It happens every year. It’s inevitable. A few lower seeds in Nebraska’s state tournament defy their placement in the bracket and make an unexpected run. Last season, we saw two six-seeds and one seven-seed win their opening-round matchups to reach…
It happens every year. It’s inevitable. A few lower seeds in Nebraska’s state tournament defy their placement in the bracket and make an unexpected run.
Last season, we saw two six-seeds and one seven-seed win their opening-round matchups to reach the semifinals. One of those six-seeds, Sutton, climbed all the way to the state championship match. With how tight the top teams are in several classes this year, I’d anticipate a continuation of these upsets.
So, in the spirit of Halloween, we’re breaking down some of the “scariest” underdogs that have a chance to bust some brackets this November.
Millard West was a popular pick to make it back to Lincoln after appearing in last year’s Class A championship match. While that prognostication has panned out, 2021’s second-overall seed is heading into this season’s tournament as a seventh-seeded underdog.
That definitely doesn’t mean this squad should be counted out, however. The Wildcats get #2 Lincoln Southwest in the opening round, and fans of both squads will be quick to recall the five-set thriller these teams produced in late September. The Silver Hawks escaped in that meeting, but Millard West’s frontcourt firepower makes it a dangerous seven-seed. Veteran pin hittersand will loom large as Millard West takes on a new role in this year’s bracket, and it might start with a big upset in Lincoln.
Douglas County West
Any time you have a seven-seed with only three losses, you know there’s some upset potential in the opening round.
DC West’s impressive 29-3 campaign is no fluke. Creighton commitremains one of the most effective terminators in the entire state, compiling nearly five kills per set on a staggering 0.535 hitting percentage. Other experienced attackers like and have helped turned the Falcons’ offense into a formidable force in Class C1.
Pulling off a win against a stacked Minden squad is surely no easy task. But, few #7 seeds would seem as well-equipped to score the upset as DC West.
The Patriots have been here before. Let’s see if they can make some noise from the #7 spot.
Like DC West, Clarkson/Leigh has a multi-talented feature attacker in junior. This dynamic athlete can play on the outside and in the middle, and that versatility has yielded 5.6 kills per set on a near-.400 clip. Senior Korbee Wendt will also get a large share of swings for the Patriots in Lincoln.
Clarkson/Leigh has one prior meeting with Archbishop Bergan, last year’s D1 runner-up. Though the Knights took a 3-1 win in that late September duel, we’re heading to a whole new venue with the added pressure of Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Eagles were one set away from a bid in last year’s Class D1 championship match. This year, Nebraska Christian enters the tournament as D1’s #8 seed.
Yes, we rarely see 1-versus-8 upsets in the opening round of the tournament. Still, Nebraska Christian enters the tournament with a scary combination of talent and experience. Senior outside hitterhas been putting down 4.4 kills per set this season, and is as steady as ever at the setter spot. If there’s any #8 team that can put together a run in Lincoln, it’s this one–even if top-seeded juggernaut Norfolk Catholic stands in the way.
Falls City Sacred Heart
I keep marveling at the stacked field of teams we have in Class D2. Case in point, defending champion Falls City Sacred Heart enters this year’s postseason as the sixth-overall seed.
A lot of the same championship-winning talent is back on this year’s squad, too. Olivia Eickhoff leads the offense on the outside, and seniors London Nachtigal and Macy Keller have reached a new gear in 2022. The Irish recently exhibited their championship readiness by going toe-to-toe with Diller-Odell in districts, and I’d expect more high-level play in Lincoln.
And, as if we needed more intrigue around Sacred Heart, the Irish find themselves in a rematch of last year’s D2 championship in the opening round of this year’s tournament. Humphrey St. Francis will be eager to avenge 2021’s five-set finale loss, but Sacred Heart’s firepower and experience cannot be overlooked.