ST. PAUL — Class C-2, No. 5 Wood River had its moments against Kearney Catholic in the Lou-Platte Conference final.
But the Stars showed why they are the No. 1 team in Class C-1.
Kearney Catholic (22-0) used its height and balance to cruise to its fourth-straight conference title with a 25-11, 25-19, 25-9 victory over the Eagles Thursday at St. Paul.
The Stars produced 38 kills, led by Bailey Sokolowski’s 12 kills and Michaela Mestl’s 11, while Shayla Conner had 35 set assists. Kearney Catholic coach Kris Conner, Shayla’s mother, said she and the Stars like having that balance.
“The kids really like the balance that we have,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who gets the ball, whether its Bailey or Michaela or whoever, they want it that way. They have gotten really good about that and keep things smooth since we have so many good hitters this year.”
Wood River coach Peg Heise said one of the reasons the Eagles had trouble was the height disadvantage they had. The Stars have three players that are over 6-foot, while Wood River’s tallest player are Kelly Boshart and Hope Lambrecht both at 5-9.
“Kearney Catholic was just so tough to stop,” Heise said. “You really can’t coach height and they are well coached. They are just well coached. I thought we battled hard but we knew what we were up against.”
After Kearney Catholic cruised in the first set, Wood River (18-5) showed some fight. Lambrecht had four of her team-high eight kills in the set. A Lambrecht kill and a Star error put the Eagles up 8-5.
The lead was short-lived though as a Kalyn Brannagan kill, two Wood River errors and a Therin Baum ace serve put Kearney Catholic up 9-8.
The Stars started to pull away at the midpoint to take the set. But Wood River made it interesting by staying in a lot of rallies. One time, the Eagles won a very long rally with the volleyball going back and forth about nine times. The point ended on a Julia Rojas ace block.
“The girls had to fight for every point tonight but I was glad to see the long rallies,” Heise said. “They might have been far and far between but we were able to win a few of those. I thought the girls really fought in the second set.”
The third set was all Kearney Catholic. Mestl had three straight kills for an 11-4 lead and cruised from there.
Heise said she was pleased with how the Eagles played during the tournament, especially after outlasting Class C-1, No. 10 Ord in five sets Tuesday. The fifth set score was 24-22. She added it was Wood River’s first appearance in the championship game since 2004.
“When we played Ord earlier (a two set loss on Sept. 6), we really didn’t compete at all,” Heise said. “That match (Tuesday) was point for point all the way through and regardless of the outcome, we gained a lot from that match, more so than we did tonight.
“But it has been a while since we played in the conference final. It was good to know that we were going to finish first or second. The kids played hard.”
Ord defeats St. Paul for third place
Ord bounced back from its five-set loss to Wood River by defeating St. Paul 25-15, 25-15, 25-20 in the consolation game.
The Chants (19-6) got out to leads in all three sets and never let up. St. Paul was its worst enemy in the match by committing 30 errors.
Kenzie Drudik led the Chants with eight kills, while Nebraska-Omaha volleyball commitment Nicki Carson added seven kills. Ord coach Wendy Alexander said it was good to see the Chants bounce back to get a win, especially after falling to the Wildcats in five sets in the opening match of the season for both teams.
“I felt the girls came out at the start of the match and played hard,” Alexander said. “They didn’t play like they lost a tough five-set match after Tuesday. They played like a team that was hungry for a win. I’m proud of how they came out tonight.”
Gabby Moody paced St. Paul (15-8) with eight kills in the loss.
At St. Paul
Wood River (18-5) 11 19 9
Kearney Catholic (22-0) 25 25 25
WOOD RIVER (Kills-aces-blocks) — Alexis Burghardt 1-1-0 Connor Fischer 3-0-1, Kelsey Bahe 3-2-0, Julia Rojas 2-0-0, Kelly Boshart 0-0-1, Madison DeVore 0-0-0, Hope Lambrecht 8-0-0, Matt Lueh 1-0-0, Kaitlyn Hermann 0-0-0.
KEARNEY CATHOLIC (Kills-aces-blocks) — Michaela Mestl 11-4-0, Kalyn Brannagan 7-0-1, Morgan Stute 1-1-0, Shayla Conner 0-0-0, Bailey Sokolowski 12-0-2, Therin Baum 2-0-1, Allie Prososki 0-0-0, Jaime McCann 0-1-0, Megan Anderson 5-0-0, Paige Hervert 0-2-0.
ASSISTS — WR: Bahe 12, Lambrecht 1. KC: Conner 35.
Ord (19-6) 15 15 20
St. Paul (15-8) 25 25 25
ORD (Kills-aces-blocks) — Tiarra Kruml 0-2-0, Morgan Alexander 0-0-0, Kenzie Drudik 8-0-0, Sydney McKenney 0-0-0, Allison Welniak 3-0-0, Kalie Pelton 1-0-0, Sydney Kruml 3-0-0, Megan Alexander 5-1-1, Melanie Ries 1-0-0, Nicki Carson 7-3-1.
ST. PAUL (Kills-aces-blocks) — Kyla Wojtalewicz 0-0-0, Mercedes Lassen 0-0-0, Jordyn Lukawiewicz 0-0-0, Gabby Moody 8-0-0, Jordan Robinson 5-1-0, Kylie Sestak 2-0-0, Maddie Fousek 1-1-0, Karrie Sestak 2-0-0, Alexa Wysocki 1-1-0, Terrin Jonak 2-0-0.
SET ASSISTS — ORD: Mo. Alexander 12, Carson 10, M. Alexander 1, SP: Lassen 21