Ratings: Nebraska prep volleyball, Oct. 29
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The names change from season to season, but the success remains constant at Grand Island Northwest.
Coach Diane Rouzee has another powerful squad that will ride a 23-match winning streak into district play this week. The 30-2 Vikings are the top seed in the B-5 district that begins Tuesday at Kearney High School.
“I couldn't be any happier with the way we've played,” Rouzee said. “We lost a lot of kids from last year, so I wasn't really sure what to expect.”
The Vikings graduated eight from the 2011 squad, including both setters and most of their top hitters. But Grand Island Northwest rebuilt with the help of three transfers — Erin Sorahan from Grand Island Central Catholic, Morgan Westphal from Scottsbluff and Kennadi Keezer from Grand Island High.
“With so many new faces, I knew team chemistry was going to be critical,” Rouzee said. “We did some team bonding things before the start of the season, and it's all come together really well.”
The Vikings won their first six matches before dropping two of their next three against Waverly and Elkhorn South. Grand Island Northwest hasn't lost since, defeating several ranked squads along the way.
“I feel like we've gotten better throughout the year,” Rouzee said. “I keep challenging our players and they keep responding, which has really helped build our confidence.”
McKenzie Brown leads the team with 2.8 kills per set while Katie Placke is second with a 2.4 average. Kaley Werner averages almost one block while Neleigh Hall and Placke average about five assists in the Vikings' 6-2 attack.
Rouzee said her squad's successful season is part of a winning culture at the school.
“We've got a lot of good things going on here at Northwest,” she said. “I feel good about what our athletes have been able to accomplish.”
Rouzee (pronounced row-ZAY) is in her 25th season as head coach of the Vikings. Her next victory will be No. 600, which will make her the 16th coach to attain that lofty milestone.
She has guided the school to two state championships and come agonizingly close to even more. Grand Island Northwest has finished as the Class B runner-up six times, including the past five in a row.
“I usually just try to keep that on the down low,” she said. “I'm really proud that we've been able to put ourselves in that position so many times, because it's such a battle just to reach state.”
Rouzee also is not making any apologies for that string of second-place finishes.
“A lot of people try to make it seem like that's a huge disappointment,” she said. “I just try to make sure we play as hard as we can, and hopefully good things will happen for us.”
Ratings update: Papillion-La Vista South remains No. 1 overall after capturing the Metro Conference tournament. The Titans defeated second-ranked Omaha Marian for the fourth time this season to capture the title.
Kearney Catholic climbs a spot to No. 3 after a three-loss week by Millard West. River Cities Conference tournament champion Omaha Gross moves up to No. 4 and Lincoln Southeast advances one spot to No. 5.
Postseason begins: Subdistrict and district play begins Monday night, with the Class A districts scheduled for Wednesday. District finals are set for Thursday and Friday night, with all of that leading up to the state tournament in Grand Island Nov. 8-10.
Congratulations: Pat Hoblyn of Class D-1 Ansley-Litchfield recently posted career coaching victory No. 600.
She picked up the milestone win when her Spartans defeated Loomis as part of a home triangular. Hoblyn started her head coaching career at Ansley in 1973 and guided the school to 14 state tournament appearances and five championships.
This is the first year for the Ansley-Litchfield co-op. The fifth-ranked Spartans will take a 27-1 record into this week's subdistricts.
Halloween ... boo!: Though it probably can't be helped because of the tight playoff window, it's always disappointing when postseason matches must be played on Halloween night. Such is the case this year with the Class A districts.
Looks like it's going to be one of those “leave the basket of treats on the front porch and hope the kids just take one” nights.
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