Sr., Nebraska Christian
Libero/DS – Kyleigh Scott, 5’5, Sr., Hitchock County
Libero/DS – Grace Rittscher, 5’6, Sr., Clearwater-Orchard