LINCOLN – It was magic night for York volleyball in Lincoln.
The Dukes, coming into the B-4 District final with a 15-14 record and the No. 2 seed, spanked 28-7 and top-seeded Seward, 3-1.
Scores were 25-23, 10-25, 30-28 and 25-22.
The win improves York to 16-14 and far more importantly sends the Dukes straight to state.
The football team playing the second round of the playoffs tonight against defending champion Elkhorn means these are wildly exciting times for the Dukes.
A wild card appearance at state by Seward, now 28-8, was deemed unlikely among school officials chatting in the Lincoln North Star gym.
The Dukes served notice right out of the gate … literally … of what was to come when senior Leah Rosenau served York to a 6-zip lead. Points included two Rosenau aces, a Rosenau kill, an Erin Malleck kill and one from Sarah Stephens.
Already Seward faces carried the hint of doubt.
Coach Kayla Makovicka's Dukes went up 8-1 and 14-7 before hitting a ragged patch themselves. Seward charged back to 15-11 down and Makovicka called timeout to break the momentum.
York, up 15-13, profited by three straight hitting errors from Seward to go ahead 18-13. A Rosenau kill, one of her match-high 22, made it 23-20 Dukes. Erica Koehler helped her team with an ace and at set point Olivia Stubbs fired a perfect set to Rosenau for the jackhammer kill that put York ahead 1-0.
Set two saw the Dukes take a backward step and struggle mightily as resurgent Seward went up huge, 18-8, then won the set with a 7-2 run.
Rumors of the Dukes' demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated when York rallied from a couple points behind to tie set three at 20-20.
Then the excitement really set in as the two teams alternately fought to get, then fought to fend off, set point after set point. York fought off three Seward set points starting at 24-23 Jays on kills by Rosenau, Stephens, Dacia Stuhr with a pinpoint tip and two kills from Koehler before Malleck got the kill to put her team up 29-28. The Jays obliged with a four hits call.
The Dukes were up 2-1 and fans on both sides were gasping for breath.
There was a feeling in the gym that whichever team won the extra long third set was likely going to take the match. That turned out to be true when the Dukes stayed right with their rival until pulling ahead 12-9 on back-to-back aces by Koehler.
A terrific service run later in set four by Koehler really put the lid on Seward, which went from within one at 17-16 York to trailing by five, 21-17. The series included a block by Stubbs, two more Rosenau kills and a pair of Koehler aces.
York arrived at match point on Rosenau's 22nd kill. When Seward hit long that was it … dogpile and tears time for the senior-laden Dukes.
The Dukes had a fierce block on 6-2 Jays' standout Kourteney Zadina and it showed. By the later stages Zadina was looking thoroughly annoyed as the Dukes batted the ball right back at her.
Makovicka said her team practiced long and hard all week on its blocking with Seward in mind.
“We had more prep for Seward tonight,” she said. “We were able to watch film on them. We knew who we needed to stop.”
The coach said her seniors are a talented group to be sure, but dedicated, too.
“They've been wanting this since they were freshmen. They knew it's their last chance so they gave it everything they've got.”
Makovicka said Liz Harlow, her libero, really came on toward the end in a heroic effort that resulted in 26 dig saves for her alone.
“She really started to read their hitters,” she said of Harlow's effort.
Malleck checked in with 10 kills and Koehler had nine. Koehler had seven service aces that loomed huge in the outcome. Tough serving all around had the Jays off-kilter much of the night.
It came down to energy and effort, too, said the Duke coach.
“Our energy vs. their energy” was a big difference. Indeed, after seemingly every kill all night the Dukes were leaping in the air and screaming.
Plenty of screaming, too, when that coveted final point finally was up on the board ... shining like a ruby for all to see.