Facing a team it hasn't played this season proved to be no problem Saturday for Omaha Marian.
The Crusaders, ranked second in Class A, swept Class B No. 1 Omaha Gross 26-24, 25-19, 25-20 in the final of the Omaha Westside Invitational. Marian went 5-0 in the volleyball tournament and boosted its record to 29-2, while the Cougars fell to 24-4.
“Anytime you play a new team this late in the season, it's a positive,” Crusaders coach Rochelle Rohlfs said. “It's great for us because Gross is really good.”
Both teams competed in the season-opening Bellevue Invitational but did not meet. Marian advanced to Saturday's final with a sweep of Lincoln Southwest while Gross swept Papillion-La Vista.
The Crusaders set the tone for the championship, winning the first set 26-24. With the set tied at 24-all, seniors Lexi Elman and Maggie Heim pounded consecutive kills to put Marian on top.
“Winning that first one was big,” Rohlfs said. “That gave us some momentum.”
The Crusaders rode that momentum into the second set, racing to a 12-5 lead. Gross closed within 15-13, but Marian won the next four points and eventually captured the set on a kill by senior Annie Wolfe.
Rohlfs' squad pulled away from a 14-all tie in the third set en route to the sweep. Kills by Elman, Morgan Sullivan and Heim allowed the Crusaders to open some breathing room, and they later finished off the Cougars on a kill by Elman — her team-leading 20th of the match.
Heim had 13 kills and 24 assists for the Crusaders while Wolfe chipped in nine kills.
Despite the setback, Gross coach Kelly Goc said she was pleased with her team's performance. The eight-team tournament featured four ranked Class A squads and two ranked Class B teams.
“To make this final is an accomplishment,” Goc said. “It's good to play these upper-level teams because it shows us what we need to work on.”
Goc added that her Cougars are playing well as the season winds down.
“We've got six seniors and they're treating every day as if it's their last on the volleyball court,” she said. “They've done a great job with the younger players.”
Alex Opperman had 10 kills to lead the Cougars while Joelle Overkamp and Shelbi Mlynczak had eight each. Setter Ellie Targy had 28 assists.
Gross returns to action Monday night against visiting Millard South while Marian's next match will be Tuesday night at top-ranked Papillion-La Vista South.
Om. Gross (24-4)........................24 19 20
Om. Marian (29-2)......................26 25 25
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